Isaiah 33

The Word Made Fresh

1And you troublemakers, you who have not been troubled;
you treacherous ones who have not been dealt with treacherously,
when you have stopped destroying you will be destroyed;
when you stop dealing treacherously you will be dealt the same.

2LORD, have compassion for us. We wait for you.
Be our strength each morning, and our rescue in times of trouble.
3People fled at the sound of your voice.
Nations scattered at your majesty.
4Your spoil was gathered as locusts gather;
your enemies leapt upon it as locusts leap.
5But the LORD, who dwells on high, is lifted up
for bringing justice and righteousness to Zion.
6God will be a solid foundation for your situation,
an abundance of help, wisdom and knowledge.
Zion’s true treasure is their fear of the LORD.

7Listen! The brave are crying in the streets.
Those who counsel peace weep bitterly.
8The roads are deserted. Travelers do not use them.
The treaty is broken, the cities are hated,                 
and everyone is disregarded.
9The land mourns and weeps;
Lebanon is confused and shrinks away;
Sharon is like a desert and Bashan and Carmel shed their leaves.

10“Now I will act,” says the LORD.
“Now I will rise up and be exalted.
11You think only of waste and produce only stubble.
Your breath is a fire; it will burn you up.
12The people will be burned as if they were waste,
like thorns that are cut down and burned in the fire.”

13You people from afar, listen to what I’ve done.
You who are close by, acknowledge my strength.
14Those who sin in Zion are afraid.
The godless are seized with trembling, saying,
“How can we live with this devouring fire?
Who can survive these eternal flames?”
15Those who walk in righteousness and speak what is true,
who hate what is gained through oppression
and ignore a bribe when it is offered,
who refuse to listen to bloodshed
and close their eyes to evil,
16they will live in the heights
and take refuge in the rock fortresses.
Their food and water will be abundant.

17But your eyes will see the king in all his splendor,
and behold a land that stretches out of sight.
18Your mind will consider the terrible things.
“Where is the one who ruled?
Where is the one who weighed the revenue?
Where is the one in charge of the heights?”
19You will see the insolent people no longer,
those people of foreign speech you cannot understand,
mumbling an unfamiliar language.

20Look at Zion, the city where our festivals are observed.
You will see Jerusalem as a peaceful place to live,
as a secure tent whose stakes cannot be removed,
nor its ropes ever broken.
21But the LORD will be there in majesty for us,
like a land with wide rivers and streams
no galley with oars can navigate nor great ships pass.
22For the LORD is our ruler and judge.
The LORD is our king, and the LORD will save us.

23Your rigging is hanging loose
and cannot keep the mast firm in its place
or keep the sails spread open.

Then abundant prey and spoils will be distributed
and even the lame will haul away their plunder.
24No one in Zion will say, “I am sick.”
The sins of all who live there will be forgiven.


1: The Assyrians were marching around the world, and were pretty much unstoppable. Isaiah insists that their pre-eminence is not a permanent situation.

2-6: Isaiah’s constant refrain is that God will deliver Jerusalem if only they will trust in God alone.

7-9: He describes the panic created by the advancing army. Lebanon, Sharon (the coastal plain below Mt. Carmel), Bashan (the Golan Heights), and Carmel are all immediately to the north of Israel, in the path of the approaching Assyrians.

10: But Isaiah believes God will step in when the time is right.

11-12: Assyria’s advance is tenuous, but their conquests are no more than chaff their own breath will consume. Perhaps the meaning here is that Assyria will eventually outrun its ability to maintain its holdings. And that, of course, is exactly what happened.

13-16: Isaiah also never wavers in his belief that Assyria is serving as a divine instrument through which the “sinners in Zion” will be punished and the righteous will be spared.

17-19: Look, he says, on the mighty king of Assyria and the great expanse of his territories. You will wonder what happened to him. Those foreigners, “those people of a foreign speech you cannot understand,” will disappear from your sight.

20-22: Now look on Zion, he continues. It is like a tent that will never be moved. Jerusalem has no river like the Tigris that flows past Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, but it has God, and God is for them like broad rivers and streams, although not streams large ships can travel.

23a: These words are addressed to the Assyrians. Their advance will collapse like a fallen mast on a sailing ship.

23b-24: The tables will be turned, and the Assyrians will be plundered even by those who are not physically able to repel an enemy.


Isaiah knows that God doesn’t need our strength, only our obedience. We don’t have to do everything right. If our hearts are in the right place God will always be willing to provide whatever we lack.