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!


* * *

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).

1 comment:

Carmen said...

Awesome post, Sue! I don't know why, but many of your posts speak to me of how things are today as well. I've been studying (over the past few years), many things regarding our world, our nations, our cities...and things haven't changed much. Laws are written to benefit the rich and leave the poor even poorer, while the middle class pays for all of it. It's just wrong, it's greedy, and it's not righteous or just. I am completely outraged at what I've been learning, and yet I am so grateful that God feels the same way and stands up for those who are oppressed because of it. I'm happy to hear you had a wonderful Christmas. Sometimes we do need a break from blogging(I'm on one right now...perhaps an extended break). It's been wonderful getting to know you and I value having you as a friend, albeit from a distance! Blessings!