Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Isaiah 10: 20-23

A Remnant Will Return

20 Now in that day the remnant of Israel, 
and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, 
will never again rely on the one who struck them, 
but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
22 For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea,
Only a remnant within them will return;
A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.
23 For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, 
the Lord God of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land. 

The center section of Isaiah Chapter 10--our passage today--provides a hopeful chorus in the midst of opening and closing verses focusing on woes and destruction. (Although we will not be completely free from discussion of destruction today, either. Let's hit it first.)

"A destruction is determined...."
--vs. 22

God makes no bones about there being a time of destruction. Israel will be decimated by the Assyrian Empire. It is said twice in this passage. Verse 23 in the King James Version is translated as such: "For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land." 'Consumption' implies a using up of a material or a wasting away. [Online Etymology Dictionary] Back in the 1800s, if you had consumption--what we would later call tuberculosis (an infectious, bacterial disease)--you would be quarantined in an institution and probably would not have lived. The kind of consumption or destruction is, as verse 23 says in the NASB, " the midst of the whole land," or, in the Hebrew, "a full end." [Strong's] If you lived, you went off to exile, and the nation would not stand.

Not only will the destruction be total, but it will be "determined" (vs. 22) and "decreed." (vs. 23) God is straight up on this fact, too. This is part of His plan. His wrath cannot be held back. The apostasy of Israel is too great to let be without response. God says punishment is coming, and He determines the who, where, when and how. It's important to say, too, that this is "destruction overflowing with righteousness." (vs. 22, emphasis mine) With God, there can be no other way. We may not be able to fathom destruction with righteousness--even though we might wish we could orchestrate such--but this falls under the category of things Isaiah names later in Chapter 55 (vs. 9): "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."

"Though it overflows, it is not at random, but in righteousness, which signifies both wisdom and equity. God will justly bring this consumption upon a provoking people, but he will wisely and graciously set bounds to it."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

With the mention of the idea of boundaries comes the main thought of the passage:

"A remnant will return...."
--vs. 21

For me, a remnant is like that pictured above--leftover pieces of fabric from completed sewing projects. Sometimes, a remnant from the fabric store may be just what is needed to finish off a project that requires just a small bit of something (and often at a discount!). You can see the word remain in looking at 'remnant'. To remain somewhere is to stay in place. In Hebrew, the word used by Isaiah means "the remainder, the residue, the rest." [Strong's]

Though God presents Israel with the clear word that its nation will be destroyed, sent into exile, and spread out far and wide, He also says that a remnant will be spared and will return to Him. For a nation that was as populated and prosperous as Israel, particularly being God's chosen people, the news is both tough and hopeful. Tough because it is only a handful of grains taken from a nation of a great seashore. Recall God's words to Abraham in His establishing a covenant with him:

"Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies."
--Genesis 22:17

Mighty Israel would not return en masse and be restored unto God. He spells out the boundary. Those returning "...will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel." (vs. 20) In this regard, there was hope for those who in their hearts did honor God in this way. God planned that such a remnant be crafted with the intent to come back together, to serve and honor Him as they once had. To be restored as a people. To be a new beginning of a Kingdom of growth.

"....'Remnant' has a special significance in the prophecies of Isaiah, as denoting 'a holy seed,' or spiritual kernel, of the nation which should survive impending judgment and become the germ of the people of God, being blessed of God and made a blessing...."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

With Judah watching Israel fall and hearing the words of Isaiah, one would wonder why most of Judah's kings didn't get the message. Were these not incredible warning signs to Judah's leadership that alliance with God was so much more important than alliance with other nations (particularly large empires that consume smaller countries)?

"They [the remnant] shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, shall never depend upon the Assyrians, as they have done, for help against their other enemies, finding that they are themselves their worst enemies. Ictus piscator sapit—sufferings teach caution. They have now learned by dear-bought experience the folly of leaning upon that staff as a stay to them which may perhaps prove a staff to beat them.”
--Matthew Henry

Isaiah's words would fall upon mostly deaf ears in Judah, as the nation would know its own version of a "dear-bought experience" in their exile to Babylon. Do we accept that, as Matthew Henry says, "Sufferings teach caution"? Do we learn from all of our mistakes, our failures, consequences and trials?

