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Monday, September 8, 2014

Isaiah 10 (Part 1 of 2): Condemnation of Oppression

Isaiah 10 (Part 1 of 2): Condemnation of Oppression

Previously...

In chapter 9, Isaiah spoke of those without hope in the LORD who would suffer the gloom of anguish, but for those once considered to be contemptible there would be no such gloom. A Child would come from Zebulun Naphtali, a Son Who would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

Yet the present circumstances are dire. God's anger brings Assyrians, Syrians and Philistines against Israel. The horrors of war and genocide become terrifying symbols of Israel's moral and spiritual wickedness against the LORD.

Now...

In chapter 10, Isaiah warns of woe to those who oppress and rob the defenseless, the poor and the needy. The invading army of Assyria is God's tool of anger against the people of Israel. Assyria spoils, seizes and tread upon the godless nation of Israel, all according to God's plan.

But the tool itself is in danger of judgement. The king of Assyria is arrogant, boasting of his unconquerable army and limitless power. Assyria goes beyond invasion and control, seeking to destroy utterly all of Israel and the surrounding nations. God allows the tribulation upon Israel at the hands of the Assyrians, but not utter destruction. God will send wasting sickness and burning fire throughout the Assyrian army, halting the invasion in a single day.

Then God's righteous wrath will have come to an end. The surviving remnant of Israel will fully return to faith and fealty to the Lord GOD alone. The hill of Jerusalem will be safe.

=== Main Idea #1 ===

God furiously condemned Israel's iniquitous, godless oppression of the needy and poor

Isaiah 10:1-2 (ESV) Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

People of authority and power were creating "iniquitous" laws, regulations that ultimately brought nothing good to those affected. Justice was being perverted, poor people were robbed, widows and orphans were made destitute.

"Iniquitous" does not imply decrees that were life-threatening or torturous, but it does suggest that they wore the people down, giving nothing good but only laborious irritation.

Isaiah will later amplify the word "iniquitous":

Isaiah 32:6 (ESV) For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the LORD, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink.

"Iniquitous" laws are ungodly, filled with error, and utterly worthless to those who are hungry or thirsty. David used the word to describe evildoers who "eat up" people:

Psalm 14:4 (ESV) Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?

"Evildoers" is the same Hebrew word as "iniquitous".

Isaiah earlier used the same word, translated as "iniquity", to condemn vain religious practices:

Isaiah 1:12-14 (ESV) When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations- I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.

God described the nation of Israel as godless.

"Godless" is a harsh condemnation of Israel's sin of being impious, which means not showing respect or reverence, or being without a sense of duty or loyalty to God.

This is the woe that is announced in verse one. Israel is the godless nation and Assyria is God's rod of correction.

Notice that the Lord administers the rod of correction with fury and anger:

Isaiah 10:5-6 (ESV) Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

The Lord is not quietly displeased with his people; he's not "disappointed" or "concerned". The Lord is furious. He's like a person enraged, nostrils flared, breathing hard and foaming at the mouth.

Generations earlier the Lord had warned Israel of his anger against oppression:

Exodus 22:21-24 (ESV) You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

God's wrath can destroy, but it can also save:

2 Samuel 22:7-9, 17-20 (ESV) In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears. "Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him...He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

God's wrath is fierce, yet his purpose is to bring us to faith, worship and obedience:

2 Chronicles 30:6-8 (ESV) O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.

Finally, God's fury does not erupt without long endurance and patient longsuffering on God's part:

Nehemiah 9:16-17 (ESV) Our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

What do you think?

photo credit: Ferran. via photopin cc