The Leviathan and I
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 17, Dec 2019
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 27:1-6
In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.
Isaiah has given us an image of Leviathan, the legendary, multiheaded monster of the sea whom ancients feared as the cause of chaos on the earth. Consistent with that image Isaiah gives personality to the three archenemies of Judah according to the distinctive characteristics of the waterways that coursed through their land.
First, the ‘fleeing (piercing) serpent’ or the Elusive One, represents Assyria, a nation located on the swift flowing Tigris Rivers. Two, the ‘twisted (crooked) serpent’ or the Tortuous One, calls up the setting of Babylon, the city on the winding Euphrates River and three, the ‘reptile (Red Dragon) that is in the sea’ or the Rushing One , identifies Egypt with its dependence upon the mighty flow of the Nile. By their attacks they continued to frustrate the purpose of God for His people. Therefore, their ultimate defeat was absolutely necessary for the peace of Israel if it were to fulfill its God appointed mission as the home of the Savior and the instrument through whom salvation was to come. In Job’s humbling encounter with God, the wise and righteous man is asked if he could put a hook in Leviathan and control Him, who personifies evil in all of its vicious attacks and incorrigible (persistent) nature. After an exacting description of this snorting, sneezing, and fiery monster that no human can control, God reminds Job, ‘On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear. He beholds every high thing; he is king over all the children of pride.’ Isaiah goes on to describe this creature in relationship with God’s people which is the content of this message. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
First, we are told of this Leviathan.
Isaiah 27:1 says, ‘In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”
We are told that YHWH will use a great sword to punish Leviathan. This sword is described as terrible (from the word ‘sore’), swift and mighty. The LORD’s sword is definitely the word of God. Just the word of God is enough to completely destroy the Leviathan. When the word of God comes out of his mouth, it is a sharp two-edged sword and when declared it is done. That is all He needs. By His word He created all things, and by His Word shall He judge. Here we are given the characteristics of Leviathan. Leviathan is described in verse one as a piercing and crooked serpent. Serpent has the characteristic of a coiling, writhing (squirming, wriggling) twisted snake. He is also known as the dragon who lives in the sea. Some translation calls it the ‘snake that is in the sea’. Sea always represents the sea of people. So it means the snake among the sea of people. YHWH will kill the dragon. Job 4:15 says, ‘His scales are his pride’. The scales are for his protection, and Satan thinks he is invulnerable, that he cannot be touched. This is his pride. He doesn’t realize, even today, that he can be judged. He probably thinks he is beyond the judgment of Almighty God. This creature; Leviathan, known as the fleeing serpent is mentioned in Job, Psalms and Amos. It resembles a river snaking through the Israeli land. We are reminded of the Jordan River that resembles a snake passing through the land of Israel. It seems to me we are talking about the twisting river symbolizing the serpent, the national enemy of Israel. It implies, Satan is like a serpent snaking through the land of Israel, the snake that is in the sea of the people of Israel. Isaiah also mentioned two other great rivers that symbolizes the national enemy of Israel. The two great river systems of the antediluvian which were the cradles of civilization; is the Nile and the Tigris/Euphrates river. F. Delitzsch has suggested that ‘the piercing serpent’ or literally the ’swift fleeing serpent’ represents the Tigris River and thereby the nation of Assyrian. The ‘crooked serpent’ represents the winding Euphrates and thereby the nation of Babylon. ‘ The dragon that is in the sea’ represents the Nile River and thereby the nation of Egypt. This would enforce that interpretation that Satan was the power behind these kingdoms. Satan is the power behind many of our sufferings. Leviathan is also named Rahab, the Sea Monster and the Dragon. The whole implication is this serpent lives among us.
Last week we touched quite in detail on Rahab. Why is the name Rahab used as a Sea Monster or dragon? The name Rahab is an Egyptian god. Leviathan on the other hand literally mean ‘coiled’ or ‘twisted’. In Egyptian Mythology it is described as a seven headed sea monster that came out of the sea. In the Book of Daniel and Revelation we are told of this 7 headed Sea Monster that came out of the sea. . Of course we know that the seven heads represent 7 evil (nations) empires that belongs to Leviathan. In Ugaritic poetry, the root word is ‘tnn’ and it is parallel to ‘ltn’ (Lotan); both names for chaos water monsters. If you study carefully you can come to the conclusion that the ‘serpent’ of Genesis 3 is also identified with the imagery of ancient Chaos Monster. Isn’t that what Satan has done for 6000 years; causing chaos, even to these days, his ways twisted and squirming. His attacks is especially directed towards Israel and the church. Isaiah 27 is referring to this snake bothering us and accusing us. He will come and tell you that sin is pleasurable and then after you have committed sin, he will accuse you before God. The Seraphim, which guarded the throne of heaven are known as fiery flying serpents. I believe that Satan was once a Seraphim. In most movies, producers constantly exalted the fiery flying serpent, a reference to Satan.