There are many who say that belief in God is a crutch in a life that doesn't need support. Maybe, as Christians, we've just come to know that we can be our own worst enemies, and we would rather not rest on a crutch that would beat us senseless. We need guidance. We need grace. We need strength. We need forgiveness. We need support!

"...If the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.' Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith."
--Romans 11: 16b-20


A burden removed.... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Isaiah 10: 24-27

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).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Isaiah 10:16-19

16 Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, will send a wasting disease 
among his stout warriors;
And under his glory a fire will be kindled like a burning flame.
17 And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame,
And it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day.
18 And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, 
both soul and body,
And it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
19 And the rest of the trees of his forest will be so small in number
That a child could write them down.

Yesterday, I attended a Celebration of Life service for a woman in my Bible study/life group at church. It was a beautiful celebration, indeed, and she was a beautiful person and sister in Christ. One of her sons-in-law spoke at the service, using the theme "Semper Paratus" ("Always ready") to describe this woman's approach to her everyday and spiritual life. Made a strong impression on me, as it was so true of her. Not able to concentrate on writing here yesterday, I'm glad for God's speaking to me through this man's words, because that saying gives a framework for Isaiah's words and ministry, too.

"...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine...."
--II Timothy 4: 2 and 3a

Chapter 10 began with Israel and Judah not being ready. Not in the preparation of their armies or strategies against the mighty foe of the Assyrian armies. They were not ready with their allegiance and devotion to God. They were not ready with sound judgment and Godly decision-making. The day would come when God would raise up Assyria to take the land of Israel. Because they were not ready, they had no one to Whom to flee.

Isaiah speaks to Judah, under King Hezekiah, who "did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done." (II Kings 18: 3) When Assyria's King Sennacherib raised new threats of takeover, was Judah ready? As I hope you read last week, Judah was. Hezekiah "went up to the house of the Lord" (II Kings 19:14) and prayed, asking God for deliverance. This was a king who lived "Semper Paratus" in serving, worshiping and calling upon His God.

Isaiah's words regarding Assyria might well have been scoffed at by those who did not serve God as faithfully as Hezekiah. Certainly, Sennacherib would have pompously laughed off this mockery to himself, being the ruler of the most powerful empire of the day. But God is the supreme lead when it comes to living and acting "Semper Paratus." He is always ready to bring forth righteous judgment at the appointed time. As this segment of Chapter 10 finishes, we see what awaits Sennacherib and the future of Assyria.

"Therefore...," given Sennacherib's prideful disdain for God, even in light of God's working in his nation, "the Lord, the God of hosts" will bring punishment. (vs. 16)

"We are sure he can do it, for he is the Lord of hosts, of all the hosts of heaven and earth. All the creatures are at his command; he makes what use he pleases on them. He is the Lord of the hosts both of Judah and of Assyria, and can give the victory to which he pleases. Let us not fear the hosts of any enemy if we have the Lord of hosts for us."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Linger on that last line and claim that today: "Let us not fear the hosts of any enemy if we have the Lord of hosts for us." Hezekiah did not fear the words of Sennacherib, but he did not simply turn away and deny that the leader of a powerful empire was steps away from his boundaries. Hezekiah turned to the Lord, seeking His deliverance, and did not try to orchestrate his own. To whom do we turn when a host of the Enemy is on our doorstep?

There is no need for great explanation or exposition on these verses. God will weaken the strength of the fighting men and burn with His power across the empire. If anything the dichotomy between God as light, and God as fire and flame (vs. 17) draws my attention. The pictures are as old as the days in the wilderness.

"The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night."
 --Exodus 13:21

John would pick up on the theme of light in his gospel, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (John 1: 4 and 5) The Light would not leave Judah, even in the midst of times of darkness, whether this time of fearful anxiety with Sennacherib or the eventual darkness of the days of exile in Babylon. The darkness of the world does not understand, but mocks, and instead prides itself on its own strength and power. Yet, "in Him is life." Where does that leave those without Him?

