Dancing with truth and peace



February 2024



The Cursed Nations of Isaiah

Written by , Posted in Lead Yourself

The middle section of Isaiah contains a chunk of chapters that I’m tempted to skip, ignore, or skim. God rebukes nation after nation. Honestly, it’s pretty depressing and can seem repetitive. But once we look closer, the text comes to life. We learn important lessons about the danger of placing our pride, security, and hope in the kingdoms of this world.

Armies carried their national banners into battle in order to remind the soldiers of their identity, instruct them on what to do, and inspire them to not give up. These banners reflected points of pride for each nation. God wasn’t too impressed with their national pride. From chapters 10-24, Isaiah delivers a litany of stinging rebukes. He identifies their point of pride and then systematically, and sometimes sarcastically, tears it down. I’ve taken a shot at identifying the banner (point of pride) of each nation and summarized God’s rebuke/warning to them.

Assyria – a banner of violence: You glory in your military might. You believe the stories of your own strength to topple the gods. “You will be crushed.”

Babylon – a banner of culture & arts: “The jewel of kingdoms,” you glory in your cultural influence. You boast of your sexual immorality, but soon it’s you who will be “violated.”

Philistines – a banner of victory: You think you’ve defeated your enemy, “But from the root of that snake will spring up a viper.”

Moab – a banner of money: It’s all been “carried away.”

Damascus – a banner of security: “The fortified city will disappear.”

Cush – a banner of innovation: You’ve built boats and are impressed by yourselves. God says, “When my banner is raised, you’ll see it.”

Egypt – a banner of academics: You pride yourselves in being the intellectual capital of the world. Do you really think you can outthink God? When destruction comes, I’ll ask, “Where are your wise men now?”

Jerusalem – a banner of self-reliance: You gave up on me to trust yourselves and other gods. You prepared a source of water for the city, but “You did not look to the One who made water.”

Tyre – a banner of economic power: You are the “marketplace of the nations” with a harbor, boats, and global trade, but your money won’t save you. “The sea has spoken.”

Earth – a banner of pleasure: You drink like you don’t have a care in the world; and you don’t care about me at all. The drink will dry up and, “you’ll be left staggering like a drunkard.”

Why all of these rebukes? Is God just venting? No, not at all.

In that day the heir to David’s throne
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.
In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time
to bring back the remnant of his people—
those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt;
in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam;
in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.
He will raise a flag among the nations
and assemble the exiles of Israel.
He will gather the scattered people of Judah
from the ends of the earth.

Isaiah 11:10-12

“God’s plan was: redemption through judgment” (John Oswalt). God employs the necessary plans to bring about redemption. “Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin,” writes Job. And Hebrews 12 instructs us: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

God included this large chunk of sobering Scripture for a reason. We would be wise to learn from it.

Meditation exercise

  1. Which banners have/are you tempted to find your main area of identity or pride?
  2. How might God dismantle or belittle that point of pride in your life?
  3. What does it look like to be solely under the Banner of Christ, making him your ultimate source of identity, instruction, and inspiration?

If you want to hear my sermon about “The Banner of Christ,” click here.


  1. Nancy Burgett
  2. Constance Luther

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