Tagged: Almighty God

Isaiah 10: The Remnant will Return

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Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 10 takes place during the reign of Ahaz, Judah’s wicked king.

Key verse:

Isa. 10:21:  The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.

Quick summary:

The Lord will use Assyria as the rod of His anger against unrepentant Israel. Then He will punish the king of Assyria for his arrogance and welcome a remnant of Jacob. “In just a little while My wrath will be spent,” the Lord tells His people, “and My anger will turn to their (Assyria’s) destruction” (v. 25).

Take note:

The sovereign hand of God is clearly revealed throughout this chapter. In verses 1-4 He laments the injustice of His people and promises to punish it; in verses 5-11 He refers to Assyria as the rod of His wrath; in verses 12-19 He promises to rebuke Assyria for its prideful acts of aggression; in verses 20-26 He declares that a remnant will return to the Mighty God; and in verses 27-34 He reassures His people that the yoke of Assyrian oppression will fall from Israel’s neck.

Crooked statutes (Isa. 10:1-4)

Israel’s leaders are guilty of several evil acts: 1) enacting crooked statutes; 2) writing oppressive laws; 3) preventing the poor from getting fair trials; 4) depriving the afflicted of justice; 5) hurting widows; and 6) plundering the fatherless. By preying on the vulnerable, the leaders are violating God’s law (see Ex. 22:22; 23:6; Deut. 15:7-8; 24:17-18). As a result, the whole nation will go into captivity. The leaders will have no one to help them, just as they refused to help their fellow countrymen in need. “Those who had defrauded the poor and made unjust laws for their own profit would lose all their wealth and cringe among the captives, or fall among the slain” (Larry Richards, Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary, S 374).

Assyria: tool of God’s wrath (Isa. 10:5-19)

Verses 5-11 show how God is using Assyria as “the rod of My anger” (v. 5), while 12-19 warn the arrogant Assyrian king that even he is subject to Almighty God. The destruction of the northern kingdom by Shalmaneser was foretold in chapter 9 and accomplished in the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign (see 2 Kings 18:10). Now, God foretells the judgment of the southern kingdom (Judah) at the hands of Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, and this is accomplished in the 14th year of Hezekiah.

“The knowledge that the aggressor is wielded by God puts the question of wicked men’s success in its proper context, by showing that it serves the ends of justice when it seems to defy them (6-7), and it is neither impressive in itself (15) nor ultimately unpunished (12),” writes D.A.  Carson in The New Bible Commentary (S. Is 10:5).

While God will use Assyria to punish a “godless nation” – strong words for Israel in verse 6 – the Assyrian king sees Israel as one of many nations he intends to destroy. His sights also are set on Egypt and Ethiopia (Isa. 20:1-6). Matthew Henry comments: “When God makes use of men as instruments in his hand to do his work it is very common for him to mean one thing and them to mean another, nay, for them to mean quite the contrary to what he intends. What Joseph’s brethren designed for hurt God overruled for good, Gen. 50:20. See Mic. 4:11, 12. Men have their ends and God has his, but we are sure the counsel of the Lord shall stand” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 10:5).

Assyria already has conquered the Aramean cities of Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Damascus, and Israel’s capital of Samaria. Because the Assyrians believed these cities had greater gods than Jerusalem, the taking of the capital of Judah would be relatively easy. Assyria’s motives clearly are political and expansionist. However, God ultimately will strike down Assyria because of the king’s “arrogant acts and the proud look in his eyes” (v. 12). Five times in verses 13-14 the king uses the word “I” and twice he uses the word “me” to describe his achievements, attributing them entirely to his own military might rather than to God.

So how will the Lord bring haughty Assyria low? First, He compares Assyria to a tool in His hand – an ax, saw, staff, or rod – and then He vows to afflict the people with “an emaciating disease” and a “burning fire” (v. 16). God will destroy the Assyrian army like trees consumed in a forest fire. So few soldiers will be left standing that a child may count them. This is fulfilled years later when, in 701 B.C., 185,000 Assyrian soldiers surrounding Jerusalem are killed (Isa. 37:36-37). Then, in 609 B.C., the Assyrians fall to the Babylonians.

The remnant will return (Isa. 10:20-26)

Isaiah now contrasts the defeated remnant of Assyria (v. 19) with the repentant remnant of Israel, which will learn to depend on God rather than on alliances with idolatrous nations such as Assyria and Egypt. This is partly fulfilled in the days of Hezekiah, but it appears this will be more completely fulfilled in the days after the defeat of Antichrist and the return of Israel to the Lord (see Rom. 9:27-28).