Now Leviathan is known as the great red dragon in the bible. Revelation describe the ultimate cosmic battle between good and evil in mythological terms taken from Ancient Near Eastern Cultures. In Babylonian creation account he is knowns as Tiamat (means chaos), a seven headed monster who threw down one third of the stars of heaven. In Egyptian mythology he is known as Set (Typhoon), a red dragon, who verses Isis (Hathor) and Isis’s son (Horus). It is so interesting that the night before I did my devotion, the material which becomes my sermon this morning, I was watching a motive entitled gods of Egypt. In the movie one of the chief characters is the Egyptian god called Set who kills his own brother, Isis and took out the eyes of Isis’s son, Horus. Then there were humans, much smaller in size than these so-called Egyptian gods and the human worshipped these Egyptian gods and were slaves. And while researching on this sermon, bible commentator led me to this Ancient Mythology on Set, Isis and Horus. I think you should go and watch this movie which gives us an idea of Egyptian Mythology and its relations to mankind.
2. The People of God, Israel
Next Israel is mentioned. There is a change of subject at this point.
Isaiah 27:2-3 says, ‘ In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.’
YHWH is pointing to a day of Israel’s freedom and she will sing. She will sing of a vineyard of Red Wine. ‘A vineyard of red wine’ speaks of abundance, fruitfulness, bounty and joy. The Hebrew word for wine is חמר. And the Hebrew word for ‘pleasant’ is ‘חמד’. The vowel points are the same for both words. It implies that Israel is the vineyard and is pleasant. We are supposed to be a pleasant people, a people of freedom, sweetness and with much songs in our mouth.
God made man and the Garden of Eden to be a pleasant place. YHWH care for it daily; keep it, water it, day and night, lest anyone will hurt it. While preparing this sermon, YHWH told me that he has a special covenant with me. I am uniquely his people. He has a universal plan for my life. He made the church and the individuals in the church a pleasant place. He showed me that he cared for this church day and night. He personally waters it, ensuring that no one will hurt it. The one that hurt us has its origin in Leviathan, the devil. If you stay close to God, Satan and his demons cannot hurt you. I realize that I have a special relationship with YHWH; a covenant relationship with YHWH. We are uniquely His people. And YHWH has a universal plan for all the world through us.
I want to dwell on our covenant relationship with YHWH. A few weeks ago, in my family chat group, I was reminiscing an incident and I was relating it to Joy. When Joy was in Grade 1, she was an accelerated student. And the standard of Saint Joseph was already one grade higher compared to the public school. So she actually jumped two grades. One night in my house, Pastor Lily and I heard some crying in the room of my children and we rushed to their room. She saw Joy literally on her knees crying and praying to God to help her in her studies because she couldn’t cope with it. She was just 6 years old. But it was the young age, her softness, her belief in God, the way she prayed and her simple faith that touched our heart. Of course we laid hand on her and prayed for her that night. She told us that since that day she prayed she did not struggle in her studies anymore. By the time she reached Grade 6 she was in the honor rolls. Then she told us she remembered that incident and also a few other incidents where she prayed and God answered. She also recounted an event where my family were in Hong Kong. There was a super typhoon but she really wanted to go to Ocean Park. That was 1996 because we had to get out of the country having stayed in Philippines for 10 years. She was around 7 years old at that time. So she prayed and the next moment the sky cleared and we could go to Ocean Park in Hong Kong. Then she made a sad statement. She said ‘but God doesn’t answer my prayer anymore.’ I told her the problem is not YHWH but her faith has weakened over time by trials, people, influences and even herself. YHWH has not changed; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. She is the one that has changed and not God. Then she asked why Pastor Lily and I keep using the word YHWH instead of just God. I told her there is a difference. God is ELOHIM whereas YHWH is the name of our God and it means he has a covenant relationship with us. We told her she must get back to her simple relationship with YHWH. You see, a covenant relationship comes with covenant promises, covenant presence and covenant protection. The initial promises of a special covenant relationship was made to Abraham and it still stands with us; because the New Testament tells us that we are the spiritual children of Abraham. What was the Promises in this covenant relationship?