Interestingly, Light becomes fire.
"Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp."
--Numbers 11:1

Our passage in Isaiah is all about the consuming fire that is God, the God of Light. God shows wrath, jealousy for His people and judgment that has been physical. Isaiah's phrasing of the work of the Fire turns Assyria's mighty warriors into "thorns and briars" (vs. 17) which will not stand against an Almighty blaze. Sennacherib's "forest" and "garden" (vs. 18)--the kingdom he has grown--likewise, will be destroyed. Whatever trees might remain after such a ravaging fiery spread had numbers so small "that a child could write them down." (vs. 19)

Are we always ready in our knowing who God is? Not that we will know everything there is to know about God! But, are we always ready to grow our teachable hearts? To live life "Semper Paratus"--Ready to serve as God calls us? Ready to love as He showed us? Ready to honor and worship Him as He is due? Ready to thank Him with all that we are?
"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire."
--Hebrews 12: 28 and 29

Because the Light still shines, "A remnant will return".... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 10:20-23

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).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Isaiah 10: 12-15

12 So it will be that when the Lord has completed 
all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem,  
He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart 
of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.”
13 For he has said,
“By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this,
For I have understanding;
And I removed the boundaries of the peoples
And plundered their treasures,
And like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants,
14 And my hand reached to the riches of the peoples like a nest,
And as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth;
And there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped.”
15 Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?
Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?
That would be like a club wielding those who lift it,
Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.

How many times have you thought that maybe those who do wrong really do go unpunished? When we think that earthly justice has its limitations, let us make sure that we do not put such limitation on God. It is passages like this, from Isaiah, Chapter 10, that remind us who's got the power!

Last week, we read that Assyria was boasting and bragging of its conquests. Isaiah quoted the "vaunting and hectoring" King Sennacherib (elegant description by Matthew Henry in his commentary), who flaunts of his power and might in the face of destroying nations and their idols. "'Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?'" he says in verse 11. Actually... No!

God is not idle. As upset as He is with Judah's overall lack of faithfulness in the present time of this prophecy, He was still listening, still speaking, and His plan was much bigger than current events. This latest threat to Judah would come at the time of King Hezekiah. [He's one of the good kings of Judah.] Isaiah continued to serve as a prophet during Hezekiah's reign, so he not only offered up this prophecy (during the King Ahaz years), but he was part of its fulfillment.

Go back to II Kings 19 to read the full story. Sennacherib is in charge of the Assyrian Empire, now, after his father, Sargon. He threatens:

"Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, 'Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, "Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria." Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared?"
--II Kings 19: 10 and 11

In his prophecy, Isaiah presented the picture of this autocrat. A boundary remover (vs 13). Land boundaries were a huge thing to all of Israel, with God, in Scripture, making specific guidelines for how such boundaries could be changed, if at all. Sennacherib, on the other hand, simply removed them, taking down "treasures" and "mighty men" along with them. Isaiah's text describes the swiftness of his stealing, as if taking eggs from a nest without anyone's knowledge; the trampling of territory, as if scooping up random eggs from the floor of the hen house.

"They [nations assimilated by the Empire] durst not make any opposition, no, nor any complaint; such awe did they stand in of this mighty conqueror. They were so weak that they knew it was to no purpose to resist, and he was so arbitrary that they knew it was to no purpose to complain."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Even as nations including Israel had fallen, Judah remained. Back to II Kings 19 for more of the story. Rather than fear, as what King Ahaz would have done, Hezekiah's response is to pray. If for nothing else, read the passage for Hezekiah's prayer. "Now, O Lord our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God. (vs. 19) This is the difference: The power of prayer. Not that Hezekiah's words would make it so but that He prayed to the God who hears, who knows. And He answered with power!