Isaiah assures his readers that they need not fear the Assyrians. After God uses them to punish His own people, He will turn His wrath on the Assyrians, dealing with them as He did with the Midianites and the two Midianite leaders (Judges 7:1-25). The Lord of Hosts also will destroy the Assyrians – referred to figuratively as “the sea” – as He did the Egyptians in the days of Moses.

Target of God’s wrath (Isa. 10:27-34)

The route the Assyrian invaders would take in their assault on Judah begins at the northern boundary of Judah at Aiath (another name for Ai) about eight miles from Jerusalem and continues to Nob, two miles north of the city. The sites of eight of the 12 cities mentioned in this passage are known today, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary. But Assyria will not succeed in its plan to take Jerusalem. The Lord God of Hosts will intervene and cut down the invading troops as if they were trees, chopping off their branches “with terrifying power” (v. 33). “In the end history will turn to destiny, and the plans and promises of our Sovereign Lord will be perfectly fulfilled” (The Teacher’s Commentary, S. 375).

Closing thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “Sometimes righteous people do not know why they suffer, but at other times God clearly reveals that people are being punished for their sins (as in Isaiah 10). In such cases, it is always wise for the sinners to return to God and rely on him. Trusting in other men or nations will only lead to disappointment. The only true source of hope is to lean on Almighty God and fear only him” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 267).

Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 6: Holy, Holy, Holy

Listen to the audio file

Download a worksheet for further study (pdf)

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 6 recounts an event in “the year that King Uzziah died” (v. 1).

Key verse:

Isa. 6:3:  And one [seraphim] called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.

Quick summary:

Isaiah has a stunning vision of the Lord, who sends the prophet to keep preaching to the unrepentant Jews “until the land is ruined and desolate” (v. 11).

Take note:

This is the only place in Scripture where seraphim are mentioned by name. Apparently these creatures are among the highest order of angels and serve at the throne of God. Their name, which means “burning ones,” describes their role as proclaimers of God’s holiness. They also declare that man must be purged of sin’s moral defilement before he may stand before God and serve Him. Seraphim appear to have some human features since they are depicted as standing, having faces, and having feet. Yet they also have six wings each and are capable of flight. Their acts of worship are so intense that they cause the thresholds of the divine Temple to shake. They stand ready to serve God at a moment’s notice.

In comparison, cherubim have an extraordinary appearance with four faces – those of a man, lion, ox and eagle – four wings and the feet of calves. They guard the gate to the Garden of Eden, preventing sinful man from reentering (Gen. 3:24). They also are depicted as golden figures covering the mercy seat above the ark in the Holy of Holies (Ex. 25:17-22), and they attend the glory of God in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 1).

However seraphim and cherubim are different, they appear to be some of God’s most powerful, intelligent, and beautiful creatures. Satan may have been an “anointed guardian cherub” (Ezek. 28:14) if Ezekiel 28 is a reference to him before his rebellion.

Isaiah’s vision (Isa. 6:1-7)

There is some debate as to whether this passage should be at the beginning of Isaiah rather than inserted here. But because much of what we’ve read so far – especially Isa. 2-5 – deals with events during Uzziah’s life, it seems clear that Isaiah’s vision in “the year of Uzziah’s death” (v. 1) is his inauguration into a new level of ministry. However, some argue that Uzziah’s “death” could mean the end of his civil service as king due to his leprosy. If that’s the case, Isaiah’s vision would have come many years before the king’s death. An interesting thought: Isaiah’s claim to have seen God may have been the pretext for his being sawed asunder under Manassah’s reign, according to tradition (see Heb. 11:37).

Isaiah’s vision of the Lord (Adonai in v. 1; Yahweh in v. 5) implies the Trinity in unity. Jesus is interpreted to be the one speaking in Isa. 6:10 according to John 12:41, while Paul attributes the words to the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25-7). Also, the seraphims’ declaration of the Lord as “Holy, holy, holy” provides additional support to the notion that what Isaiah saw was a representation of the Triune Godhead if not God’s divine essence (see John 1:18). The Trinity is further implied later in verse 8, where God says, “… who will go for Us?” In any case, what Isaiah sees is different from the Shekinah glory that resides above the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, for the Lord is seated here on a throne, attended by heavenly creatures, and His robe fills the Temple.

