The Valley of Vision
The Valley of Vision
Isaiah 21:1,2 -"The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease."
In chapter 22 we see the balancing vision of how God looks at His people. God was showing Isaiah how He saw Israel – 100 years before she fell.
Isaiah 22:1 "The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?
II Corinthians 4:18 – “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Between chapter 21 and 22 God gave insight to the prophet Isaiah as to how He sees things. Our limited vision and knowledge gives us such a tiny glimpse at what is really going on.
Babylon at this time was a nation that was coming to great power - moving forward while Israel was in a decline. As a man of God, Isaiah was deeply concerned about that. This was his nation that he loved and wanted to see blessed by God and yet he was frustrated by their sinfulness.
At the same time he saw this wicked idolatrous nation rising. Seemingly being blessed, seemingly having it all together, but their sins were worse than Israel. This was the time period when the city of Babylon was being built. The wall around Babylon was over 14 miles long and more than 135 feet thick. Isaiah was hearing these rumors about an unconquerable city. One of the gates – the gate of Ishtar had 575 enameled dragons, bulls, and lions.
The palace of Nebuchadnezzar was beautiful with a banquet hall 56 feet wide and 168 feet long.
This was a city of the renowned hanging gardens of Babylon – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. History sources say this -
"The Hanging Garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns... Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels... These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches... This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators".
We could go on and on about this city of Babylon – her riches, glory, power, rising all the time. Isaiah saw his nation at the same time on the decline.
But when God spoke of this glorious city of Babylon, He calls it the “desert of the sea.” What we see with eyes around us looks so grand and glorious, and that the wicked prosper. A whirlwind that would come, many man-made things that would get man’s attention, but God saw something that was empty and lifeless. Isaiah – I’m going to use this desert place for my purposes.
Then God shows the prophet how He looks at His people. I’m going to have to judge them, for sin requires judgment. But God calls Jerusalem – a valley of vision. Geographically, it’s really a high hill with a lot of other higher elevations around it.
In reference to the prosperity of the wicked, David said, “As for me, my feet were well nigh slipped – until I went into the sanctuary – then I understood their end.”
I recently saw a fascinating slide show on the human brain, and one of the slides contained a picture of a couple intimately embracing. The interesting thing is when that picture was shown to small children, most of them saw nine dolphins. The young children couldn’t see the couple. Why? Because they didn’t have a cognitive category; they didn’t have a prior memory associated with that picture.
What we see is determined by what we know. Our experience and our education in large part determine what we see and what we don’t see.
I think it was evidenced by the recent Vice-Presidential and Presidential debates. Depending on who is doing the analyzing determines who won. It’s obvious who won, right? Let this be a reminder to you – get out and vote Tuesday.
This fact also comes into play with our spiritual understanding. One simple reason that we don’t act upon God’s work in our lives is that we don’t have a cognitive category to be able to recognize it. There are certain things that we don’t know what to do with.
Philip Yancey wrote a book called Rumors and I want to relay a couple of stories he told. Ferdinand Magellan, if you remember from a history class, was the first European to sail through what he called the Tierra del Fuego, and as his ship sailed around the tip of Argentina, the crew noticed fires burning on the shore but the natives who were sitting around those fires totally ignored the ship as they sailed through the strait. It was later discovered through interpreters that the natives ignored the ships because they thought they were an apparition. They had no cognitive category for ship. They had never seen anything like them; they lacked the experience to decode the evidence that was right before their eyes. Hold that thought.
Yancey tells another story about Elizabeth Elliott, the widow of Jim Elliott, who was martyred by natives in Ecuador. Elizabeth continued the work and found favor amongst the tribe and years later, Elizabeth Elliott took one of the Auca women, Diuma, to New York City, and she tried to explain the cars and fire hydrants and sidewalks and red lights, but it was sensory overload for Diuma. Diuma had no prior memory, no experience, no category for any of those things. Then they went to the top of the Empire State Building and Elizabeth Elliott is pointing out the tiny yellow cab and she is wondering what is going through her mind but she wasn’t saying anything, but then finally Diuma pointed to a large white spot, I’m guessing white paint, on a concrete wall and said, “What bird did that?” It was the only thing she could relate to. What in the world does that have to do with us?