Spoiler alert, if you didn't read all of II Kings 19: Did God allow Sennacherib to take Judah? No. Did God allow Sennacherib victory? No. Notice that the last lines of our passage today are God's words through Isaiah and not Sennacherib's boast of his understanding (as, clearly, he did not).

"Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?"
--vs. 15

You and I read that line and laugh at how silly a picture that is. But this is exactly the picture of Sennacherib lording himself over his Empire. How foolish of him to think that his success was due to his own might, power, wisdom and understanding! Paul puts the concept this way: "On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? (Romans 9:20)

Do we ever catch ourselves looking like an axe?

King Hezekiah knew that what was wrong with Judah was that it was in the wrong with God. He led the process of repentance and spiritual change in the nation, throwing out the graven images and false worship practices that had existed in the home of God's people for much too long, and seeking righteousness. Even in the midst of change, he knew the source of true power, direction and hope. Sennacherib knew nothing of the sort.

"The tool striving with the workman is no less absurd than the clay striving with the potter; and as it is a thing not to be justified that men should fight against God with the wit, and wealth, and power, which he gives them, so it is a thing not to be suffered. But if men will be thus proud and daring, and bid defiances to all that is just and sacred, let them expect that God will reckon with them; the more insolent they are the surer and sorer will their ruin be."
--Matthew Henry

And God does reckon with Sennacherib, as we read in the prophecy: "'will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.'" (vs. 12) Sennacherib not only doesn't capture Judah, but he meets his final end at home in Nineveh while worshiping his god.

"'Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands at the zeal of My hand, because it is by My eternal design and will, through My awesome power, that all things come to pass, destroying them completely. So will you be spared, Sennacherib?'"
--II Kings 19: 11 (with great personal revision for emphasis)

Not only this, but God's plans to complete "all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem" (vs. 12) would include the saving of a remnant as well as the ultimate delivering of His people. But, more on that in two weeks.

Next week, how God will punish Assyria, as we finish up Chapter 10.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 10:16-19

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).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Isaiah 10: 5-11

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
I send it against a godless nation
And commission it against the people of My fury
To capture booty and to seize plunder,
And to trample them down like mud in the streets.
Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations.
For it says, “Are not my princes all kings?
“Is not Calno like Carchemish,
Or Hamath like Arpad,
Or Samaria like Damascus?
10 “As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose graven images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11 Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images
Just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?”

It has been mentioned quite a few times over the course of our study. But, the "distant nation" has not been mentioned by name until this appearance in Isaiah, Chapter 10: "Woe to Assyria...." (vs 5) Take a good look at the Assyrian Empire in the map above. Staggering is the amount of territory! Thus, powerful be those who controlled it. Or were they?

Back in the study of Amos on these pages (Amos 6 blog), we had an opportunity to look at the beginnings of the Assyrian Empire. Through Noah's grandson came Nimrod who founded Ninevah, the capital city. Of Nimrod, we read in Scripture, "He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, 'Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.'" (Genesis 10:9) The reputation of the nation, later empire, would be that of a hunter and a conqueror--but with self-righteous intentions.

In Isaiah, we just read of Assyria's coming to destroy Israel, which the empire successfully did at the hand of two kings: Shalmaneser, who succeeded Tiglath-pileser, and Sargon, who may have done the actual capturing of the nation after taking over Assyria from Shalmaneser. (Commentary suggests that Sargon's annals were more detailed and complete than Shalmaneser's, which did not actually indicate that he took Israel.) What Isaiah is addressing now in Chapter 10 is the rise of the next Assyrian leader, King Sennacherib, Sargon's son. (According to Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary, his name means "bramble of destruction").

So now, taking in all that background, the first mention of Assyria in the passage comes with two descriptors at the mouth of God: "the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hands is My indignation." The capital 'My's' are critical to our understanding. The One with the wrath here is God, not Assyria. The One who will use Assyria as a tool in His work is God, not Assyria. "I send it...," says God, because He is the One who is in control of all things, regardless of the size of the empire or the impressive, historically powerful leadership structure.

