Isaiah 17 Forgetting God

The people were going to be attacked by the Assyrians who were going through and destroying cities in the distance which the people could see. The people of God had a choice to make if they would trust God or rely on other nations for their salvation. The people of God were also seeking deliverance from other gods that they had incorporated into their worship. Although we may not worship wooden idols, we all tend to go to other gods instead of God Himself. We go to the god of entertainment, the god of making more money, the god of pleasure, the god of alcohol, and the god of drugs. Your god is anything you turn to when life is not going the way you want in order to seek deliverance. Isaiah wanted them to seek God for their deliverance but told them that their ability to ask for deliverance had a time limit. Salvation is offered but it must be received.

Where do your thoughts go when your life takes a turn for the worse? Do you think about God or do you worry about what you are facing? Forgetting God is a serious problem and sometimes it is not the giant problems in life that cause us to forget God it’s the small ones.  Small problems that we think we can fix by our own wisdom and our own abilities are just as easily to draw our attention away from God as the big problems that we have no solutions for.  King Ahaz was doing just that when he was trying to figure out a solution to the problem of the Assyrian army and Isaiah was trying to get him to not trust in other nations, to not pray to other gods and to not trust his own wisdom. Today we will look at what happens and what we can do when we forget God.

Isaiah 17:1-6 An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer are deserted; they will be for flocks, which will lie down, and none will make them afraid. The fortress will disappear from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Syria will be like the glory of the children of Israel, declares the Lord of hosts. And in that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low, and the fat of his flesh will grow lean. And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain and his arm harvests the ears, and as when one gleans the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Gleanings will be left in it, as when an olive tree is beaten—two or three berries in the top of the highest bough, four or five on the branches of a fruit tree, declares the Lord God of Israel.

1)When you forget God, you put your hope in other things.

“In that day” is an announcement of judgment. God is announcing His judgement on Damascus and Ephraim which were the Northern cities of Israel. Damascus was a key city along major trade routes that flourished because of the money that flowed through it and God is saying that it will be turned into a heap pile. The King of Syria was trying to get Israel and Judah to join a coalition to fight against the Assyrians and the king of Judah, King Ahaz, was fighting the temptation to do what man wanted instead of what God wanted. God spoke to Ahaz through Isaiah earlier in Isaiah 7:4.

Isaiah 7:4 And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah.

The advice to King Ahaz from Isaiah is important for us to not forget God. Trusting God to save us in all our situations is not easy and will go against the wisdom of the world.  

  • When you forget God, you begin to fear and 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God did not give us the Spirit of Fear.
  • When you forget God, you begin to become noisy and start talking about things that may never happen. Psalm 46:10 says be still and know that I am God
  • When you forget God, you are not careful and make mistakes.  When people panic they make their situation worse.
  • When you forget God, you give up. “Their hearts become faint” meaning they were losing hope to continue.  Philippians 3:13-15 tells us to press on through difficulty.

In vs 1-3 Isaiah tells what is going to happen Damascus, Ephraim and Syria. These nations and all their glory are going to disappear. In vs 4-6 God also tells them that the amount of people that will be left will be like after harvesting olive trees where they would pick as many as they could, shake the tree to get as many as they could, and then there would be just a few left. (The Picture is very depressing that Isaiah is painting) There will be  hardly any people left and he says that sheep, which are easily frightened, will not have anyone around to startle them. Isaiah goes on to describe them as the people who were fat but will now be malnourished because of famine.

We cannot forget God and put our hope in our government or our financial resources. If you do not think your hope is in your government (Military) then what is your reaction when your party is not getting elected or getting the things you think should be passed? We should be involved in our political process, but my hope is not in a president or a senator or a congress person. Isaiah calls God “The Yahweh of Host” The Yahweh of Host is a phrase meaning everything is under God’s control and that is where we should place all our hope.

Isaiah 2:22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?

God created oxygen He wins. Too many times we turn to people and their wisdom and their ideas instead of turning to God. Before you seek the counsel of men seek God. Seeking counsel is good but go to God and His word first.

Isaiah 17:7- 8 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.

