This is a Bible study on Isaiah 17:1-14.

6 pages.

Isaiah 17:1-14 - Don’t Forget the LORD

Read Isaiah 17:1-14.


“Until a dozen years ago, I thought I was completely in control of my life,” confesses a man named Stephen.

“It was easy for me to chart my course and see how I was progressing in the company. I had my entire future carefully mapped out with insurance policies, investments and a house for security. My philosophy was that man is at the center of life and has all the answers.”

“Once in the early 1970’s, when my wife Nancy and I were living in Chicago, she said, ‘We really ought to thank God for all the blessings He has given us.’ I responded, ‘You don’t thank God! You thank me! I’m the one who brings home the paycheck; I’m the one who pays the bills; I’m the one who plans how we are going to spend the money.’”1

Here was a man who thought that he could make it on his own. Here was a man who forgot the LORD. Can you identify with this man? Is this where you are in your life? Do you believe that you are the center of life and that you have all the answers? Do you put your confidence in your own ability and planning? Do you put your confidence in your investments and securities? Have you forgotten the LORD? This was the attitude and outlook of Old Testament Israel as described in Isaiah 17.

Like Israel, we are prone to forget the LORD, thinking that we are able to fend for ourselves. But, as we learn from this present passage of Scripture, to do so is to court disaster. The message of Isaiah 17 is this: Don’t forget the LORD!

Don’t Forget the LORD, When Your Riches Increase🔗

Isaiah 17:4-5 speak about the prosperity and abundance of material blessing that had been enjoyed by the nation of Israel:

On that day the glory of Jacob will fade, and the fatness of his body will waste away. 5It will be as when the reaper gathers the standing grain, and with his arms reaps the ears; indeed, it will be as when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim.

Verse four speaks of “the fatness of Israel’s body;” an evidence of his abundant prosperity and self-indulgence. In verse five the nation is compared to a fertile, fruitful field; by way of illustration, Isaiah is pointing the people to the fertile fields of the valley of Rephaim located southwest of Jerusalem. So many of us can identify with Israel in her state of material prosperity. So many of us live a comfortable life filled with modern day luxuries and surrounded by economic well-being and security in the form of investments, insurance and pension plans.

But with the blessing of material prosperity and security there is also the temptation to forget the LORD, consider Deuteronomy 8:11-18,

Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commandments, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' 18But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

The temptation to forget the LORD is most powerful when our lives are surrounded and engulfed in material prosperity, as is indicated in Deuteronomy 8:11a, 12-14a. In this condition of material prosperity comes the unique temptation expressed in Deuteronomy 8:14a, “then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God.” The LORD becomes irrelevant to our everyday lives, we lose the God-centered and God-dependent perspective. There is the tendency to personally take credit for our prosperity, failing to acknowledge the goodness of the LORD and His covenant faithfulness, note, again, Deuteronomy 8:17-18,

You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' 18But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Do we thank the LORD for all the material blessings He has heaped upon us, or do we congratulate ourselves for wise decisions, hard work and shrewd business transactions? As Deuteronomy 8:11b indicates, forgetting the LORD inevitably leads to neglecting His commandments. If we don’t think about God, we are not going to consider His commandments either. If we do not attribute our prosperity to the LORD, we are not going to be keenly aware of our accountability to the LORD either. When we focus on the enjoyment of our prosperity, and our own role in gaining that prosperity, we will inevitably push God out of our lives and consign Him and His commandments to some distant corner of heaven.

Forgetting the LORD ultimately leads to apostasy and judgment: “If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God” (Deut. 8:19-20). This was the judgment that was now coming upon the nation of Israel in the days of Isaiah. We must be aware that these things were also written for our admonition, to keep us from falling into the same sinful pattern and succumbing to the same judgment.

Let us be careful that we do not forget the LORD, especially when our riches increase. If we are truly wise, and if we are willing to accept wise and godly counsel, we will appreciate and appropriate for ourselves the wisdom expressed in Proverbs 30:8b-9, “give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me my daily bread. 9Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Don’t Forget the LORD, and Rely upon Your Own Devices🔗

As verses 1-3 indicate, for protection from the advancing Assyrian armies, Israel relied upon her alliance with Syria and her buffer zones east of the Jordan River—but they all collapsed before the invading Assyrians.

