Out of CONTEXT Verse: Isaiah 54:17

The 2012 NFL Playoffs were dominated by the story of  future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis’ return to play with the Baltimore Ravens, and his quest to finish his storied career by winning a second NFL Championship.  Throughout the playoffs – both in video clips from the sideline and during interviews – Ray Lewis was claiming a promise from Isaiah 54:17:

No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper. – Isaiah 54:17a NASB

Again, this is a great inspirational maxim.  It is true that we can stand in faith that God is on our side and will protect us.  But over the years, I’ve heard this quoted so many times by people who think that it’s God’s direct promise to an individual. It is not.

The entire context of Isaiah 54 is about the restoration of Israel at the end of days.  It is about the time when God will restore Israel and “enlarge the place of your tent” (vs. 2) to include those from all of the nations who will come together to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Verses 4-8 make this crystal clear:

“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;  be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of you she is cast off,” says your God. “For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer. – Isaiah 54:4-9 ESV

Let’s step back and think about this for a moment. Whoever is the recipient of the promises of this passage is also the recipient of the judgment that proceeded it. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is referred to as the “bride” of God Almighty.  The entire book of Hosea is given over to this theme.  But Israel was unfaithful to the Bridegroom.  They were adulterous by worshiping other gods.

Rejoice not, O Israel! Exult not like the peoples; for you have played the whore, forsaking your God. You have loved a prostitute’s wages on all threshing floors. – Hosea 9:1 ESV

It is only after Israel has been judged and repented of this spiritual adultery that it is restored to right relationship with God Almighty, the nations are brought into perfect relationship as well, and at that time God promises that “no weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

This is not an individualistic promise to anyone who wishes to claim it. And that leads to one final point.

I once heard a wise man say that “a gospel that isn’t true for everyone, isn’t true for anyone.” In our Western Christian culture, we have become so oblivious to the challenges and struggles of Christians around the world that we make ridiculous statements about what God will and will not do for us if we “just have faith.”  I wonder what the thousands of Christians in the Middle East who are taking a stand for their Messiah would say to Ray Lewis, when he reduces the promises of the Kingdom of God to a football game by saying, “No weapon! No weapon! No weapon!” These TRUE champions who are winning the battle of the ages are being beheaded by the sword of I.S.I.S.. Does Isaiah 54:17 only apply to the NFL playoffs, and not to them?


Next CONTEXT POST: I know the plans I have for you…


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