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!


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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).