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Monday, August 4, 2014

Isaiah 9, Part 2: The LORD's Anger (Verses 8-21)

Isaiah 9, Part 2: The LORD's Anger

Verses 8-21

Despite the promise of a future Saviour the reality of the moment is that Israel is divided by civil war and foreign intrigue.

Isaiah 9:8-10 (ESV) The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”

Isaiah's message is against those in Israel who are swollen with pride and arrogance. "Bricks have fallen" refers to their current anguish, the country's convulsive civil unrest, the rioting and the bloodshed, loss of support and supply, and the desolation described in the previous chapters of this book.

The people of northern Israel know their condition is pathetic, but still they do not turn to the LORD. Their hope of rebuilding with "dressed stones" and "cedars" is figurative for the wealth and security they envision after conquering Judah with the help of Syria.

But Syria has powerful enemies which the LORD will use:

Isaiah 9:11 (ESV) But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies.

Rezin was the king of Syria at the time, allied with northern Israel and Philistine against southern Israel (Judah). Through Isaiah the LORD is warning Israel and Syria of his growing anger:

Isaiah 9:12-17 (ESV) The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the LORD of hosts. So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Refusal to seek the LORD is refusal of his compassion. Young, old, orphan or widow, high or low, all will be thrown in violent conflict with little hope of mercy.

Isaiah 9:17 (ESV) Everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

"Godless" means soiled with sin. English has two words that appear the same, but with quite different meanings. "Soil" as a noun is used to describe the upper layer of earth in which plants grow. The word comes from Latin solum, ground. "Soil" as a verb describes the action of making something dirty, specifically by defecating in or on it. The word comes from Old French soiller, a muddy wallow for wild boar.

The soiling of defecation is a deep stain, a malodorous damage to cloth that cannot be easily washed away. To be soiled with sin is a deep stain upon one's soul, a spiritual stench that cannot easily be removed.

The root of the word translated as "folly" means to wilt or faint, as if everyone spoke weakly.

What do you think?

This chapter ends with heartrending violence.

Isaiah 9:18-21 (ESV) For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke. Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land is scorched, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no one spares another. They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm, Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they are against Judah. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

The wickedness of the people, and God's wrath, together create a violent firestorm that destroys land and people. Despite Isaiah's warning that God will punish wickedness, the people persist in destroying one another in hungry, unsatisfied greed and intrigue.

Manassseh and Ephraim were the two sons of Joseph. The two tribes should have been very close, sharing Joseph's heritage and faith. But wickedness had fouled even the closest relationships, turning families against one another.

Wickedness burns like a fire, and the wrath of the LORD scorches the land.

What do you think?