Tagged: the Lord of Hosts

Isaiah 14: The Lord’s Outstretched Hand

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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 14 likely takes place at the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign.

Key verse:

Isa. 14:27:  The Lord of Hosts Himself has planned it; therefore, who can stand in its way? It is His hand that is outstretched, so who can turn it back?

Quick summary:

Chapters 13-24 feature a series of divine oracles, or declarations, against the nations surrounding Israel. The great powers of Isaiah’s day, and days to come, that set themselves against the Lord of Hosts will be brought low; only the coming kingdom of the Messiah will endure the test of time.

Take note:

Many Bible commentators point with fascination to verses 12-15. Do these verses speak of a Babylonian king, or of Satan? Perhaps both. In what is known as the “law of double reference,” Isaiah may be showing us Satanic qualities in evil earthly leaders, just as other Old Testament prophets use godly leaders to foreshadow the coming Messiah. In any case, both Satan and evil rulers will be brought low.

Israel’s Return (Isa. 14:1-2)

Although judgment will fall on God’s rebellious people, the Lord will “choose Israel again” (v. 1). Their restoration is grounded in their election as God’s chosen people (see Ps. 102:13-22). God’s choosing of Israel – as well as Judah, Jerusalem, David and Solomon – is an important Old Testament theme, especially in 1 and 2 Chronicles and the Psalms.

The fact that non-Israelites (“the nations”) will join Israel also is an important teaching in Scripture (see, for example, Isa. 56:6; 60:10; 61:5). Israel’s role will be reversed. Rather than captives, they will be captors. And rather than exiles, they will reside safely in their homeland, a nation restored to international prominence as in the days of King David.

Israel’s Taunt against Babylon (Isa. 14:3-23)

Verses 3-21 record a song, or a taunt, that will be sung by people freed from the clutches of the king of Babylon. “The song’s overall message is that people will be amazed that this great king is cast down like the monarchs of other cities. People will rejoice in his demise for they had lived in fear of him” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1061).

But who is this king of Babylon? Many commentators believe he is Satan, especially based on the description in verses 12-14. Tertullian (A.D. 160-230) and Gregory the Great (A.D. 540-604) were the first to offer this view, which is now widely accepted. In the New Testament, Jesus uses language similar to that of Isaiah’s to describe Satan (Luke 10:18). However, while verses 12-14, along with Ezek. 28:12-19, could describe Satan’s pride and subsequent downfall, the context of Isaiah 14 points squarely to an earthly king. It’s possible that Isaiah is employing the “law of double reference” in this passage, showing us Satanic qualities in evil earthly leaders, just as other Old Testament prophets use godly leaders to foreshadow the coming Messiah. In support of this view, let’s consider King Sennacherib.

Sennacherib rules Assyria from 705-681 B.C. By this time in history, Babylon is a vassal state under the authority of the Assyrian empire. For example, Tiglath-Pileser III, a predecessor of Sennacherib, crushes a Babylonian revolt and is crowned king of Babylon in 728 B.C. Though Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, Babylon becomes its cultural center and the Babylonian god Marduk is widely worshiped throughout the Assyrian empire. Assyria’s Sargon II (B.C. 722-705) and Sennacherib also call themselves kings of Babylon.

After Sargon dies in 705 B.C. and Sennacherib becomes king, there is much rebellion throughout the Assyrian empire, including Babylon. In 689 B.C., Sennacherib marches on Babylon to subdue the rebellion. He destroys the city and floods the ruins, although it is rebuilt years later. Sennacherib’s assassination in 681 B.C. (2 Kings 19:37) is welcome news to the surrounding nations, especially Judah.

The song-taunt of verses 3-23 features two dominant themes, according to D.A. Carson. “The broken oppressor is the first theme [vv. 4b-11]; his real epitaph is the unspeakable relief the world feels at his passing. God’s name for such thrusters is not ‘men of destiny’ but ‘he-goats’ (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word translated leaders [in verse] 9), a description almost as deflating as the pathetic state to which they are all seen to come…. The fallen morning star is the second theme [vv. 12-21], i.e. the tyrant’s fatal ambition rather than his oppression…. The idea of storming heaven … was certainly connected with Babylon (i.e. Babel; Gn. 11). One of its ironies is the idea that to be like the Most High (14) is to be self-exalted, whereas it is to be self-giving (cf. Phil. 2:5-11.). The ugliness as well as the brevity of the false glory is powerfully shown in vs 16-21″ (The New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, Is 14:3).

Judgment on Assyria (Isa. 14:24-27)

Though Assyria ultimately would fall to Babylon in 605 B.C., this prophecy refers to the kingdom’s defeat on the “mountains” of Israel (v. 25), a reference to the work of the Angel of the Lord who destroys 185,000 Assyrians in 701 B.C. (see 2 Kings 19; Isa. 37:36-38).

Judgment on Philistia (Isa. 14:28-32)

These verses tell of a critical test of faith for Hezekiah. Judah’s King Ahaz, who was pro-Assyrian, is now dead. The Philistines approach his successor, Hezekiah, and propose an allied rebellion against the weakened Assyria. Such a plot is tempting to Hezekiah, and even if it weren’t, the Philistines are not a people to be offended at this time (see 2 Chron. 28:18-19). What should the king do? The Lord provides a three-fold response. First, the Assyrians are not finished (v. 29). Second, the Philistines are a doomed people (vv. 30b-31). And third, true warfare is in the hands of God (vv. 30a, 32). The bottom line: trust God, not human alliances or intrigue.

Final Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “Every generation of leaders is called to acts of faith, to choose a path of utter dependence on God rather than alternatives that initially look more defensible. People are challenged not to do what may seem the most reasonable thing from a human perspective, but to do what God instructs them to do…. The circumstances may be a health crisis, the loss of a job, or an international political crisis, but the answer is always the same: trust in God for refuge. Most of the time people know what God would want them to do. The really difficult question is: Are they willing to follow God’s direction?” (New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 326)

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 10: The Remnant will Return

Listen to an audio file

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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