Isaiah 9:1-10:34 For to Us a Child Is Born October 22, 2018

Last week we looked at the reign of Ahaz in Judah.  His life did not please God, but God still used him to achieve his purposes for Judah and Jerusalem, the holy city.  Jerusalem would have fallen to the onslaught of Assyria if it had not been spared by God.

This week we see the continuation of God’s plan to fully destroy Israel.  Israel did not or could not see that the Assyrian invasion was God’s attempt to turn the nation to himself.  Instead the response of the people is described in last week’s lesson:  And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into thick darkness.  God saw this response from the beginning of Isaiah and explains the reasons for his rejection of Israel: 

Isaiah 2:6-8 For you have rejected your people,

the house of Jacob,

because they are full of things from the east

and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines,

and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.

Their land is filled with silver and gold,

and there is no end to their treasures;

their land is filled with horses,

and there is no end to their chariots.

Their land is filled with idols;

they bow down to the work of their hands,

to what their own fingers have made.

By 722 BC Israel will be destroyed and the people sent to foreign lands as slaves.  The land will be repopulated with foreigners.

Additionally, when Aram and Israel are dealt with, and Judah partially spared, then God will turn his anger against Assyria.  He used Assyria as his tool to deal with Israel, but now God’s judgment turns on her because of her idolatry and viciousness in war.  She will be conquered by Babylon in 605 BC, a little more than 100 years hence.

But our lesson opens with a most familiar promise of God to Judah that we celebrate every Christmas.  Another child will be born who will be ruler of the whole world. 

9:1  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

After all the gloom and pain of the Assyrian invasion has sunk into the hearts of God’s people and in the midst of all the destruction of the Assyrian invasion, suddenly this unexpected bright light appears.  God has not totally abandoned his people after all.  The promised Messiah will appear and will restore the Promised Land to its original boundaries and beyond.

9:2-6 The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shone.

You have multiplied the nation;

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,

as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,

and the staff for his shoulder,

the rod of his oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult

and every garment rolled in blood

will be burned as fuel for the fire.

9:6-7 For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

There could not be a more distressing time for the people of God.  Their wealth's gone, their homes are destroyed, thousands have died in the wars, and they are thirsty and hungry and cold.  But suddenly comes this reminder of God’s promise to David.

2 Samuel 7:12-14  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” 

They are reminded of God’s miraculous victory of Gideon over the Midianites, when with 300 men he put the whole Midianite army to flight (Judges 7).  If God could to it then, he can restore us now.

Judgment on Arrogance and Oppression

9:8-10 The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,

and it will fall on Israel;

and all the people will know,

Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,

who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:

“The bricks have fallen,

but we will build with dressed stones;

the sycamores have been cut down,

but we will put cedars in their place.”

The Israelites are defiant in the face of the enemy.  If God does this to them they will rebuild more elegantly.  They do not realize what is happening is God’s decree.  There will be no more restoration.

9:11-12 But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,

and stirs up his enemies.

The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west

devour Israel with open mouth.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.

First God sends Syria and the Philistines against Israel.  But there is more to come.  Assyria is on the march.

9:13-16 The people did not turn to him who struck them,

nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.

So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,

palm branch and reed in one day—

the elder and honored man is the head,

and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;

for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,

and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.

The Israelites did not seek the true God, Yahweh, when war broke out.  So God took away the leadership from the land, both political and spiritual, and the new leaders continue to lead the people astray.

9:17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,

and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;

for everyone is godless and an evildoer,

and every mouth speaks folly.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.

For wickedness burns like a fire;

it consumes briers and thorns;

it kindles the thickets of the forest,

and they roll upward in a column of smoke.

In spite of the suffering the Lord shows no compassion for the people.  Everyone is godless and speaks folly.  Wickedness consumes the nation.

9:19 -21Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts

the land is scorched,

and the people are like fuel for the fire;

no one spares another.

They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry,

and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied;

each devours the flesh of his own arm,

Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh;

together they are against Judah.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.

The people turn on each other in an orgy of self destruction.  The to sons of Joseph are mentioned specifically.    The fabric of society succumbs to chaotic violence. 

 Is this developing in our own country?

10:1-2  Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,

and the writers who keep writing oppression,

to turn aside the needy from justice

and to rob the poor of my people of their right,

that widows may be their spoil,

and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

There is no justice for the poor and the fatherless.  Even the widows are robbed and left on their own.

10:3-4 What will you do on the day of punishment,

in the ruin that will come from afar?

