Tagged: Isaiah audio files

Isaiah 33: Judge, Lawgiver and King

Isaiah 33: Download or listen to the audio

Isaiah 33: Download notes and worksheet for further study

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:

Since chapter 33 is among the “woe oracles” extending from Isaiah 28-33, it seems best to place these events around 704-701 B.C., during the time the Assyrians invade Judah and besiege Jerusalem.

Key verse:

Isa. 33:22 – For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King. He will save us.

Quick summary:

The Assyrian army, the “destroyer never destroyed,” is warned of imminent divine judgment. Even though Assyria is terrifying Judah and surrounding nations, the Lord will soon rise up and show His might. As for the citizens of Judah, only those who pursue righteousness and justice will be spared. Finally, the glories of the Messianic Kingdom are previewed, with the King making Jerusalem secure.

Take note:

Some commentators have pointed to verse 22 as a model for America’s founding fathers in establishing the three branches of government: executive (king), legislative (lawgiver), and judicial (judge). While only the Messiah assumes these three roles with perfection, the “balance of power” suggested by this model serves as an excellent guide to sinful people striving to govern well.

Woe to Assyria and Judah (Isa. 33:1-16)

Isaiah begins by addressing the “destroyer” and the “traitor.” The “destroyer” is Sennacherib who, along with his Assyrian army, is breathing down the necks of God’s people. Powerful, boisterous, swift and cruel, the Assyrians are sweeping across Judah, conquering the fortified cities and closing in on Jerusalem. They are building siege ramps and sealing off the city so that no one may enter or leave. It is becoming increasingly clear that unless God intervenes, all is lost. The “traitor” refers to those within Judah who want to buy off the Assyrians, as King Hezekiah once tried unsuccessfully to do (2 Kings 18:13-15), or form alliances with Egypt or other nations to protect them against the advancing Assyrian hoards. God’s word through Isaiah is clear: The destroyer will be destroyed and the traitor betrayed. Sennacherib has broken his agreement with Judah and invaded the country, and the Egyptians will prove unable to rescue the Jews. Yet in a single night God will strike 185,000 Assyrians dead on the hills surrounding Jerusalem.

While the clamor of Assyrian soldiers rings the city, a righteous remnant in Jerusalem prays for deliverance. Warren Wiersbe describes the scene as it unfolds in verse 2: “Isaiah had promised that God would be gracious to them if they would only trust Him (30:18–19), so a few devout people turned His promise into prayer. God spared Jerusalem for David’s sake (37:35) and because a believing remnant trusted God and prayed. Never underestimate the power of a praying minority” (Be Comforted, S. Is 33:1). Verses 3-6 speak of the righteous remnant’s confidence in God and their praise for His salvation. Although Hezekiah had acted foolishly by using the temple treasury to pay off Sennacherib, the Lord forgave him and now Isaiah reminds him that “[t]he fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure” (v. 6).

Verses 7-9 describe the dire circumstances in Judah during the Assyrian invasion. Judah’s bravest soldiers stand in the streets and weep bitterly as one fortified city after another falls. The nation’s envoys shed tears of helplessness as their diplomatic missions come to naught. The roads are treacherous, the fields and orchards are barren, and there’s no avenue of escape – except with the Lord. “Now I will rise up,” He declares. “Now I will lift Myself up. Now I will be exalted” (v. 10). Although the Assyrians are “pregnant” with plans to conquer Jerusalem, the Lord says they will “conceive chaff” and “give birth to stubble” (v. 11). Chomping at the bit, panting for yet another devastating military victory, the Assyrians will find their hot breaths to be like fire that consumes them in a back draft (vv. 11-12). As a result, people far and near will know that the shocking death of 185,000 Assyrians in a single night is the Lord’s doing and a demonstration of His supernatural strength (v. 13). “God is long-suffering with His enemies, but when He decides to judge, He does a thorough job” (Wiersbe, S. Is 33:1).

The miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem does more than bring glory to God among the Gentiles. It also causes fear and conviction in the hearts of the ungodly in Judah. The Lord does not free us of danger so we may continue in sin. Rather, “with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be revered” (Ps. 130:4). When the Jews awaken one morning to the sight of 185,000 Assyrian corpses on the hills outside Jerusalem, they realized the God of Israel is “a consuming fire” (v. 14; see Isa. 10:17; Heb. 12:29).

Isaiah then describes the kind of person God will bless: the one who “lives righteously and speaks rightly, who refuses gain from extortion, whose hand never takes a bribe, who stops his ears from listening to murderous plots” (v. 15). That person will “dwell on the heights; his refuge will be the rocky fortresses, his food provided, his water assured” (v. 16). This is not a universal promise of prosperity, for surely many godly people suffer extreme hardship and persecution (see Heb. 11:35b-38). It is, however, a reminder of God’s promise to bless Israel, contingent upon the people’s faithfulness to Him.

