Today’s reading is one that has given me pause for thought. What a great planner God is! What great things He accomplishes through blessing and tragedy, triumph and defeat, good guys and bad buys, lean times and fat. The first four passages that I’ll comment on are all about God’s use of Assyria as a rod of punishment. The last three are about the days of the “remnant”. Good stuff! Too bad I can only afford a couple of lines of comment on each.
“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,” Isaiah 10:5 — We recoil these days at the idea that God would punish evil people. But Scripture says that such things can and do happen; this passages is one of them. Jesus commented on a couple of disasters in His own day (a man-made slaughter, and an urban disaster):
“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5, NAS95.
Disasters aren’t always direct judgment for the worst sins; sometimes they are for the purpose of calling others to repentance. In this case, Assyria was going to be specifically used as a rod of God’s punishment on His own people for their breaking of covenant through disobedience; God’s rod had a name, Assyria.
“I send it against a godless nation And commission it against the people of My fury To capture booty and to seize plunder, And to trample them down like mud in the streets. Yet it does not so intend, Nor does it plan so in its heart, But rather it is its purpose to destroy And to cut off many nations.” Isaiah 10:6, 7 — Now Assyria didn’t know that it was acting on behalf of God. Assyria was just doing what Assyrian kings always did in that age: attack, kill, pillage, enslave, move on to the next kingdom, and repeat until rich. Could — would — God use such a greedy, selfish, conscience-less, ruthless, violent, and unjust instrument for punishing His people? Yep. An instrument of punishment doesn’t need to know — usually doesn’t know — it’s being used. Like this…
“Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.”Isaiah 10:15 — Assyria, being God’s instrument, was wholly convinced that it was it’s own power; all its victories were due to its own power, strength, battle plans, equipment, organization, strategy, and leadership. It’s what you might expect from a pagan nation, but many of God’s tools for good don’t acknowledge their “User”. From philanthropists to philosophers to politicians — and even a few “religious people” who trust too much in themselves. And it’s probably why God prefers using the small, the unknown, and the “least likely to succeed” to do great things. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.
“So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.”” Isaiah 10:12 — God doesn’t let the guilty, even His rod of punishment, escape justice. Why would God punish Assyria for doing what He wanted them to do? Remember: “Yet [Assyria] does not so intend [to punish justly], Nor does it plan so in its heart, But rather it is its purpose to destroy And to cut off many nations.” Isaiah 10:7. Intentions make a big difference.
“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” Isaiah 11:1, 2 — This Messianic prophecy reminds me Jesus’ baptism and anointing by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; and John 1:32).
“And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6 — There are some who look at these passages and assume some sort of physical “Age of Aquarius” with universal peace and harmony here in this world. What this passage is pointing to, however, isn’t an Age of Aquarius, but the era of the church. The polar opposites listed as living side by side in peace and harmony is simply a metaphor for various peoples, cultures, languages, races, and divisions in the world coming together under the rule of Jesus, the Christ. “AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father…” Ephesians 2:17-22, NAS95. Or contextually…
“Then in that day The nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.”Isaiah 11:10 — Each Lord’s Day as I look out over the congregation from the pulpit, I am amazed at how the Lord has managed to draw together such a family from widely divergent backgrounds to be Jesus’ church, God’s people — now united, at peace, under the rule of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
After reading Isaiah 10-12, Paul’s doxology in Romans 11 really resonates with me, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36, NAS95. How about you?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.