"He [Sennacherib] was but the rod of God’s anger, an instrument God was pleased to make use of for the chastening of his people, that, being thus chastened of the Lord, they might not be condemned with the world.... Sometimes God makes an idolatrous nation, that serves him not at all, a scourge to a hypocritical nation, that serves him not in sincerity and truth."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The hypocritical or "godless" (vs 6) nation mentioned by Henry is Judah. [It is interesting, though, to put in the names of other nations to ponder the possibilities of conflicts in certain eras.] The call by God is to take all of their things--those things that the nation became so enraptured with over God Himself. "Trample them" down in their sinful mire. God's intent was to discipline with His rod and staff. Is this the same "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me" of Psalm 23 (KJV)? If we are believing that the Lord is our shepherd and has the best of intentions for us, then we need to accept that, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...." (Isaiah 53:6) The rod and staff represent the guidance and discipline of a loving God, steering us to Him. But, in lack of "sincerity and truth" in faith, that rod and staff become much stronger in their force, yet still loving in the intent of the One who uses them.

Verse 7 brings the focus of God's providence into full view:

"Yet it [Assyria] does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations."

Was it Assyria's plan to step into Judah's life for the purpose of bringing spiritual rehabilitation? No. Was it on Sennacherib's radar to go after Judah to add to the Empire? Given what we read, yes, true to historical form, that would be a more proper motive. But the intent to invade Judah and the time frame, (not to mention how it all came about; II Kings has the details), were not born of Sennacherib's heart but of God's greater plan for getting to the heart of His people.

As the passage finishes over verses 8 to 11, Isaiah lets us hear from Sennacherib. [And, I love how Matthew Henry comments on this introduction: "The prophet here brings him in vaunting and hectoring."] Think of a movie monologue from the lead general, a Patton or the like, with the motivational combination of pomposity and trash-talking. Read verse 9 (and its details) from the Amplified Bible:
"Is not Calno [of Babylonia conquered] like Carchemish [on the Euphrates]? Is not Hamath [in Upper Syria] like Arpad [her neighbor]? Is not Samaria [in Israel] like Damascus [in Syria]? [Have any of these cities been able to resist Assyria? Not one!]"

Even the idols have been conquered, reading verses 10 and 11. "Jerusalem, why would you want to mess around with an empire that has taken on the idols and won?!" might say the braggart. Although the thought of idols being powerful would be folly to Judah's King Hezekiah down the line (II Kings 19: 17 and 18), the current king of the day, Ahaz, is not wise or believing.

But, as we know, despite Ahaz and company, God would preserve a remnant of believers from Judah, regardless of the unbelieving and unknowing nations of the world that would come up against it. What will be punishment and chastisement in exile will later bring repentance and a new beginning to the faithful. We may not completely understand God's workings--the why's and the means to the works themselves, sometimes--but when we hold to Scripture, we know that His promises are true; that what He deems to fulfill, He will; and that "...God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)
Joseph testified to this mystery of "bad" for "good" when he spoke to his brothers over their leading him into slavery: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 50:20) There is also the story of the Man who could and would do no wrong, who put Himself on the other side of the Law and was executed:
"...this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power."
--Acts 2: 23 and 24 (Peter speaking, emphasis mine)

The warning for Judah was not to fear the imposing Assyrian Empire on its borders, to build up armaments and prepare for battle. The warning was to turn back to fearing God, a warning not heeded.

Remember, this passage starts out with "Woe to Assyria." God will call out Assyria's pride.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 10: 12-15

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).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Isaiah 10: 1-4

Assyria Is God’s Instrument

1 Woe to those who enact evil statutes
And to those who constantly record unjust decisions,
So as to deprive the needy of justice
And rob the poor of My people of their rights,
So that widows may be their spoil
And that they may plunder the orphans.
Now what will you do in the day of punishment,
And in the devastation which will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help?
And where will you leave your wealth?
Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives
Or fall among the slain.
In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out.