The Reign of God in Zion (Isa. 33:17-24)

The prophet now describes the prosperous land in which the redeemed one day will live, safely and securely in the majestic presence of the Messiah. They will remember the dark days of oppression at the hands of foreign invaders, including the Assyrians, and rest in the knowledge that their nation and its capital city are free from attacks by land or sea. Assyria’s defeat will be like a shipwreck, leaving abundant spoils for the Jews to plunder. In fact, the booty will be so great after the Lord strikes the Assyrian army (Isa. 37:36) that even the lame will have ample time to take their fill (v. 23). Peace and prosperity will come by the Lord’s doing, not by human strength or political alliances.

Verse 17 offers a marvelous contrast. While the residents of Judah now see King Hezekiah in sackcloth, harassed and humbled by the Assyrians, one day they will see Messiah in His beauty – a righteous King to whom the world is drawn, preventing the unrighteous from entering His city. Three times in verse 22 He is called “the Lord,” and three titles are given to Him: Judge, Lawgiver and King. This is the “perfect ideal of the theocracy, to be realized under Messiah alone; the judicial, legislative, and administrative functions as king to be exercised by Him in person (Is 11:4; 32:1; Jam 4:12)” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 33:22).

Jerusalem during the messianic kingdom is described as “a peaceful pasture.” How different from Isaiah’s day in which Sennacherib surrounds the city with barbarous troops, seals it off and builds siege ramps against it. The day is coming, the prophet assures God’s people, when Jerusalem will be like a tent pitched by a broad river inaccessible to warships. “Jerusalem is one of the few great cities of antiquity that was not built near a river, but that will change during the millennial kingdom (Ezek. 47). Of course, the river symbolizes the peace that the Lord gives to His people (Isa. 48:18; 66:12; Ps. 46:4)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 33:1).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry comments: “When things are brought thus to the last extremity, God will magnify himself. He had seemed to sit by as an unconcerned spectator: ‘But now will I arise, saith the Lord; now will I appear and act, and therein I will be not only evidenced, but exalted.’ He will not only demonstrate that there is a God that judges in the earth, but that he is God over all, and higher than the highest. ‘Now will I lift up myself, will prepare for action, will act vigorously, and will be glorified in it.’ God’s time to appear for his people is when their affairs are reduced to the lowest ebb, when their strength is gone and there is none shut up nor left, Deu. 32:36. When all other helpers fail, then is God’s time to help” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 33:1).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 25: He Will Destroy Death Forever

Isaiah 25: Listen to an audio file (4.26.09)

Download a worksheet on Isaiah 25 for further study

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:

Isaiah 24-27 forms a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 25:8 – He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Quick summary:

Speaking in the first person, Isaiah describes conditions when Messiah’s kingdom is established on earth. “This wonderful twenty-fifth chapter is a song, a song of three stanzas,” writes J. Vernon McGee. The first stanza (vv. 1-5) is praise to God for deliverance from all enemies. The second stanza (vv. 6-8) is praise for provision for present needs. And the third stanza (vv. 9-12) is praise in anticipation of future joys (Isaiah: Volume 1, pp. 175-178).

Take note:

New Testament writers Paul and John quote from this chapter as they anticipate the return of the Lord. Paul borrows from Isa. 25:8 when he writes about our future resurrection and glorification, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). And John, looking toward the day when believers will fellowship face-to-face with Christ, also quotes from verse 8: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4).

Deliverance from Enemies (Isa. 25:1-5)

While there could be some immediate or near-term fulfillment in this song of thanksgiving, it’s probably best to view Isaiah’s praise through the longer lens of the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. At that time all the enemies of God and His people will be humbled and there will be a dramatic reversal of fortune for the remnant that has suffered poverty, captivity and persecution. Isaiah’s confessional song expresses a personal choice to identify with the name and deeds of God. Claiming “Lord, You are my God,” Isaiah states his commitment to a personal relationship with the Creator and Judge of all. In a melodic way, the prophet declares the wonderful truth that God is personal, knowable, just and faithful.

