Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the Lord God of Israel. — Isaiah 17:6
Have you ever felt alone or lonely? Such feelings can be prompted by many circumstances. A Christian woman recounts, “When my husband and I were married, we had a game of matching strides when we walked. He could usually out-step me but it was still fun to try. But one day, he went where I could not go with him — through the Valley of Death. Then I was a widow, and there were no footprints but my own. Yet the Lord never left me. In the midst of anguish, He gave me peace. In times of uncertainty, He gave me direction. He comforted me in the lonely hours of the night.
“Our children were still young: ten, twelve, and thirteen years old. The Lord kept His promises and supplied all of our needs. He provided not only spiritual strength but daily temporal needs. For example, one time when taxes were due and the car needed a new transmission, someone anonymously gave us enough money to take care of both.
“For a time, I felt I had to prove that I could make my own way in life. As a result, sometimes I denied my family and friends the opportunity to show the love and care they would gladly have shared. Yet, the Lord was faithful to reveal my need to communicate and to reach out to others.
“Now the children are grown and married. While at times no visible footprints have paralleled my own, through the eye of faith I have seen that God’s footsteps have been there with me every step of the way!” This woman proved that God can be there in the most challenging circumstances or when the feelings of loneliness are overwhelming.
Inspired by God, Isaiah foretold of a time when the people of Israel and Syria would be quite alone. Their countries were going to be destroyed so that the few people left would be like four or five olives on the outmost branches of a tree. Yet even in that extremity, if they would look to God, He would see their need and eventually send deliverance to their nation.
Whatever our situation, God wants to be with us. Perhaps we feel like we are at our extremity — a single “olive” on “the outmost branch.” Are we looking to God? He knows exactly what is transpiring in our lives, and He will be with us.
The statement, “The burden of Damascus” begins the chapter. Damascus was (and still is) the capital of Syria. While this sad prophesy was aimed at Syria, it also included Israel because Syria and the Northern Kingdom were in an alliance against Assyria. Bible scholars believe that chapter 17 of Isaiah predicted the downfall of this coalition between Ephraim and Syria and was contemporaneous with Isaiah, chapter 7.
Because of their alliance, Syria and Israel would be reduced to the same pathetic state. That sad situation was described, beginning at verse 4. The “glory of Jacob” referred to the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, also called “Israel” and “Ephraim.” Isaiah’s inspired comparisons were powerful. Their nation would be thin like a sick person. As the harvestmen gathered corn in their arms to be cut with a sickle, so Israel’s wealth and people would be gathered and removed by Assyria. Just as only a few grapes or olives were left after harvest, so only a few poor families would be left in the land of Israel.
These disastrous circumstances would cause the Israelites to look to God instead of their idols. They had forgotten God and served Baal and Phoenician gods in the groves and made images. While their “pleasant plants” (perhaps groves for their idolatrous worship) might have grown up quickly, the harvest would be a “day of grief and of desperate sorrow.”
Yet, as it often did, Isaiah’s prophecy held out some hope, when he predicted the destruction of the enemy, beginning in verse 12. God would rebuke Assyria. Though they rushed in like mighty waters, eventually they would be whirled about like dust or chaff on the threshing floor. This ultimate destruction would be a benefit to Israel because the Assyrian Empire was a threat to the world during the prophet Isaiah’s lifetime. They were known to inflict heinous, unspeakable atrocities upon their prisoners. However, Israel would see much sorrow before this deliverance came.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The message of condemnation: the Holy One of Israel provoked, rebuking and judging
C. Prophecies related to the foreign nations
5. The judgment upon Damascus and Israel (17:1-14)
a. The invasion of Damascus (17:1-3)
b. The affliction of Israel (17:4-11)
c. The destruction of the armies (17:12-14)
When we trust in God, we know that we are never alone. Whatever our situation, He can help us.