Its sad really. A correction officer with years of honored service under her belt, helps an inmate escape. What was she thinking? How exactly did she think it would all end? Did she think that she and he would allude the law for the rest of their lives? When the law began to close in on them, she took her own life, did it finally hit her: it was inevitable. I don’t want at all to minimize the sadness of the tale. But I still wonder what she thought could happen. Being hunted down was inevitable. Being cornered was inevitable. And there is no one else to blame here. Somewhere along the way, she made the decision to go on the run with a prisoner. Did she think that their relationship would see them through? Did she believe that they were smart enough to make it? What was the end game?
Isaiah 5:26-30 is an oracle about inevitability. What did the Israelites expect? God had been slow to anger. God had been patient. God had given them several chances. And yet, they kept amassing wealth by means of grabbing the land and possessions of their fellow kinsmen; they kept boasting in their ability to handle strong drink as they ignored God and his will; they kept carting their sins around with them like some kind of treasure; they kept calling evil good. So, what did they expect would happen? What was their end game? Could they not see that the coming judgment was inevitable?
It doesn’t really matter what they expected. Because it is Yahweh’s plans that are inevitable. He will lift up a standard to a far-off nation. The Assyrians used a system of flags set up on an elevated spot to give direction during battles. He will buzz or whistle for this nation from the ends or boundaries of the earth. One source says that the word “buzz” refers to the method of gathering bees. Maybe. But what we are intended to witness is God’s use of visual and audio means to summon a foreign nation; a nation far away. Maybe the Israelites felt as if the threat was too far away to be concerned about. Maybe they consoled themselves thinking that the threat will not be felt in their generation; in their lifetime. Maybe they were too busy gathering up possessions to be distracted by whisperings of invasion. They are secure. They are safe. Ah, but when the standard is lifted and the whistle is blown, the nation will come speedily with haste.
They may also console themselves with thoughts of a worn-out army after a long and arduous forced march; easily defeated. Those crazy Assyrians and Babylonians are used to it. No one is worn out in a state of weary stumbling along. They will come quickly and will be wide awake and fresh. And don’t take comfort in worn out equipment either. Their belts are firmly belted and their sandals are firmly strapped. You may have dreams of an army with flowing and entangling robes; of sandals flapping and tripping up its owner, but that is not the reality you will face. No dull arrows either. No unprepared archers needing to string their bows in the midst of battle. As nice as that may sound, that is not what they would face. And the horses’ hooves will not be fractured or weakened in any way. They will be flint. And the sound of the chariot wheels will not be the creaking and wobbling of about to fall off wheels. Nah, it will sound like a whirlwind.
This nation will roar like a lioness or like a young lion. The grown male is not mentioned because he generally doesn’t hunt. And God’s people will be hunted down. Lions still existed in Palestine at this time and wherever lions have lived, they became a symbol of terrible strength and dominant ferocity. The roar of a lion is a terrifying sound. It roars out its strength and disdain. It growls over its prey. Her teeth clamp down on the neck of its victim and carries it off. Being dragged off by a snarling beast of prey would seem to be zero fun. This would be a great time for God to step in and rescue. But there is not one to snatch them out of the lion’s mouth. In this moment one may regard the land. After all, they live in the Promised Land. Surely, they cannot be dragged off. But what they see, instead of salvation, is obscurity and distress. What was once light is now darkness.
Maybe they thought that being God’s chosen people meant never having to answer for their sins. Maybe they thought the land itself was a safe-haven. Maybe they put their trust in the wrong thing. The coming storm was inevitable really. They had rebelled. They had mistreated the weak. They had paraded their sins for all to see without a concern for God’s right and wrong. And judgment would come and there would be no escaping this roaring storm. We may not like to talk about the judgment of God today, but that does not diminish the reality. It is inevitable. Be on the right side of judgment then, washed by the blood.