A. A land. I believe that the land of Etab is a promise given to us. The land promised to Abraham was the land of Israel. No one can take that away from Israel, no matter how powerful these surrounding nations are. The nations neighboring Israel today; their quarrels are with YHWH not with Israel over the land. As YHWH has given Israel a land, YHWH has also given us this land. Individually I always felt that in this life, YHWH has promised a land, a property to all children of God. We have to claim it. So remember YHWH has a special relationship with me as an individual but also the land of Etab as a corporate body. If you serve God, YHWH will give you a house you can called your owned that you rightfully owned it.
B. A people. As Abraham’s children became a people, we the church also must become a people. She will not be small but a flourishing people. The church is to be a thriving people. The emphasis here is that we are children of God.
C. A blessing to the world. By our lifestyles, our blessings we testify of God. Look at the Jews today. We always know that they are such special people by their wealth, their intelligence and their special blessings. I ask you a question? Are you an unusually blessed person by your wealth, intelligence and your special blessings that people take note of your God? If not, something is wrong with you.
How sure are you concerning this truth that I have just shared? Isaiah 27:3 says, ‘I, the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment lest any hurt it. I will keep it night and day.’ Wow, such a powerful truth. Such an amazing God. You are that vineyard. YHWH do keep that vineyard. He waters it every moment lest any hurt it. That any that hurt is definitely a reference to Leviathan, the twisted snake. YHWH will keep it night and day. Another translation put it as ‘Israel is my vineyard. I the LORD, will tend the fruitful vines, every day I’ll water them, and day and night I’ll watch to keep all enemies away.’ The word ‘enemies’ is in plurality. This will cause you to fall in love with YHWH again. Just a few Sunday ago, Pastor Lily shared on ‘What fuel you to serve God?’ Immediately after the altar call, she was giving a prophetic download that YHWH cares for someone in the congregation. That very morning I just had this revelation to tell the congregation that YHWH really cared for us but I couldn’t find the text even though I read it a few days before that. And when preparing this sermon I found it. YHWH told me this truth that he cared for me and for individuals in this church. By the way, the download that Pastor Lily gave that Sunday, to that person; he was so ministered that he texted Pastor Lily and thank her for the download because he really needed it and he told Pastor Lily in no uncertain term that he will continue to serve God. YHWH cared for that individual and knew what he was going through. It is wonderful to serve our YHWH. It is so wonderful to have YHWH as our God.
The LORD is the husbandman here and never again will He ever let the vineyard of our lives out to others. I feel that for many of us our blessings have been stolen, taken from us without our permission. We are hurt and angry but we couldn’t do anything about it. Well, I want to say that you maintain that covenant relationship, new blessings, better than the former will come back to you. He is the husbandman who keeps an eye continually upon it. He watches it night and day so that no enemy may enter. This ought to say something to those who believe that God is through with you as children of God. This Scripture makes it clear that He is not through with you.
Maybe you think you are an enemy with God today. The enemy can make peace with God even in the Kingdom of the church. This is made so clear in verse 5 which says, ‘let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.’ For God never ceases to be merciful. Thank God for that. He is rich in mercy, which means that He has plenty of it. I need a lot of it myself. He is rich in grace. We will find out that ten million years from today His grace will still be available to us. I think we will need it even in heaven. So make your peace with God. You cannot make peace with God when you are dead. When you are dead, it is too late. So make your peace with God when you are alive. This is the only place in Scripture when it is even suggested that man can make peace with God. Of course he has to do it with obedience to the King.
3. YHWH, Leviathan and I
Now why the sudden change in the topic just in the first two verses from this Leviathan and us? There are two truths. One, it is to tell us that YHWH kept watch over Israel because of that serpent. Verse 3 describes YHWH’s care and protection for Abraham’s descendants. We are the spiritual descendant of Abraham. Verse 4 describes YHWH’s willingness to protect and destroy our enemies. Verse 5 is a call to trust in His care and protection. And verse 6 is a victory verse stating the result of the blessings which will one day fill the earth; the original intention of YHWH. We are going to win in the end. Pastor Lily has a very bad habit. When she wants to watch a Korean, Chinese Drama series, she will watch the first few episodes. Then she will go to the last episode. And if the last episode has a good ending, she will then slowly watch episode by episode. But if the ending is bad, she will stop watching that Korean, Chinese Drama. She wants a good ending. I just want to tell all of us children of YHWH, if we serve God the story of our lives will have a good ending.
The second truth is to tell us that Satan is a liar and a thief.