Isaiah provides at least three reasons God’s people are to be thankful:

  • God is faithful to His plan. “Although Judah was being attacked by Assyria, the people could rest assured that what God has said about the future will happen exactly as predicted. Believers today can have the same confidence. Nothing is outside the plan or power of God; no evil or circumstances will interfere with God’s accomplishment of his will for his people” (Gary V. Smith, The New American Commentary, Isaiah 1-39, p. 430).
  • God will defeat His enemies. The identification of “the city” in verse 2 has been interpreted in a variety of ways, from a Moabite city (see v. 10) to Babylon. But perhaps it’s best to view this term as symbolic rather than specific, assuring us that even the best-defended walled cities – the seats of power and influence – will fall beneath the mighty hand of God.
  • God is a refuge to the weak. Isaiah uses two analogies to illustrate this truth. First, the Lord will be like a shelter that protects people from the scorching sun and the driving rain. That is, He will make sure the oppressive forces of evil will not overtake them. Second, He will be like the shade of a cloud that subdues the heat. Although wicked and barbarous people will always oppose God and His people, the Lord will restrain their evil as a cloud gives relief from the heat of the sun.

If chapters 24-25 are spoken just before Sannacherib’s attack on Jerusalem, Isaiah’s song of thanksgiving is an inspiration to those about to face a withering siege on their capital city. “Although this prophecy did not promise them deliverance from Assyrian oppression or victory in their present battle, it reminded them that everything happens according to God’s plan, that their God can do miraculous wonders to save his people, that God is a refuge in times of trouble, and that ultimately God will win the victory over all ruthless peoples” (Smith, p. 431).

Provision for Present Needs (Isa. 25:6-8)

When Messiah reigns, there will be a joyous celebration of His rule by people from around the world. As other passages in Isaiah confirm, Jews and Gentiles from every tribe and nation will gather to enjoy the abundance of the King’s provision (cf. Isa. 2:2-3; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 45:20-25; 49:22; 60:1-22; 66:18-21). This feast is similar to what David envisions when God finally rules the earth (Ps. 22:25-31). The image of prosperity and fruitfulness stand in stark contrast to earthly conditions in Isaiah 24.

Besides all this, verses 7-8 tell us God is going to do even more. He will destroy death, wipe away tears from every face, and remove His people’s disgrace:

  • The burial “shroud” could be understood in two ways: first, as the covering for a dead body; and second, as a shroud that mourners place over their heads (see 2 Sam. 15:30). In either case, Isaiah sees a day when death is destroyed and there is no longer any need to fear death or to mourn the loss of loved ones. More than 700 years later, the apostle Paul looks forward to the same thing: “The last enemy to be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Once the enemies of God in heaven and on earth are judged, the Lord will purge His creation of sin and its effects (2 Peter 3:10-13).
  • In addition, God promises the complete removal of tears – not just tears of mourning, but of sadness, pain, loneliness, oppression, injustice and all other kinds of loss. Since God is the Provider and Comforter, everyone will be happy and safe.
  • Finally, the Lord will “remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth.” This is more than a promise to Israel, for at this point in human history all people are God’s people. The reproach His followers have suffered for their faith will be taken away and their sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom well compensated. The enemies of God and His people have been brought to justice in God’s court, found guilty and punished (see Rev. 20:11-15).

Anticipation of Future Joys (Isa. 25:9-12)

On that day, when the believing remnant is delivered and Messiah rules as King over the entire earth, the saved ones will rejoice in the Lord and reaffirm their trust in Him. For those in Isaiah’s day, they would see the miraculous hand of God in delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrians as He strikes dead 185,000 enemy soldiers. If God can deliver a city from certain destruction, He can – and will – deliver His people all around the world from the rampant wickedness of the last days.

Isaiah refers to Moab as representative of those who oppose God and will be destroyed. Moab lies east of Israel across the Dead Sea and is a constant enemy of God’s people. “Israel and Judah had many altercations with Moab, that was known for her pride (v.11; cf. 16:6). She felt that the works of her hands and her cleverness would protect her, but it would not. Moab – and all God’s enemies – will be totally destroyed, trampled, and brought down … low (cf. 26:5) to the very dust. Only God’s people, in Israel and other nations, will enjoy God’s time of prosperity and blessing” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1074).

Warren Wiersbe adds: “The imagery here is quite graphic: The Moabites are compared to straw trampled so deeply into manure that the people have to swim through the manure to get out! While the Jews are enjoying a feast of good things, the Moabites are trying to escape from the excrement of the animals the Jews are devouring! Moab was always known for its pride (16:6ff); but God will bring them low along with all the other nations that exalt themselves, exploit others, and refuse to submit to the Lord” (Be Comforted, S. Is 25:1).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes, “There is no fortress impregnable to Omnipotence, no fort so high but the arm of the Lord can overtop it and bring it down. This destruction of Moab is typical of Christ’s victory over death (spoken of v. 8), his spoiling principalities and powers in his cross (Col. 2:15), his pulling down Satan’s strong-holds by the preaching of his gospel (2 Co. 10:4), and his reigning till all his enemies be made his footstool, Ps. 110:1″ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 25:9).