There are some topics in modern Christianity that are largely ignored because people don’t know exactly what to do with it. We have no prior memory, if we have no experience with it, if we haven’t really thought about it or studied it, it’s like ‘what is this?’ I mean, at first glance, there is some wild and wacky stuff, and we are a lot like the natives who couldn’t see the ships or Diuma who couldn’t put New York City into perspective. We don’t have a category. I think that paradigm relates to anything in Scripture – if you don’t have experience with it, it is very difficult to put it into perspective.
Not only do we struggle with being able to see what God is doing – there are times that we can’t comprehend what we see because God is bringing us to a place that we’ve never been before. But the Word and Spirit will familiarize you with where God is taking you!
II Kings 6:8-17 - When the king of Syria was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, “We will mobilize our forces at such and such a place.”
But immediately Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, “Do not go near that place, for the Syrians are planning to mobilize their troops there.” So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he would be on the alert there.
11 The king of Syria became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”
12 “It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”
13 “Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”
And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” 14 So one night the king of Syria sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For they that be with us are more than be with them.” There are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
I wish it was as easy as praying a prayer and you being able to see what God sees.
Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend what God is doing when we are surrounded by things that would seem to be evidence that we are outnumbered and in a hopeless situation, but don’t lose heart!
Elisha’s servant didn’t have the Word. He had never heard the promise that David shared with us in Psalm 34:7 - The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.
In the midst of impossible situations, God has the answer! The Word is our link to the unseen!
The God that cannot lie – Titus 1:2, who changes not – Mal. 3:6, who is always the same – Heb. 13:8, whose promises are as natural as the cycle of rain – Is. 55:10,11
The enemy says that we should be frightened; we have no promise of what the future holds.
Isaiah 41:10 "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
II Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
John 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
Isaiah 43:2 "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
Psalm 32:8-10 "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about."
Feelings of guilt and condemnation …
Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Micah 7:19 "He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
Sometimes when finances are low and you’re trying to make ends meet, giving seems the wrong thing
Psalm 37:23-25 "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
Luke 6:38 "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
Psalm 37:4,5 "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Proverbs 3:5,6 "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Micah 7:8 "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me."
II Cor. 12:9a "His grace is sufficient for you; for His strength is made perfect in weakness.
I Cor. 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
When you’ve failed God and sinned, it seems useless to keep trying …
I John 2:1b "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:"
I John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Isaiah 55:7 "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
No matter what the need, and no matter how hopeless it seems
Matt. 6:33 "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Phil. 4:19 "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
From the earliest times, this area was where God showed things that weren’t easily seen. Abraham was told to take a journey and offer back up to God the promised son that He had provided. It almost seemed as if God was contradicting Himself, but as Abraham prepared to make a sacrifice, God made him aware that there was a ram stuck in a bush that he was supposed to use. God showed Himself to Abraham as “Jehovah-jireh”, the PROVIDER – when Abraham was willing to sacrifice. There are some promises out there, and some provisions that will only become visible as we submit ourselves to God and obey His Word.
We like the part better that says “He came to bring us life, and that more abundantly”. It’s not a contradiction; it’s simply that you can’t experience His life, His power until you can die to your own. There are a lot of things worse than physical death and physical pain. I’m not attempting to brush off the bruises and the pains that you have to endure along the way, but you have to know that God is with you and is prepared to do what you cannot do!
If you have written proof that He is going to take care of your situation, thank Him for it. Even if you don’t have a specific word, you know that God has plans for your future that are good. We’re looking beyond what we see, we’re seeing through the Spirit when we praise God through the things we can’t see.
Spiritually, there are some great things happening in your life. By faith, you have to act upon that or you will get discouraged and give up!
*The 10th chapter of Luke relates the story of 70 disciples being sent out two by two. They return with some awesome testimonies. Jesus rejoiced in his spirit at their understanding. Then he turned to them privately and said this - 10:24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
They responded to the challenges and opportunities that they were given!