Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Isaiah 10: 24-27

24 Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, 
“O My people who dwell in Zion, 
do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod 
and lifts up his staff against you, the way Egypt did. 
25 For in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent 
and My anger will be directed to their destruction.” 
26 The Lord of hosts will arouse a scourge against him 
like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; 
and His staff will be over the sea and He will lift it up the way He did in Egypt. 
27 So it will be in that day, that his burden will be removed from your shoulders and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be broken because of fatness. 

Where the Scripture passage from last week had some hope interspersed with times of trial for Israel, this week's passage has some trials interspersed with a promise of eternal freedom from slavery. Isaiah says that not only will a remnant be spared but Assyria, the conqueror, will no longer be a threat. Can you rejoice when you know your enemies will not defeat you? This is what we're talking about today!

We do need to put this passage into a time reference, however, or we'll forget that Israel is going to face "a complete destruction." (vs. 23) Israel does go into exile in Assyria, and God's "indignation" (vs. 25) will be upon the people throughout that time and then some. What is indignation? Love the Hebrew definition from Strong's: "Strictly froth at the mouth, i.e. (figuratively) fury (especially of God's displeasure with sin)."

"Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation."
--Isaiah 10:5

Yet though God's fury results in strong disciplinary action, He does not mean it to be a forever punishment. A remnant will be saved! That remnant might fear the future, however, given the strain and dominance of the empire under control. God says, "...Do not fear the Assyrian...." Do you hear echoes of Isaiah's words to Judah's King Ahaz? "Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted," he says in 7:4. God zeroes in on a primary concern, seeing as time in Assyria would look like time spent by the Israelites in another place of slavery.

In verse 24, God makes specific reference to the Israelites' time in Egypt--the rod and staff used against the people under Pharaoh. One of the cross-references for this passage is in Exodus 5. Moses and Aaron appeal to Pharaoh to let the people have time away from their labor to worship and sacrifice to God. Of course, Pharoah sees this as ludicrous and responds by having the Israelites make bricks by not only mixing and forming them but also gathering the straw to make them. Same quota of bricks, but they no longer had the straw supplied. The rod and staff came out to beat them when they fell short. The Israelites would know such conditions again in Assyria, but another rescue was in the works.

"Do not fear the Assyrian...." Why? "For in a very little while...." (vs 25) the tables will be turned completely. God will be done foaming at the mouth over Israel's disobedience and will then direct His anger toward the destruction of Assyria. Now, we can quibble over "very little while" in defining what that means exactly. From my reading, especially given what's coming in Isaiah, Chapter 11, we have not yet reached that time. With God speaking and His timing not being ours, "very little while" is what He says and means it is, despite our definitions.
"Note, God’s anger against his people is but for a moment, and when that ceases, and is turned away from us, we need not fear the fury of any man, for it is impotent passion."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

"For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning."

--Psalm 30:5

With verse 26, then, we read how God will take action, arousing a scourge within the Assyrian. Here, 'scourge' is used figuratively to mean affliction. [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] Later on, with the rising of the Roman Empire, scourging would come to mean something much more harsh. Not a mere lashing, but lashing with a whip containing multiple leather straps affixed with pieces of bone or other sharp materials designed to tear into the flesh. Still, the affliction will ultimately meet with a similar end as a Roman scourging, with God clearly being in control of the elements.

Isaiah recalls two events from past history to demonstrate the power of God's actions as well as to instill a sense of calm and safety. The prophet has made mention of the slaughter of Midian earlier, in 9:4, and you can read about it fully in Judges 7. There are many amazing aspects of this story, but God setting the stage for battle is one of my favorite details. There are too many men to fight, "for Israel would become boastful, saying, 'My own power has delivered me,'" He says. Even with a remnant, God can demonstrate His might and uphold victory!

The miracle of the parting of the Red Sea--the rescue of the Israelites--would also resonate in the memory. Isaiah practically reenacts the scene, with Moses lifting up his staff at God's command, leading the people to safety. With such a staff, God will again bring His people home--out of slavery--leaving the enemy tossed under the waters.

Our passage today finishes with a picture we have seen before of a yoke being removed.

"And it shall be in that day that the burden of [the Assyrian] shall depart from your shoulders, and his yoke from your neck. The yoke shall be destroyed because of fatness [which prevents it from going around your neck]."
--Verse 27, Amplified Bible

There will come a day when the burdens of slavery to another nation will leave Israel once and for all. The yoke that determines the way of the people will not only be removed but "destroyed." When I looked up the Hebrew for 'fatness', I noticed a figurative definition beyond the denotative ones--"God's goodness." [Strong's] "In a very little while," by God's grace, for those who remain faithful through the time of burdening, the chains will be gone, and they will be set finally and eternally free.

"There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given....

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams...."
 --from There is a Wideness in God's Mercy (lyrics by Fred­er­ick W. Fa­ber)

How Assyria will finally fall, as Chapter 10 concludes.... 'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week: Isaiah 10: 28-34

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).