We are living in very turbulent times:
I want to do something that might seem a bit strange here: I want to discuss a well-known passage, while also showing that it may not be the best translation available. So this is a two-part sort of article. I have been meaning to write something on this for a while now, and this may be a good time to do so. Let me explain.
My title above features a passage that all Christians would be familiar with. It is of course Isaiah 59:19. We all know the way the KJV renders this text: “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”
That phrase is a memorable one, and has been uttered by countless Christians, often in prayer. The only problem is it may not be the best rendering of what the text actually says. Without wishing to go into all the various linguistic, grammatical and interpretative reasons here, let me just note that many experts think the KJV translation – and others like it – may not be the most accurate.
As sometimes happens with the KJV – a wonderful translation in so many ways – new understandings or discoveries of the manuscript evidence may lead to different and sometimes better ways to render a text. That is part of what is happening here. Simply consider any number of the newer translations. They all give what may be the preferred rendering of the Hebrew text. For example, see these:
CSB They will fear the name of the Lord in the west and his glory in the east; for he will come like a rushing stream driven by the wind of the Lord.
ESV So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives.
HCSB They will fear the name of Yahweh in the west and His glory in the east; for He will come like a rushing stream driven by the wind of the Lord.
TLB Then at last they will reverence and glorify the name of God from west to east. For he will come like a flood tide driven by Jehovah’s breath.
NASB So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west And His glory from the rising of the sun, For He will come like a rushing stream Which the wind of the Lord drives.
NIRV People in the west will show respect for the Lord’s name. People in the east will worship him because of his glory. The Lord will come like a rushing river that was held back. His breath will drive it along.
NIV From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along.
NRSV So those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord, and those in the east, his glory; for he will come like a pent-up stream that the wind of the Lord drives on.
RSV So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives.
As can be seen, it is not the enemy coming in like a flood, but the Lord. Three things at least can be said about this. One, this is NOT a case of a supposed ‘superior’ KJV being ‘attacked,’ ‘undermined,’ ‘distorted,’ or ‘liberalised’ by newer versions. It is just a matter of textual scholars running with possible better understandings of the manuscript evidence. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/05/07/the-king-james-only-controversy-part-1/
Two, it is good news that it is our Lord who comes in like a flood. That is something we can all take great comfort in. But three, it is still true that the enemy seems to come upon us in fierce and raging ways. That is still a reality, although this particular verse may not be the best source of this truth.
And that third point is what I want to focus on for the rest of this piece. Forgive me, but things will now become a bit personal here. Like many others, I have been struggling over the past few years. Covid and various state responses to it have all taken their toll. So many people have suffered for so many reasons.
The addition of the war in Ukraine has certainly made things worse for many people. Whether or not we are on the verge of WWIII, what is happening there is horrific indeed, and I have already penned a number of articles on the conflict. And one thing I said in yesterday’s article is worth repeating here:
Today many people have lost their jobs. Today many people have found out they have cancer. Today many people are struggling with raging floods in Australia. Today many people are huddling in bomb shelters in Ukraine. Suffering and hardships are ever with us. God can give real comfort and hope now, but Christians also look forward to this day: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4
I must say that my posts about the conflict in Ukraine here and on the social media have not been all smooth sailing. Many folks – including many Christians – have gotten quite upset with me and my viewpoint. Some have really gone full tilt hostile toward me, and/or unfriended me. It really has been intense this past week.
Indeed, one thing is certain: when controversial issues arise and folks have strong opinions about them, Satan will do his very best (or worst) to divide Christians and get them to turn on each other and hate each other. We must not be unaware of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Sure, we can rightly let go of some folks at certain times, but usually we must seek to work very hard on Christian unity where possible.
And last night as I tossed and turned in bed I thought and prayed a lot about suicide – not so much for me in particular. But I was aware of how so many folks are suicidal right now. I have many concerns about the world right at the moment, and various major issues that I am struggling with personally. I am supposed to be a strong mature Christian, but I still get so heavily weighed down.
So I can only imagine how others are coping who may be new or weak Christians, or non-Christians. I have especially noted how Satan is really getting believers to turn on each other of late. It has been some of the worst I have seen as a believer. It seems everywhere I turn recently a new fire has erupted, a new interpersonal war has flared up, and a new set of ugly enemy assaults have been taking place.
The enemy really does seem to be coming in like a flood! Sure, when it comes to hot potato issues, controversy and disagreements will always exist. And all this conflict and friction goes with the territory. It is part of the ministry that I am called to do.
But the need to pray for one another and uphold one another and encourage one another is so very urgent right now. We really need to take seriously what we find in 1 Samuel 12:23: “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”
The truth is I am feeling totally overwhelmed right now. It seems every time I walk around a corner, or open a website, or hear of a discussion, more attacks and fights and controversies and fierce battles are coming upon me. As I say, so many others would be going through similar things, so I am not alone in this.
It sure does seem like the enemy is coming in like a flood, but we must recall that it is really God who is coming in like a flood.
I guess my bottom line is this: I really could use your prayers right now! Many thanks indeed.