Verse one speaks of the fall of Israel’s ally, the nation of Syria: “Look! Damascus will no longer be a city, but will become a heap of ruins!” Damascus, the capital of Syria, had been conquered and devastated by the Assyrians; that is what had become the fate of Israel’s ally upon whom she had relied for security. Verse two speaks of the conquest of the buffer states east of the Jordan River: “The cities of Aroer will be deserted; they will be left to flocks that will lie down there, with no one to make them afraid.” This territory was located east of the Jordan River; it had served as a protective buffer zone for Israel, but had now been reduced to a desolate wilderness by the advancing Assyrian armies.

As we are informed about the state of Israel and its ungodly attitude, we must ask ourselves: Do we believe that as a nation we can protect our wealth and tranquility by building strong alliances with friendly nations and thus be protected from hostile military powers while we enjoy our abundance in hedonistic pleasure and self-contentment? Do we place our trust for defense and security in military technology and ability instead of placing our confidence in the LORD? We would do well to acknowledge such Scriptures as the following:

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength, it cannot save. 18But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those who hope in his unfailing love. 19He will deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. Psl. 33:16-19

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. 4When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. 5Blessed is he whose Helper is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—[the LORD], who remains faithful forever. 7He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. Psl. 146:3-7a

Verses 10-11 describe Israel’s carefully cultivated strategies and devices, using the imagery of carefully cultivating a garden full of exotic plants: have forgotten the God who is your Savior, and have not remembered the Rock that is your refuge. Therefore, you have placed [in the soil] the choicest plants and have planted imported vines. 11On the day you planted, you placed a hedge around these vines. In the morning you caused your seed to blossom; but the harvest will vanish on the day of grief and desperate sorrow!

Having planted “the choicest vines” of diplomatic maneuvering, all care was then taken to protect these “plants” with the hope that they would produce a wonderful harvest of fruit, namely the “fruit” of peace and security. Special care was taken to promote their growth, and these “little seedlings” of diplomacy and foreign alliances were blossoming with hope. But the anticipated harvest is worse than disappointing; it is a disaster. In the day of harvest the seedlings are nothing more than a heap of dead vines! The military and diplomatic efforts of Israel fail to provide the desired security from the advancing Assyrian invader. Do we find ourselves doing the same thing as Old Testament Israel­ placing our confidence in our nation’s diplomatic and military alliances as the source of our national security; placing our confidence in our own network of business relationships and portfolios as the source of our economic security?

Let us be careful that we do not forget the LORD, and rely upon our own devices. Let us consider the counsel that the LORD gives us through the prophet Jeremiah, let us take that counsel to heart and build our lives upon it:

This is what the LORD says, 'Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.' Jer. 17:5-8

Don’t Forget the LORD, because He Alone Can Save You🔗

The mighty army of Assyria, whom Israel feared and against whom she took every human precaution, is described as a raging river that has flooded its banks and is sweeping away everything that lies in its path: “Oh, the uproar of multitudes of peoples! They roar like the roaring sea! And the raging of nations! They rage like the raging of mighty waters!” (vs. 12) The Assyrian army was, indeed, an instrument employed by the LORD Almighty to bring His inescapable judgment upon the sinful nations of the ancient Near East; note, again, Isaiah 10:5-6a, “O Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my indignation! 6I will send him against a godless nation. I will commission him against a people who incite my wrath.” Indeed, there is coming a day when the whole world shall have an inescapable encounter with the LORD God, when each and every one shall be summoned to stand before His judgment seat: “The coming...he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness; [he will judge] the peoples with his truth” (Psl. 96:13).

That awesome, irresistible instrument of divine judgment, the armies of Assyria, swept away all the pagan nations of the Near East, including the apostate nation of Israel:

The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them 23until the LORD removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria. 2 Kgs. 17:22-23

None of Israel’s strategies or human resources could withstand the encounter with the LORD Almighty on His appointed day of judgment—executed in the form of the Assyrian invasion. In this regard, we may also take note of Zephaniah 1:18, “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.” We must remember that none of the wealth we accumulate will be of any value on judgment day; it cannot buy us a pardon or gain us entrance into heaven; only the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ can benefit us on that day—we must entrust ourselves to Him today and rely upon His shed blood alone for our salvation.

