Unprecedented upheaval, so we think. But Isaiah saw it all before!
When everything seems so uncertain, it is reassuring to know that there are unshakable moorings which will enable us to weather the storm. So, in the current climate, Isaiah's perspective on world affairs is amazingly fitting.
We live in times of social and cultural turbulence as the optimism of the modern era is eclipsed by the doubts of postmodernism. We face economic challenges, urbanization, a population explosion, and environmental threats. The Middle East is awash with threats of war. But there is nothing new under the sun. Isaiah saw it all before!
In chapters 23 to 27, the prophet gives us a profound perspective on surprisingly similar upheavals in his day, which he combines with what he saw of God's long term vision for the future of the planet. These are chapters designed to help us understand what in the world is happening.
Take chapter 23, for example. Tyre was the economic power-house of the day. Global trade prospered through her sea-faring merchants. It was a world of blue stock chips and safe harbor investments.Yet Isaiah describes an economic collapse that none of the pundits could have predicted: "Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor" (v.1). The great crash. Tyre's demise sent shock waves across the ocean and the ripple effects of her crash were felt throughout the civilized world.
Our parents assumed that economic growth was as certain as death and taxes. Let the good times roll. It is beginning to dawn on us (or should that be 'dusk on us'?) that we can no longer assume ever-increasing prosperity. And whether our culture realizes it or not, this is a biblical insight. All good things come to an end; at least, all temporal good things do. Tyre was not spared. And neither have her successors been, regardless of how invincible their success appeared to be.
What's more, Isaiah saw all this as far more personal than the inevitable consequence of blind and unfeeling economic forces. He saw that is was God who had "stretched out his hand over the sea [and] shaken the kingdoms" (v.11). He doesn't change. The names of the trading partners change, as do the trading patterns. But God does as he has always done.
At our web site, The King's Centre has an 8-part audio series looking at these chapters that are more up-to-date than your daily newspaper. You can follow this link to the series, and then click on the first one ("You can't take it with you") to see what the Bible says about living in times of economic uncertainty.