Leviathan Destroyed

At the end of Isaiah 26, the prophet urged everyone living in the Day of God’s Wrath to remain safely shut indoors, just as the ancient Hebrews remained in their homes, covered by the blood of the sacrificed lamb. The allusion is certain.

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of the livestock. 

Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians, and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Exodus 12:29-30 (NRSV)

In the same way, On That Day,

On that day the Lord with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.

Isaiah 27:1 (NRSV)

“Leviathan” was shorthand for evil, and the terrifying chaotic power it uses to wreak havoc on God’s beautiful creation. For reasons that are clear to God alone, “Leviathan” has been permitted a limited time of freedom to exercise its dark power. But that time has an endpoint. God will expunge all evil completely.

Behemoth and Leviathan, by William Blake (died in 1827) | Public Domain

God’s Victory Song

Just as there are two paths—towards God and away from God—and two destinies—life and death—there are two ways to see “That Day.”

  • On That Day, all evil will be scoured from the universe by the cleansing action of God’s wrath, Isaiah 27:1.
  • On That Day, the whole world will be filled with the good fruit of God’s people, Isaiah 27:2.

Some will dread the coming of the Day of the Lord because it will mean annihilation for them.

Others yearn for the coming of the Day of the Lord, for it will mean everything that is good and beautiful, it will mean true and complete freedom at last, freedom from the penalty, power, and even presence of sin, corruption, and death.

By Gustave Doré – w:en:Image:Destruction of Leviathan.png, Public Domain

A Pleasant Vineyard

Isaiah had already spoken of the people of God as a vineyard, but one that had yielded only bitter and sour grapes despite the Lord’s tender care. Now that same vineyard will be transformed, as the apostle Paul would later also write about.

Isaiah 5:1-7, A Rotten VineyardIsaiah 27:2-6, A Pleasant Vineyard
I will sing for my beloved
    my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded rotten grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
    and people of Judah,
judge between me
    and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
    that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
    why did it yield rotten grapes? And now I will tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
    and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
    and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a wasteland;
    it shall not be pruned or hoed,
    and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
    that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
    is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
    are his cherished garden;
he expected justice
    but saw bloodshed;
    but heard a cry!
On that day:
A pleasant vineyard—sing about it!
    I, the Lord, am its keeper;
    every moment I water it.
I guard it night and day
    so that no one can harm it;
    I have no wrath.
If it gives me thorns and briers,
    I will march to battle against it.
    I will burn it up.
Or else let it cling to me for protection;
    let it make peace with me;
    let it make peace with me. In days to come Jacob shall take root;
    Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots
    and fill the whole world with fruit.

Romans 11:25-27  

I want you to understand this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not claim to be wiser than you are: a hardening has come upon part of Israel until the full number of the gentiles has come in.   And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”“And this is my covenant with them,
    when I take away their sins.”  

All this would come to pass when the Lord’s wrath brings about both salvation and justice, rescue and reparation, judgment and reconciliation.

Bible illustration, Ulm, Germany, 1238 | Public Domain

On That Day, the people of God will

  • Be expiated of all guilt.
  • Experience the removal of all sin.
  • See every stone of every altar dedicated to other gods be crushed to powder—and be glad to see it all go.
  • Leave their fortified cities to grazing cattle.
  • Burn what is left of the things they used to worship.

(All bullet points taken from Isaiah 27:7-11)

Isaiah was speaking of a distant future time, partially fulfilled when the “full fruit” of salvation was initiated through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Messiah. But the complete fulfillment is still, even now, yet to come.

The Fields Shall Be Harvested

On that day the Lord will thresh from the channel of the Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you will be gathered one by one, O people of Israel. 

Isaiah 27:12 (NRSV)

Ordinarily, when God spoke of threshing in the Hebrew scriptures, it was meant as a metaphor for judgment. Usually, the focus was on the chaff, which would be blown away.

But this time, God’s focus is on each person whom God is intent on bringing home. Jesus used this metaphor often, speaking of the “field white unto harvest,” and explaining to His followers, “the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”

The Euphrates and the Wadi of Egypt mark the ancient boundaries of Canaan, the Land of Promise, and the whole of what God had given to the tribes of Israel as an inheritance. “One by one,” the Lord will gather God’s people, so that every person is seen, known, and brought in.

By Lambert- Liber Floridus (1120) – Google Books : Liber Floridus (1120) Ghent University, Public Domain

The Trumpet Shall Blow

And on that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

Isaiah 27:13 (NRSV)

For the prophet’s original audience, trumpets evoked a rich array of meaning.

  • Their Covenant with God was initiated by the sound of a trumpet that shook Mount Sinai
  • The Day of Atonement began with a long trumpet blast, calling all to fast and pray as the sins of the nation were expiated and sent forever away into the wilderness
  • The Jubilee was announced with a trumpet’s blow, signaling the regathering of all families to their inheritance from God, the cancelling of all debts, and the restoration of all property.
  • The Fall of Jericho, their first big victory in the Promised Land came from their obedience to God’s command, to march around the city with the ark, and blow every shofar.

To us today, trumpets still carry the thrill of anticipation!

And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Jesus, Matthew 24:31 (NRSV)

For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NRSV)

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