Today, this scripture is fulfilled. Damascus is a city in the country Syria. Below are pictures of the complete destruction of the city in the war that has occurred there over the past few years.
What is the significance of Damascus is taken away from being a city? "Damascus is often claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world." It has literally been taken away from being a city. It has been a city since pre-history, and as of very recently, is no longer a city. In fact, it will never be a city again, as the amount of time, effort, and money it would require to clear and rebuild it is beyond imagination.
This chapter is important. What has happened to Damascus is important. It is a sign.
The full chapter reads:
1 An oracle concerning Damascus:
Damascus shall cease to be a city and become a heap of ruins.
2 The cities of Aroer shall lie forsaken
and become places for herds to recline,
where no one will disturb them.
3 When Ephraim’s defense comes to an end,
so shall the sovereignty of Damascus: as with the glory of the children of Israel,
so shall it be with Aram’s remnant, says Jehovah of Hosts.
4 In that day Jacob’s glory shall wane,
and his fatness of body become leanness.
5 After being like a harvest of ripe grain, whose ears are reaped by the armful,
he will become like ears plucked in the Valley of Rephaim
6 when only the gleanings are left, or when an olive tree is beaten,
having two or three berries in the topmost bough, or four or five in its most fruitful branch,
says Jehovah, the God of Israel.
7 In that day men will have regard to their Maker, and their eyes look to the Holy One of Israel,
8 and regard not the altars,
the works of their hands,
nor look to things their fingers have made—
the idols of prosperity and the shining images.
9 In that day their mighty cities shall be like the deserted towns of the Hivites and Amorites, which they abandoned before the Israelites during the desolation.
10 For you have forgotten your God, your salvation, and not remembered the Rock, your fortress.
Therefore, though you plant choice crops and sow hybrid seed,
11 and though you make them thrive the day you plant them,
causing them to sprout
the very morning you sow them,
yet shall the harvest vanish
in a day of diseases and incurable pain.
12 Woe to the many peoples in an uproar, who rage like the raging of the seas—
tumultuous nations, in commotion
like the turbulence of mighty waters!
13 Nations may roar like the roaring of great waters,
but when he rebukes them they will flee far away;
they will be driven before the wind like chaff on the mountains,
or as whirling dust in a storm.
14 At evening time shall be the catastrophe,
and before morning they shall be no more.
This is the lot of those who plunder us, the fate of those who despoil us.
(Isaiah 17, Gileadi Translation)
Verse 3 means that when we see this sign (the ruin of Damascus) we will know that Ephraim's safe time is at an end. Our glory--our unprecedented first world wealth, comfort, and safety--shall wane. Our fatness will become leanness. Our numbers will be vastly reduced until we will be comparatively few, like gleanings after a harvest. Our mighty cities will be destroyed just like Damascus was. There will be war. There will be famine.