2)Even though forgotten, God will be remembered

“In that day man will look to his Maker”

The tragedy will force the few people left to really reflect on where they placed their hope and cause them to turn back to God. Where we spend our time, our money and our focus all get reevaluated when you face a tragedy. Tragedies tend to put our eyes back on what is important and that is what the few people that are left will do. All the gods they worshipped, all the material wealth they gained and even their own abilities will be disregarded to focus on God.

Hebrews 12:1-2  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

This is what the people who were left did they put their focus where it belonged. When we forget God, our focus gets placed on other things. Things are not always bad but when they become our focus, we lose sight of God.

Isaiah 17:10-11 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, 11 though you make them grow[a] on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away[  in a day of grief and incurable pain.

3)Forgetting God is personal to Him

“You” in this verse is feminine which consistently demonstrates the relationship that God has with His children as a Husband to His Bride.  We are referred to as the Bride of Christ in Revelation 19 and in Ephesians 5 Paul talks about the church and compares it to Husbands and Wives.  In Revelation 2 he calls out the church for forsaking their first love and In John 14 Jesus compares His return to a wedding ceremony. We tend to impersonalize God and make it as though our sins do not grieve Him but God tells us that is exactly what our sins do to Him.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

“All sin is painful to God, but sin in His children breaks His heart. When His children refuse to change the ways of the old life for the ways of the new, God grieves. The Holy Spirit of God weeps, as it were, when he sees Christians lying instead of speaking the truth, becoming un-righteously rather than righteously angry, stealing instead of sharing, and speaking corrupt instead of uplifting and gracious words. Whatever violates the will of God and the holiness of the heart will grieve the third Person of the Trinity.” (John Macarthur, Ephesians, Pg 189)

How do we grieve God? “Pleasant plants” is accepting things that look pleasant to the eye but are forbidden by God and “The Branches of a Stranger” are plants that were imported from foreign countries. The picture Isaiah is painting is that they believed a lie that these things could bring fulfillment, but these were the things that they turned to instead of turning to God.

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

The reason that the Bible warns us to not be lured by the things of the world is because they look good but, in the end, they lead to destruction. The prophet says although you do all you can to protect these plants and to make sure they do not destroy you they cause grief and pain. The picture was a garden that they planted and protected but the fruit it produced was only pain and grief. The Lifestyles we choose will produce fruit and although it may look good on the outside eventually, they will be shown for what they are. Anyone who has suffered with an addiction or has seen a loved one suffer with an addiction understands how the lure of the world can cause you to be in great pain and grief. What seems to be no big deal and not harmful is a vineyard we are growing that will produce pain and grief.

Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

“For you have forgotten the God of your salvation” God wants us to cling to Him and come to Him when the waves of life come crashing around us. When we forget God, we try and cling to everything and anything but those things cannot save us.

Psalm 71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Matthew 7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

God is our Rock and so is His word but what are you building your life on? We tend to build our lives on sand, but those things will not stand up when the storms of life come. We must learn to trust in God and build our lives on Him and His word because it is the only thing that will stand.

Isaiah 17:12-14 Ah, the thunder of many peoples; they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
Ah, the roar of nations; they roar like the roaring of mighty waters! 13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm. 14 At evening time, behold, terror! Before morning, they are no more! This is the portion of those who loot us, and the lot of those who plunder us.

4)   Forgetting God places our focus on the problem

Thunder is not meteorological it is the noise that the army is going to make as a bunch of people will approach them so loudly it strikes fear into them. It will be like the roar of a mighty ocean which is so loud you cannot hear one another. But no matter what the noise is or the circumstance are we are called to keep our focus on God.

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

“I will rebuke them and they will flee far away” “Before morning they were no more” Have you ever worried about something that never came to pass? God does not sleep and yet at evening, when people were sleeping, God was acting.  Isaiah says they will blow away like dust in the wind.  We are going to jump ahead and see the end of the story because I think it shows us how worthless our focusing on problems is when we have God.

Isaiah 37:36-37 And the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 37 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh.

The people woke up or got up and went out and saw 185,000 soldiers’ dead. How different would their day have gone when they heard the loud army like thunder or a roaring ocean if they could see what God sees? The pleading of the prophet Isaiah was so that people did not have to learn the hard way that if they just remember God then they would be at peace.  Whatever you are facing in this world God is telling you to focus on Him because worrying will not help the situation and you can trust that He sees and He is acting.

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