Thursday, December 6, 2012

Isaiah 9: 8-12

God’s Anger with Israel’s Arrogance

The Lord sends a message against Jacob,
And it falls on Israel.
And all the people know it,
That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with smooth stones;
The sycamores have been cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
11 Therefore the Lord raises against them adversaries from Rezin
And spurs their enemies on,
12 The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west;
And they devour Israel with gaping jaws.
In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out.

There are many times when I appreciate the subheads contained within chapters of Scripture. As with other forms of documentation, subheads break up large amounts of text. They make it easier to read, to know what is contained within a section and to help remember where certain passages are. But, the original text of the Bible was not written with these subheads, and, sometimes, the editors'/translators' choices are curious.

My study Bible explains that Isaiah 9:8 begins a poem, which runs several stanzas through 10:4--which is after a new chapter subhead while 10:5 does not contain a new subhead. You might think a poem would stand on its own. But, I'm not a Biblical scholar/editor/translator. Just so you know what you're reading!

You will recognize the refrain of the poem, which is found in verse 12, and will be repeated throughout the poem. We first read it as part of Isaiah 5:25--

"On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people,
And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down. 
And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets.
For all this His anger is not spent,
But His hand is still stretched out."
--Isaiah 5:25 (italics mine)

The Lord's discipline is still to be completed.

Back to the top, verse 8, "the Lord sends a message against Jacob...." We know that Jacob was the father of sons representing the original 12 tribes of Israel. God changed Jacob's name to Israel ("...For you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."--Genesis 32:28b) after Jacob wrestled with Him. The second part of verse 8 further clarifies: "It falls on Israel," meaning the Northern Kingdom, the 10 tribes (as opposed to Judah, the Southern Kingdom). To make that even more specific, in verse 9, Isaiah uses 'Ephraim' for the nation of Israel and those of its capital city, "Samaria."

What was the word sent forth? Prophets and others had told the nation of its "pride and arrogance of heart." As we learned from studying Amos and Hosea--prophets to Israel--the nation had a massive struggle with its self-sufficient nature. It had worked itself up to a stage of not finding a need for God, all the while building up its city walls and fortresses, and giving itself every good pleasure for living. Besides 'haughtiness' and 'highhandedness,' it seems appropriate to find 'lordiness' listed as synonymns for 'arrogance.' [] Israel was lord of itself, despite the words of Truth handed down through its messengers. Striving took on a whole new emphasis.
"Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed."
--I Samuel 2:3 (from Hannah's "Song of Thanksgiving")

The actions of people are weighed before God, and God's actions should be weighty matters when they fall upon His people! "All the people will know it," returning to verse 9. If they hadn't learned through the words of God's messengers, God would demonstrate His point through His actions.

"Those are ripening apace for ruin whose hearts are unhumbled under humbling providences; for God will walk contrary to those who thus walk contrary to him and provoke him to jealousy, as if they were stronger than he."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Verse 10 is a response by Israel to what God has been trying to tell them about their heart. "If there is trouble to come, Lord, no problem. We can handle it. If the nations tear down our homes, we'll rebuild, and rebuild even better than before! We'll use 'smooth' or 'hewn' (King James Version) stones and long-lasting, sturdy cedar instead of the fickle sycamore. It's OK, Lord. Thanks, anyway. We got this!" Again, Israel's take-charge ways would get the best of them.

In verse 11, God tells how. He plans to send in forces which are Rezin's (king of Syria) adversaries. That would be the Assyrians. The Syrians or "Arameans" would also be involved, as would the Philistines who carried a long battle history. God was raising up forces all around. Where's your mighty fortress now?

"Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing...."
--from A Mighty Fortress is Our God (lyrics by Martin Luther)
"Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles,
And the sprawlers’ banqueting will pass away.
The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the Lord God of hosts has declared: 
'I loathe the arrogance of Jacob,
And detest his citadels;
Therefore I will deliver up the city and all it contains.'"
--Amos 6: 7 and 8 

The poem continues.... 'Til next Wednesday. (And thanks for your patience in waiting a day, as I had seasonal service opportunities not to be missed yesterday!).... 


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Next week: Isaiah 9: 13-17

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).