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!


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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).