In three days’ time two pieces of abhorrent legislation will be imposed upon Northern Ireland by the UK government. In spite of the fact that no Northern Irish politicians voted for the laws, in spite of the fact that the people of Northern Ireland were not consulted about them and in spite of the fact that the issues to which this legislation relates are meant to be matters decided by the local government in Northern Ireland, nevertheless on 21 October abortion and same-sex marriage will be made legal. Overnight Northern Ireland will go from the most conservative position on abortion to the most radical in the UK – babies will be able to be murdered up to 28 weeks for any reason, even the sex of the child. Humanly speaking it seems very unlikely that these wicked laws will be able to be stopped.
Isaiah preached to people who were in an apparently hopeless position, in Isaiah 29. At the beginning of the chapter he describes Jerusalem surrounded by towers and siegeworks. The end is very near – she is at the point of death: ‘…you will be brought low; from the earth you shall speak, and from the dust your speech will be bowed down; your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost, and from the dust your speech shall whisper.’ (v4)
The prophet is seeing the vast army of the Assyrian king Sennacherib besieging Jerusalem in 701 BC, with more than 185,000 soldiers bent on her destruction. No-one looking out over the walls of Jerusalem on that army could possibly have dreamt there was any hope of deliverance. And yet what does Isaiah say? ‘In an instant, suddenly, you will be visited by the Lord of hosts… and the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel [Jerusalem]… shall be like a dream, a vision of the night.’ (vv5-7). Sure enough, we read in Isaiah 37.36 that ‘the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians.’ Against all hope, the Lord brought deliverance, because nothing is too hard for the Lord.
And what he did physically, militarily for Jerusalem he is able to do spiritually as well. This is what the rest of Isaiah 29 is about. The prophet describes people who are spiritually blind and drunk and apathetic (vv9-12), who think they can please God with a few magic words and live as they please (v13). They have a worldview that is completely upside-down—these little creatures actually think they know better than God (v16).
But nothing is too hard for the Lord. He announces that he is going to do some turning upside-down of his own—he will transform these people beyond all recognition: ‘in that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see… They will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction.’ (vv18,23-24).
Anyone who knew what the nation of Judah was like in Isaiah’s day would have found it very hard to imagine this kind of transformation (just read chapters 1-5). But the hardness of people’s hearts was no obstacle to the Lord. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
What an encouragement these truths are to us as we serve the Lord in our communities, witnessing to people who show no sign of responding to the word of God. As we pray for God to act in might and power in the lives of unbelievers.
With these great truths in mind will you please pray with us for Northern Ireland—that the Lord will visit us in mercy even at this late stage, before 21 October, when humanly speaking all hope seems gone. That he will act in supernatural power, with wonder upon wonder (v14) to cause the worldly wisdom of politicians to perish.
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