To whom will you flee for help,

and where will you leave your wealth?

Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners

or fall among the slain.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.

A day of punishment is coming that will be worse than what the people have endured so far.    Many of the people will die and those that don’t die will become prisoners and slaves of the Assyrians.

Judgment on Arrogant Assyria

10:5 Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger;

the staff in their hands is my fury!

Assyria was the tool God used to bring judgment on his people, Israel.  

10:6 Against a godless nation I send him,

and against the people of my wrath I command him,

to take spoil and seize plunder,

and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

Israel was once the chosen people of God.  But now it is a ‘godless nation’.

10:7-8 But he does not so intend,

and his heart does not so think;

but it is in his heart to destroy,

and to cut off nations not a few;

for he says:

“Are not my commanders all kings?

Is not Calno like Carchemish?

Is not Hamath like Arpad?

Is not Samaria like Damascus?

But Assyria does not realize it was a tool in God’s hands.  It thinks the conquests are due to its own power.  Assyria does not understand that it is the God of the Bible that makes nations rise and fall.

10:10 -11 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,

whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,

shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols

as I have done to Samaria and her images?”

The arrogance of Sennacherib, king of Assyria is recorded in scripture during the assault of Jerusalem in 701 BC.  Read 2 Kings 18-19.  In the following verses God proclaims judgment on the arrogance of Assyria.

10:12-14 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.  For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,

and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;

I remove the boundaries of peoples,

and plunder their treasures;

like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.

My hand has found like a nest

the wealth of the peoples;

and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,

so I have gathered all the earth;

and there was none that moved a wing

or opened the mouth or chirped.”

10:15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,

or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?

As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,

or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!

10:16-19 Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts

will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,

and under his glory a burning will be kindled,

like the burning of fire.

The light of Israel will become a fire,

and his Holy One a flame,

and it will burn and devour

his thorns and briers in one day.

The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land

the LORD will destroy, both soul and body,

and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.

The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few

that a child can write them down.

God warned Israel through Moses of this danger: 

Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.  You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)This applies to all nations and all men.

A Remnant of Israel Will Return

10:20-23 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.  A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.  For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return.  Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.  For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.

Israel as a country is gone.   The people are scattered throughout many nations north of Assyria.  They have become the 10 lost tribes.  We do not know where most of them are today.  Traces of them can be found in Russia and the Orient.  But someday they will be found and will return to the Holy Land.  This is the teaching of Zionism that is very popular among some evangelical churches today.

10:24 -27 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did.  For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.  And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb.  And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt.  And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.”

The Lord of Hosts, the warrior God, will protect Zion, his holy city, and will preserve Judah who bears the royal seed.  Assyria will not conquer Jerusalem as it has conquered so many other cities  and states.  Gods fury over his chosen people will come to an end and will be turned on Assyria.  Assyria will fall like Midian did, and the king will meet his death like the king of Midian, Oreb, did.

10:28 -32 He has come to Aiath;

he has passed through Migron;

at Michmash he stores his baggage;

they have crossed over the pass;

at Geba they lodge for the night;

Ramah trembles;

Gibeah of Saul has fled.

Cry aloud, O daughter of Gallim!

Give attention, O Laishah!

O poor Anathoth!

Madmenah is in flight;

the inhabitants of Gebim flee for safety.

This very day he will halt at Nob;

he will shake his fist

at the mount of the daughter of Zion,

the hill of Jerusalem.

God scouts out the land.  This is a poetic story of God marching through the land of Judah as he restores it to himself and for his chosen people.  His journey ends at Nob, a temple city just outside Jerusalem.  David and his men went there when they were fleeing Saul,  (1 Samuel 22:6-23).  Nob sits on a ridge east and north-east of Jerusalem which includes the Mount of Olives.  From here he can look across the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem itself and the Golden Gate of the Temple.

10:33-34 Behold, the Lord GOD of hosts

will lop the boughs with terrifying power;

the great in height will be hewn down,

and the lofty will be brought low.

He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe,

and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.

God is the great forester.  He manages the planting of the earth.  He causes countries and kingdoms to rise, and causes them to fall.  He decided which trees to fell and which to prune.  He allows some to become great and mighty and he decides when they should be felled.  Sometimes he decrees total destruction like burned off underbrush (10:17-19).  Judah is reduced to a stump, but a shoot will spring up from the root of Jesse and a branch will bear fruit.  The fruit will be peace and prosperity to the primeval forest and will be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.  That will be next week’s lesson.