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Monday, September 15, 2014

Isaiah 10 (Part 2 of 2): Condemnation of Arrogance

Isaiah 10 (Part 2 of 2): Condemnation of Arrogance

=== Main Idea #2 ===

God furiously condemned Assyria's arrogance.

The king of Assyria did not in the least consider God to be his commander. He took to himself the glory and fame of conquest and control.

Isaiah 10:12 (ESV) When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.

Assyria was a tool in the hands of God, a tool of judgement and punishment against Israel's idolatry and wickedness. God moved the leaders of Assyria against Israel, "to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets."

But Assyria went beyond God's intent. Not content with seizing property and commanding tribute, Assyria sought to destroy all of Israel, boasting of his power.

Isaiah 10:8-11, 13-14 (ESV) for he says: "Are not my commanders all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?...By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped."

In consequence, the Lord would allow Assyria's rampage to harm Israel, but not destroy her. And then the Lord would punish Assyria.

Isaiah 10:15-16, 18 (ESV) Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire...The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the LORD will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.

Isaiah 10:25 (ESV) In a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.

God allowed the Assyrian army to invade Israel's land, marching in a line from the northern towns of Aiath and Migron, to the southern city of Michmash, nine miles from Jerusalem. The "pass" meant a crossing place, through a river or mountain. Most likely it refered to the defile (a steep-sided, narrow gorge) at Michmash at which the army would have been vulnerable to attack if Israel had mounted even a half-hearted defense.

Ramah and Gibeah were towns within seven miles of Jerusalem and the Assyrians found the people fleeing in fear.

Gallim, Laishah and Anathoth were within three miles of Jerusalem. Madmenah and Gebim were two days march from Jerusalem.

One day's march from Jerusalem, within sight of the capital of Israel, the Assyrian king and his army halted at Nob, "shaking his fist". God's fury brought a sudden, terrifying end to the Assyrian's march of arrogance:

Isaiah 10:33-34 (ESV) Behold, the Lord GOD of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.

Isaiah 10:26-27 (ESV) The LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck.

The proud army of the King of Assyria was compared by the LORD to trees of a forest in Lebanon, and the slavemasters of Egypt.

In a single day the arrogant forest was decimated and the cruel slavemasters destroyed.

Israel was wicked, and God used the animosity and greed of other nations to punish Israel for their sin. But if those other nations become drunk with the power given them, if the punishers of wickedness themselves refuse to respect and revere the Almighty Sovereign God Who created them, they will suffer an even harsher judgement.

Only a remnant of the people of Israel would survive the LORD's wrath against their godlessness.

Isaiah 10:22 (ESV) For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.

At first glance it seems odd to consider the word "remnant" as being derived from a word meaning to be redundant. But "remnant" is often used in the Bible as we use the word "rest", to describe something additional, something added to another group.

1 Chronicles 11:8 (ESV) And he built the city all around from the Millo in complete circuit, and Joab repaired the rest of the city.

Ezra 4:7 (ESV) In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated.

God had pronounced woe to the people of Israel, the iniquitous, godless ones who had abandoned faith in God in favor of serving foreign nations and their gods. Most of Israel would die in their idolatrous unbelief. But there was another group of people who were part of Israel, the "rest" of the people who would forsake their idolatry.

Isaiah 10:20-21 (ESV) In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.

"Lean" can describe a person sitting back against a tree, resting in the shade (Genesis 18:4). A blind man supported himself by leaning on the pillars of a house (Numbers 21:15). An elder king leaned upon the arm of a trusted aide when walking (2 Kings 5:18).

In the early days of Israel's civil war, Judah leaned upon God for support in their war with the northern state:

2 Chronicles 13:18 (ESV) The men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers.

Faced with an overwhelming invasion from Ethiopia, Asa King of Judah cried aloud his prayer of leaning upon God:

2 Chronicles 14:11 (ESV) And Asa cried to the LORD his God, "O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you."

Now, however, in Isaiah's time, Israel had been faithlessly leaning upon "him who had struck them". The northern state, Israel, had joined with Syria in a bid to overrun the southern state, Judah (Isaiah 7:1). Judah attempted to join with Assyria to defend herself from Israel and Syria (2 Kings 16:5). Assyria took advantage of Israel's civil war and struck fast, intending to capture all of Israel, both northern and southern states, from Samaria to Jerusalem:

Isaiah 10:7-11 (ESV) It is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; for he says: "Are not my commanders all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?"

However, in "that day", the day of God's intervention and judgement of wickedness, there will be a part, a remnant of Israel who will survive the war and return in faith to the LORD as their support.

What do you think?

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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?

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