I always thought J.R.R. Tolkien invented wraiths – you know, those creepy dead kings who ride creepy winged dragons as they hunt for the ring.
Nope. There are wraiths in the Bible. Perhaps you didn’t know that, but there are.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah spoke of creepy wraiths and ghouls long before Tolkien. Isaiah 13 contains an oracle of judgement on Babylon and it concludes with these lines:
“And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
when God overthrew them.
It will never be inhabited
or lived in for all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there;
no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
But wild animals will lie down there,
and their houses will be full of howling creatures;
there ostriches will dwell,
and there wild goats will dance.
Hyenas will cry in its towers,
and jackals in the pleasant palaces;
its time is close at hand
and its days will not be prolonged” (Isa 13:19-22 ESV)
J. Alec Motyer, a top Isaianic scholar, writes that these howling desert creatures are “more likely ‘desert wraiths,'” and, says Motyer, “wild goats would be better translated ‘goat-demons’ (cf. Lv. 17:7).” (Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, 141).
After God judges Babylon all that remains is ghouls in the wilderness – hyenas, ostriches, owls, and other spooky animals dancing with the wraiths and goat-demons.
Yet even in the spooky desert the Lord reigns – and He is at work. Listen to what Isaiah says later about this ghoulish land:
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isa 35 ESV).
This same forsaken land that was haunted by ghouls is transformed into a highway. On that highway march those whom God has redeemed. And they march into Zion – into God’s presence – with joy and singing.
This is simply wonderful. It’s wonderful because the world we live in is a strange place. There are weird things and creepy forces at work. Yet the Lord is still the sovereign King, making a highway of salvation for a people willing to live under the cross of Christ. In the midst of the ghoulish, demonic chaos, He reigns and He has conquered by the death and resurrection of His Servant Jesus.
In our world where death reigns, where demons dance, and where sin was celebrated, God reigns all the more and He is in the process of redeeming a people unto Himself. That is all our hope and joy. Come to Him and receive Him.