Word of Life, Word of God, Jesus, Jerusalem
In the last days, the Bible tells us, a horrible series of events will take place in the lands of Israel and Syria. One of these events is the destruction of Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet.
Damascus has witnessed at least five thousand years of human history, and some historians believe the city actually dates back to the seventh millennium BC. In fact, Paul was on the road to Damascus when Christ first appeared to Him, an event that transformed not only his life, but the course of human history.
The current existence of Damascus will one day cease to be a city. This is what God revealed to the prophet Isaiah:
“This message came to me concerning Damascus: ‘Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away.
The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end. The few left in Aram will share the fate of Israel’s departed glory,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 17:1-3, NLT).
These opening verses paint a bleak picture. The city of Damascus will become a heap of ruins, utterly destroyed. Few, if any, buildings will be left standing. The once great city will be devoid of human life and will become home to all manner of wildlife in the absence of humans to chase them away.
According to these verses, the cities of Aroer, which are located on the northern bank of the Arnon River just east of the Dead Sea, will also be deserted. However, the passage doesn’t say they will be destroyed in the same manner as Damascus, just that they will be deserted. It may be that people simply flee these cities out of fear.
In addition, many of the fortified cities in northern Israel will also be destroyed. The few who remain in Aram, thirty-eight miles south southeast of Damascus, will share the fate of these northern Israeli cities.
“‘In that day the glory of Israel will be very dim, for poverty will stalk the land. Israel will be abandoned like the grain fields in the valley of Rephaim after the harvest. Only a few of its people will be left, like the stray olives left on the tree after the harvest. Only two or three remain in the highest branches, four or five out on the tips of the limbs. Yes, Israel will be stripped bare of people,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel” (Isaiah 17:4-6, NLT).
The breadth and scope of destruction is clearly illustrated as God describes the Israeli landscape as stripped bare of people. Only a small fraction of people either choose to stay in the land or else survive what is a massive holocaust, leaving only a few inhabitants who struggle in poverty.
“Then at last the people will think of their Creator and have respect for the Holy One of Israel. They will no longer ask their idols for help or worship what their own hands have made. They will never again bow down to their Asherah poles or burn incense on the altars they built” (Isaiah 17:7-8, NLT).
As a result of this event, the people of Israel will once again turn to God Almighty. Currently, the nation of Israel is predominantly secular in nature. Other biblical passages infer that this will change as the prophesied rebuilding of the Temple in the last days indicates a spiritual resurgence among the Jews of Israel. Nevertheless, this passage clearly indicates the people of Israel will turn away from all false idols and gods.
Knowing that this will happen, we must ask: Why does it happen? The answer is found in the verses that follow:
“Their largest cities will be as deserted as overgrown thickets. They will become like the cities the Amorites abandoned when the Israelites came here so long ago. Why? Because you have turned from the God who can save you–the Rock who can hide you. You may plant the finest imported grapevines, and they may grow so well that they blossom on the very morning you plant them, but you will never pick any grapes from them. Your only harvest will be a load of grief and incurable pain” (Isaiah 17:9-11, NLT).
The devastation that overshadows Israel will come about because Israel has “turned from the God who can save them.” All the hard work performed prior to this event will be lost. Those who have been distracted by the things of this world will be disappointed, for they have forgotten God, and by putting faith in the things of this world, they will ultimately be disappointed. Their only harvest will be “a load of grief and incurable pain.” This grief will be brought to a climax when, in the midst of their suffering, the nation of Israel faces an imminent invasion:
“Look! The armies rush forward like waves thundering toward the shore. But though they roar like breakers on a beach, God will silence them. They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind or like dust whirling before a storm. In the evening Israel waits in terror, but by dawn its enemies are dead. This is the just reward of those who plunder and destroy the people of God” (Isaiah 17:12-14, NLT).
While Syria and Israel lie in ruin, the enemies of Israel will view her suffering as an opportunity to invade, their ultimate goal to destroy her forever. However, God has a different plan in mind, and He will destroy these invaders Himself. A more in-depth illustration of this attack is foreseen in Psalms 83:
Could the events predicted in Isaiah 17 and Psalms 83 be a catalyst for the war of Gog and Magog prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39? Although it is not a certainty, the possibility cannot be completely ruled out.
As of this writing, the conditions are ripe for the fulfillment of Isaiah 17 and Psalms 83, paving the way for the Rapture of the church and the beginning of the Tribulation. In light of such developments, we should zealously preach the gospel of Christ to all who will listen, for the hour is late, and the return of Christ is near.