This is a truth that we must know about this Leviathan. He is a liar and a thief. I want to speak to those who felt hopeless in life. Those who failed God because you have committed sins, transgressions and wrong. You had been unfaithful and even faithless. Isaiah 27:4 says, ‘Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them; I will burn them together.’ In some translation it says, ‘My anger against Israel is gone. If I find thorns and briars bothering her, I will burn them up, unless these enemies of mine surrender and beg for peace and my protection.’ Fury (rage, vengeance, wrath, anger) is not in YHWH. Rather the Leviathan is one of rage, vengeance, wrath and anger towards us. YHWH says in Isaiah 57:16, ‘I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me -the very people I created.’ What YHWH is saying is this: ‘My anger against you is gone. If I find thorns and briars bothering you, l will burn them up, unless these enemies (of yours) of mine (YHWH) surrender and beg for peace and my protection. YHWH will burn away the thorns and briars of our lives. Thorns and briars are brambles, briers and nettles; troublesome plants. They are symbols of desolation. We are reminded of these plants of which became the thorny crown of our Savior Jesus Christ, designed to mock and torture him. Jesus took the hopeless feeling, the desolation, the troublesome life and the thorny circumstances and put it upon himself that we might be free. Likewise thorns and briers are the troublesome things in our lives designed to mock and torture us. Yet here YHWH says, he will burn them away. He will purify us and made us wiling in the day of His power.
Isaiah 27:5 extends hope to Israel and us Abraham’s spiritual children. It says, ‘Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.’ We are extorted to take hold of YHWH’s strength. We the spiritual children of Abraham can take hold of YHWH’s strength. I can make peace with YHWH and then I shall have peace. This shows us we human (even those who are enemies of God right now by their lifestyles and character), who responded to Him by faith, will have God’s offering of forgiveness and salvation. Peace is such a crucial aspect of a faith relationship with God. But there is no peace for the wicked. Here the term peace denotes a peace treaty initiated by YHWH but must be accepted and lived out by the faithful.
4. The Results
Isaiah 27:6 says, ‘He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root. Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.’
When I read this. I can only say, ‘Wow, Wow, Wow.’ Israel and we the spiritual children of Abraham shall take root and blossom and bud and fill the face of the world. Isaiah was written 2500 years ago. This prophesy is 2500 years old. Yet it has been fulfilled. And it shall be fulfilled.
What about us?
If we yield to the care of the LORD right now, He will care for us as His precious vineyard right now, and we will enjoy the blessing of that care. If we do not yield to the care of YHWH, then we will be overrun by thorns and brier in the vineyard of our lives. To ‘cause Jacob to take root’ means you will go through normal stages of growth. This is the picture of the blessedness of the church and individuals within the church. It means you will be firmly settled in your possessions To take root, therefore, is an emblem denoting that the descendants of Jacob and the people of God would increase and prosper. To ‘fill the face of the world with fruit’ means our posterity shall be so numerous that our own land shall not be sufficient for us. But we shall be forced to seek habitations in other countries and shall replenish them with people. This implies foreign missions.
I want to encourage you to stay faithful to God, to remain faithful in this church. Because the picture described here is beautifully employed in Psalms 92:13-14 which say a few truths:
Those that be planted in the house of Yahweh,
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
They shall be rich and green.
This is actually describing the future prosperity of this church and its individuals and its influence one day. What is YHWH saying?
a. In respect of number – yes, we are comparatively few but the wall of partition will be broken down and the boundaries of the church will be greatly increased.
b. In respect of spiritual vigor – others will remain in a state of spiritual death but concerning them to come to this church it is asserted that they shall take root and filled with spiritual vigor (potency, strength, life).
c. In respect of beauty – because Christ himself is beautiful and glorious, believers in Christ are made comely through his comeliness put upon them
d. In respect of fruitfulness – believers are denominated as ‘trees of righteousness’ to intimate that they should ‘bring forth fruit unto God’. We will abound in ‘every good word and work’.
e. In respect of joy – it is like the dews of heaven that ‘drop upon the pastures of the wilderness’ and the hills representing us ‘shall rejoice on every side’.
f. In respect of stability – it is here promised that the LORD shall cause them to take root. The vicissitudes which take place in human affairs teach us the vanity of the world, the perishing nature of all that seems most durable in this region of shadows. The world is constantly changing. This world is perishing. All that is in this world is vanity upon vanity. They look so durable but is only like a shadow, not the real thing. The church or people or God however shall be like Mount Zion that cannot be moved.
g. In respect of extent – it means foreign mission