Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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From the Lessons from Isaiah series
“The burden of Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see. . . . I have also commanded my sanctified ones; I have called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness. . . . Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them. . . .”
Isaiah 13:1, 3, 17
This is one of those wonderful, mysterious chapters from the prophets in which God used situations, people, and events contemporary with the prophets, or nearly so, as springboards to launch into a prophecy of events that would transpire much, much later.
The earthly events of which Isaiah was prophesying here had to do with the destruction of the earthly empire of Babylon by the fierce nation of the Medes. And as Isaiah was being moved by the holy Ghost to speak of the Medes’ destruction of Babylon, the Spirit suddenly turned that prophecy into one of the return of Jesus to reign with his saints over the earth for a thousand years. In this prophecy of Babylon’s fall at the hands of the Medes, Isaiah speaks of the sun being blackened and the moon and stars not shining; he speaks of God punishing the whole world, of God shaking the heavens and moving the earth out of its place. And all this is wedged in between God’s warning that he has selected the Medes to destroy the Babylonian Empire and that Babylon would remain desolate forever!
When reading prophecies such as this one, we have to read carefully to determine which verses apply to Christ and which apply to the ancient nations and their issues. In verse three, God says that He has given commandment to His “sanctified ones”. Since to be sanctified means to be made holy, we know that the “sanctified ones” referred to in Isaiah 13:3 are God’s people, not the unbelieving hordes of the Medes, a polytheistic, Gentile nation. It would be very difficult to think of the heathen nation of the Medes, though anointed to destroy Babylon, as being holy, a sanctified people in the sight of God.
Concerning your 11-22 TFE on “His Sanctified Ones”, in the last paragraph .... didn’t God sanctify nations for His purposes at times - such as what God did for Babylon, or for the Assyrians (in sanctifying Babylon to destroy Judah, and Assyria to destroy Israel)? I was wondering if God perhaps DID sanctify the Medes in a sense, to destroy that nation that destroyed HIS nation and was lifted up with pride to drink out of the holy vessels, etc. (Babylon). The Medes and their king did do some kind things to Israel along the way (story of Esther) - so I was wondering if it might be possible that God did for them what He did for Nebuchadnezzar and for the king of Assyria when they repented and actually did sanctify them for His purposes.
I had to look hard for any reference to God sanctifying anything or anyone outside of His people and covenant, but when I looked for every use of the Hebrew word that is translated “sanctify” or “make holy”, I was able to find some verses in which that Hebrew word appears in relationship to heathen nations, although in the KJV, that word is not translated as “sanctified” but as “prepared”.
In Jeremiah 22, God is warning His own people that He will punish them for their unfaithfulness to Him by sending a foreign power to overthrow the nation. He said (Jer 22:7) that He would “prepare destroyers against you”. On two other occasions, speaking of destruction decreed by God against Babylon, we find the same thing (Jer. 51:27, 28). (This is real “holy war”, when God decrees destruction and anoints nations to inflict His punishment on a particular nation.)
Joel also uses this term “prepare war” in reference to the gathering of the Gentile nations for the apocalyptic battle of Harmageddon mentioned in Revelation.
So, yes, there are places in the Bible where the Hebrew word for “to sanctify” is used with reference to God’s choosing of certain nations to destroy others, or in the case of Harmageddon, God’s choosing them to be destroyed. But it is clear that those heathen nations were not made holy as Israel was by God’s choosing them and setting them apart for His purposes.