The seraphim have been discussed above, but Jamieson, Fausset and Brown provide some added insight. They say that while the term is used nowhere else in Scripture of God’s attending angels, it is used to describe the rapidly moving serpents the Lord sent to torment the Israelites (Num. 21:6). The commentators add, “Perhaps Satan’s form as a serpent (nachash) in his appearance to man has some connection with his original form as a seraph of flight” (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Logos Research Systems, S. Is. 6:2).

Isaiah’s response to this vision of the Lord is consistent with the reaction of others in Scripture who encounter God after the Fall: fear and a realization of one’s complete

inadequacy in the presence of Almighty God. Isaiah’s words in verse 5 are instructive:

  • “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” Some translations say “undone” or “lost.” Isaiah is in good company when he gasps at being in the presence of the Lord. Gideon has a similar response (Judges 6:22). So do Manoah (Judges 13:22), Job (Job 42:5), Peter (Luke 5:8) and John (Rev. 1:17). Isaiah has pronounced woes on the inhabitants of Judah; now he declares that he, too, is subject to judgment.
  • “… because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips.” John Walvoord and Roy Zuck comment: “When seen next to the purity of God’s holiness, the impurity of human sin is all the more evident. The prophet’s unclean lips probably symbolized his attitudes and actions as well as his words, for a person’s words reflect his thinking and relate to his actions. Interestingly Isaiah identified with his people who also were sinful (a people of unclean lips)” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1045).
  • “… and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Isaiah sees, not necessarily God in his full glory (John 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:16), but a representation of His presence. The writer of Hebrews, for example, says Christ is “the exact expression of His nature” (Heb. 1:3), and John tells us the Word, who is God, “became flesh and took up residence among us” (John 1:14).

In verses 6-7 one of the seraphim flies to Isaiah and touches his mouth with a glowing coal he has snatched with a tong from the altar. The heavenly creature declares that Isaiah’s wickedness is removed and his sin is atoned for. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown have an interesting perspective on this: “The mouth was touched because it was the part to be used by the prophet when inaugurated. So ‘tongues of fire’ rested on the disciples (Acts 2:3, 4) when they were being set apart to speak in various languages of Jesus” (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, of the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 6:7).

Isaiah’s commission (Isa. 6:8-13)

The Lord’s self-reference to both “I” and “Us” strongly suggests the triune nature of the Godhead (see also Gen. 1:26; 11:7). The Lord’s questions – “Who should I send?” and “Who will go for Us?” – indicate that few are both willing and qualified to deliver the unwelcome message to the Jews, enduring hardship, rejection, and unbelief. Isaiah responds promptly to the call: “Here I am. Send me.” Eagerness for service is a sign of God’s purifying and enabling work in a believer’s life (see also 1 Sam. 3:10; Acts 9:6-8).

The Lord immediately lays out His challenging mission. Isaiah is to declare God’s truth, but it will only result in hardening of the people’s hearts. Judah’s rejection of Isaiah’s message, and the sovereign Lord who initiated it, are as certain is if they already have occurred. This passage, like many others throughout Scripture, illustrates the mystery of the parallel truths of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. This particular decree of hardening is repeated in full or in part six times in the New Testament (for example, Matt. 13:14-15; Acts 28:26-27), but it should be read in its entirety to see that God’s pending judgment will clear the ground for new national and spiritual growth.

D.A. Carson puts it well:

Isaiah fulfilled this mission to blind and deafen by proclaiming (not withholding) the truth. God here shares with the prophet the critical significance of his ministry. Sinful Israel has come to the point where one more rejection of the truth will finally confirm them for inevitable judgment. The dilemma of the prophet is that there is no way of saving the sinner but by the very truth whose rejection will condemn him utterly (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 6:1).

The Lord does not leave Isaiah or his beloved nation without hope, however. He assures the prophet that there will be a remnant, a “holy stump,” that will sprout again one day. Although Judah’s population would be almost totally wiped out, like a fallen and burned tree, God would preserve a remnant in the land. The Tyndale Bible Commentary says “there would be life in the roots of the stump from which the Messiah (‘the holy seed’) would grow again” (S 260).

Closing Thought

Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards comment:

Uzziah’s death was symbolic. He who had begun so well and had found prosperity in obedience had been struck by the dread disease of leprosy. An appearance of health and strength remained for a time, but the disease was at work within the body of the king; its marks became more and more visible as the ravages of that dread sickness took their toll. Finally, destroyed within and without, Uzziah died; his pride and his disobedience brought judgment on him. Isaiah pointed out that Judah was also diseased, just like her king, because she too had deserted the Lord (The Teacher’s Commentary, S 367).

Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips