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29 August 2018

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

In what situation should we expect this verse to apply?

Isaiah 54.17

You hear people quote this one when they’re claiming God promised them invulnerability.

Against what? Well it depends on the Christian. Very few are gonna claim this verse is about bullets; when a gunman busts into a school and opens fire, the few who stand up and declare, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper!” are gonna quickly discover this verse doesn’t apply to their situation at all.

Most of the time we figure this has to do with spiritual warfare. Which is about resisting temptation, Ep 6.10-13 although a number of Christians think it’s about believing so hard that they’ll get what they ask for, that they do. So the “weapons,” they imagine, are unbelief, discouragement, and the usual inconveniences of life which might shake our determination. Not desires and fleshly impulses, the actual wiles of the devil. If we don’t know what we’re actually meant to resist, turns out every weapon formed against us shall prosper.

So when people desire to be #blessed (with or without the hashtag), they’re naming-and-claiming the idea, “No weapon formed against me will prosper! I will get my blessing!” And believing so hard, blessings will just materialize out of thin air like a genie’s granted wishes.

Of course that’s not what the original verse means. Duh.

The verse comes from Isaiah, and the first thing you’ll notice is people have personalized it when they quote it. They phrase it “No weapon formed against me,” whereas the King James Version went with thee, which is old-timey English for “you.” No weapon formed against the person the LORD is speaking to through this prophecy. Wanna bet he’s not speaking directly to you or me personally? I would; it’s a solid bet.

Isaiah 54.17 KJV
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

There are those folks who will insist the second sentence of this verse, “This [is] the heritage of the servants of the LORD,” means it totally does apply to them, ’cause they’re a servant of the LORD. And they might have a better case for themselves if they actually acted like God’s servants, instead of presuming he owes them #blessings even though they suck at obeying Jesus, and produce no more spiritual fruit than any pagan.

But even if we Christians are obedient and fruitful, is the LORD still speaking to us in this prophecy? Well, let’s take a good hard look at it.

Context time.

When you first read Isaiah 54, it sounds like Isaiah’s talking about a literal barren woman: Someone with no kids, who’s been begging God for kids, and God’s gonna grant her children just like he gave Samuel to Hannah, or John the baptist to Elizabeth. At least the prophecy starts that way.

Isaiah 54.1-3 KWL
1 Sing for joy, barren woman who’s not given birth.
Break forth in shouts of joy. Cheer, you who’ve not gone through labor!
“For children from wastelands outnumber children from one’s husband,” says the LORD.
2 Widen the place of your tent. Stretch out the curtain of your residence.
Stretch out! Don’t hold back! Lengthen your ropes. Use strong pegs.
3 For you break through the right and left.
Your seed occupies nations. They settle in wasteland cities.

It initially sounds like God’s promising a woman children, but it quickly escalates to him promising a woman that her descendants will occupy other nations. So… is he still talking to an individual woman? Or is he talking in metaphor to someone who’s depicted as an individual woman? And the more you read, the more you realize it’s the second thing. God’s talking to Jerusalem, and promising its people a great and hopeful future.

Isaiah 54.4-12 KWL
4 Don’t fear, for you’ve no reason to be ashamed.
Don’t be insulted, for you’ve no reason to blush.
You can forget the embarrassment of your youth.
Don’t remember the unsatisfied needs of widowhood any more:
5 Your maker, named the LORD of War, marries you.
Israel’s Holy One, called God of the Whole World, rescues you.
6 For like a woman abandoned and hurt in spirit, the LORD calls you.
“Who throws away a young woman?” says your God.
7 “For a brief moment I left you. In great compassion I gather you together.
8 For a moment I hid my face from you in an angry outburst.
In eternal love I show you grace,” says the LORD your rescuer.
9 “To me, this is like Noah’s waters: I swore off passing Noah’s waters over the earth again.
Likewise I swore off getting angry with you, rebuking you.
10 Mountains recede and hills fall; my love for you won’t recede.
Our relationship, my peace, won’t fall,” says the compassionate LORD.
11 You’re miserable, storm-shaken, not comforted.
Look: I set down colored stones. A foundation of gems.
12 I place a ruby on your sun-facing side. Precious stones in your gate.
Your whole border wall of lovely stones.”

If you weren’t entirely certain God was talking about a city instead of a woman, it gets kinda obvious when he starts talking about building its foundations and walls out of gems. You know, like New Jerusalem is described in Revelation, Rv 21.16-21 which is likely the idea God had in mind when he had Isaiah write this for him, and had John see the jewel-covered city centuries later.

So bouncing back to verses 1-3: When Isaiah prophesied about ben-šomema/“children from wastelands,” he may have been referring to God including the gentiles in his kingdom. We gentiles used to be outside God’s kingdom, in pretty much the dead wastes of the world, and now we’re not. God’s gonna prosper Jerusalem by having it grow, not just from the inside out, but from the outside in, with adoptees greatly outnumbering the biological kids. Better widen the tents!

Of course I may be biased ’cause I’m gentile, but that’s how I read it.

Isaiah 54.13-17 KWL
13 “All your children are the LORD’s students. Great peace to your children.
14 You’re firm in righteousness: Be far from oppression.
For there’s no fear nor ruin, for it doesn’t come near you.
15 Look, attackers stop attacking me. Whoever attacks you, falls before you.
16 Look, I create metalworkers who stoke coalfires, producing tools for their work.
I create destruction to ruin nations.
17 Any tool made to vex you won’t succeed.
Any tongue standing against you in judgment, you condemn.
This is the possession of the LORD’s slaves:
Righteousness from being with me,” utters the LORD.

So if we’re among the LORD’s slaves, or servants; if we submit ourselves to being taught by God; if we’re righteous because we trust him, follow him instead of taking his grace for granted, and resist oppression and legalism and all the fleshly behaviors of people who don’t understand how grace works: We can be among the citizens of New Jerusalem when people try to stand against us at the End.

That’s when no khely/“utensil,” whether weapon or tool, manufactured to defeat us, will have no effect on us. That’s when we’re standing with God, God’s standing with us, and we dwell in his house forever.

Not when all we want is material prosperity, happy thoughts, and a hashtag to post on social media to indicate we’re comfortable. Worse, to make our friends envious. That takes God’s awesome inheritance, and reduces it to mere bling. It’s pathetic. Don’t do that.