That great tidal wave of divine judgment swept away all the nations, until it came to Judah. There it was miraculously halted at the command of the LORD—on behalf of those who cried out to Him for salvation. As Isaiah describes it, “In the evening, look, there is terror! But before the morning [dawns], they are gone” (vs.14a); “they are gone” is a reference to the swift and miraculous destruction of the Assyrian army. Verse fourteen speaks of the LORD’s miraculous deliverance of Judah because they had humbled themselves before the LORD and called upon Him for mercy and salvation, note Isaiah 37:1-7, 36-38,

When King Hezekiah heard this [i.e. the announcement that the Assyrians were at the gate], he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. 2He sent Eliakim, the palace administrator, Shebna, the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3And they said to him, This is what Hezekiah says, “This is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace; it is like infants coming to the point of birth, but there is no strength to deliver them. 4Perhaps the LORD your God will take note of the words of the [Assyrian] field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to defy the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words that the LORD your God has heard. Therefore, lift up your prayer for the remnant [of Judah] that is still left.” 5When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, 6Isaiah said to them, “This is what you shall report back to your master, This is what the LORD says, ‘Do not be afraid of the words you have heard, [the words] with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7Listen! I am going to put a spirit into him that will cause him, when he hears a certain report, to return to his own country. Furthermore, I will cause him to be killed with the sword in his own country...’” 36Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When [the Assyrians] got up the next morning, there were all the dead bodies! 37So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew [from Jerusalem]. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. 38[One day], as he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer assassinated him with the sword; then they escaped to the land of Ararat. Esarhadon his son succeeded him as king.

Let us not forget the LORD, because He alone can save us. The LORD Himself exhorts us, “Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none other” (Isa. 45:22). Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter declares, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If you have never done so, entrust your life to Christ the Savior, trusting in His shed blood for the forgiveness of your sins. As a Christian, invest your life in serving Christ, (offering up your vocation as a service to Him), instead of being pre-occupied with this present world that is destined for final judgment.


This is the message the Holy Spirit wants us to hear and heed from this passage of Scripture: Like Old Testament Israel, we are prone to forget the LORD, thinking that we can fend for ourselves. But, as the example of Old Testament Israel warns us, to attempt to do so is to court disaster. Let us not forget the LORD; on the contrary, let us put our trust in Him and live our lives for Him.

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. How are the northern tribes of Israel described in Isaiah 17:4, and what is the significance of this imagery? Note Psl. 73:7. What will happen to this nation that is characterized by an abundance of material prosperity; whom have they forgotten? See Isa. 17:2. Why will this happen? See Isa. 17:10a. As a Christian, are you aware of the danger that lurks within material prosperity?

On that day the glory of Jacob will fade, and the fatness of his body will waste away. Isa. 17:4

Speaking of the wealthy, the psalmist declares,

Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish. Psl. 73:7

The cities of Aroer will be deserted; [they will be] left to flocks that will lie down there, with no one to make them afraid. Isa. 17:2

The description is that of a devastated land.

[All this will happen] because you have forgotten the God who is your Savior, and have not remembered the Rock that is your refuge. Isa. 17:10a

  1. In His parable of the Four Soils that receive the gospel seed, how does our Lord describe the third type of soil? See Lk. 8:7. How does He explain the meaning of this? See Lk. 8:14. Even as a Christian, are you tempted to view material wealth first as a means of security and then as a means of enabling you to indulge in a life of pleasure? What is the tragic dangers in doing so?

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with [the seed] and choked it.Lk. 7:8

And [the seed] that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard [the gospel message], go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. Lk. 7:14

  1. Given the dangers inherent in material prosperity, what guidelines does the LORD give us for the proper perspective on wealth and the right use of wealth? See 1 Tim. 6:17-19.As a Christian, are you following these guidelines in your handling of material prosperity?

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18[Let them] do good, so that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, so that they may lay hold on eternal life. 1 Tim. 6:17­-19

  1. How are Israel’s carefully cultivated defensive alliances poetically described in Isaiah 17:10b-11a? What will prove to be the “fruit” of these alliances that seemed to “blossom” with promise? See Isa. 17:11b. As a Christian, do you, too, make the mistake of relying on your own plans and devises to bring you worldly success or protection from adversity, or do you follow the counsel of Proverbs 3:5-6? have placed [in the soil] the choicest plants and have planted imported vines. 11On the day you planted, you placed a hedge around these vines. In the morning you caused your seed to blossom; but the harvest will vanish on the day of grief and desperate sorrow! Isa. 17:10b­-11

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not depend upon your own understanding; 6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Prov. 3:5-6

  1. The northern tribes of Israel are described as glorying in their material prosperity, relying upon their own wisdom, and forgetting the God who is our Savior—all to their own destruction. What counsel does the LORD give us? See Jer. 9:23-24. Are you living by that divine counsel?

Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these [things] I delight, says the LORD. Jer. 9:23-24

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