Happy New Year, friends! Thank you for accepting a break in our schedule of study. I hope that you enjoyed time with family and friends, a time of peace and refreshing. Had I kept to schedule, we would have completed our poem in Isaiah at the close of the calendar year. While that would have been more apropos, I'm not sure that post would have been very well thought through given the Christmas day and post-day happenings! Aye, well....

So, we finish the poem today, which, if you'll remember when we began, starts Chapter 10 of Isaiah. God has been reminding Israel of its troubles and a pending time of punishment upon the nation. Today's passage concludes those thoughts and closes out the repeating refrain of the last several stanzas: "...His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out." (vs 4)

With verse 1, the prophet revisits the problem with Israel, which was also a problem with Judah. [In fact, Matthew Henry, in his commentary, suggests that this last part of the poem may relate to Judah rather than Israel. It is not clear.] Unjust leaders and judges throughout the administration of the nation. There is woe pronounced to both those who created and wrote the laws, and those who enacted and enforced them.  

"Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,
One which devises mischief by decree?"
--Psalm 94: 20

Of course, the answer to the question in Psalm 94 is "No," which is why God's wrath is at hand. In verse 2, again, revisiting problems we read about earlier in Isaiah, the sinfulness within the administration resulted in harming those most in need: the poor, widows and orphans.
"Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after rewards.
They do not defend the orphan,
Nor does the widow’s plea come before them."

--Isaiah 1:23

It is necessary to study the verbs in verse 2 a bit, to fully appreciate the depravity of this situation. "Deprive the needy," is used in the NASB, and is translated as "to turn aside the needy" in the King James Version. In Hebrew, the phrase "to turn aside" used here means, by implication, "to bend away (including moral deflection)." [Strong's] The laws were not only written to make things more difficult for the poor to receive help, the administration bent itself away so as to not help, much less see, the poor at all. "Rob the poor...their rights," the verse continues. Again, looking at the Hebrew, there is much more implied in 'rob' than just stealing: "To pluck off; specifically to flay, strip or rob." [Strong's] I can't help but think of Jesus after Pilate's non-sentencing of Him.

"They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, 'and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him."
--Matthew 27: 28-31

There is an intentionality--a greedy, mocking, entitled intentionality--exhibited here. Note how verse 2 finishes: widows are the spoil and the orphans are plundered. Perhaps it is no wonder such oppression led these to fall under the same woes and eventual punishment (Isaiah 9: 17), all in trying to just merely live.
"Principal and accessaries shall fall under the same woe. Note, It is bad to do hurt, but it is worse to do it with design and deliberation, to do wrong to many, and to involve many in the guilt of doing wrong."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

So, God's punishment is upon them, and it will "come from afar" (vs 3), meaning from Assyria, as we know now. As He did to Job, God questions Israel: "What now? Who will save you now? You, yourself? Again, Israel? To whom will you flee...? (vs 3) From whence cometh your help?" I like the translation of the end of verse 3 from the Amplified Bible: "And where will you deposit [for safekeeping] your wealth and with whom leave your glory?" 

In the time of punishment that is coming, there will be no help. The decisions and judgments, choices and actions of the people will all come under God. The ill treatment of His people had not gone unnoticed, nor would it go unpunished. Whatever fame and fortune had accumulated would vanish without recognition or vault to crack. Those who were crouched below the captives or under the slain (vs 4) would be found and taken into Assyrian captivity to ponder the wisdom of Ecclesiastes:

"Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. SI congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun."
--Ecclesiastes 4: 1-3

As I read through the prophets, one of the thoughts that echoes in my brain is how did the people get it all so wrong? I'm careful in that thinking to follow up with how much we, today, still get it all so wrong sometimes--and we have the entirety of Scripture at our disposal! God was with the people. He sent messengers to speak to the people. Past history spoke and present circumstances speak. How have we not heard? Why do we not believe and follow?

Take in afresh what might have been words that Israel could have reflected upon, from one of the greats--David. There is newness in God's Word every day, and we can flee to Him in our times of trouble and difficulty.

"How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered! 

How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord';
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance."
--Psalm 32: 1-7

The call to Assyria.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 10: 5-11

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).