Salvation in Isaiah 10
It is very difficult for us to see what is happening on the world stage at the moment isn’t it? We are confronted with imminent war – nations taking up arms against another because of the perceived threat that they sense or know about against national or world security. An army is massed and is ready to attack. What are we the people of God to make of it all? Do we ignore it or pay little attention because it is happening so far away from us for it to matter? Our media will not allow that to happen for with their characteristic obsession to know everything and to tell everything in minute detail, they will ensure that we are informed. They also tend to shape the opinion of those who listen to them. Saturday’s newspapers went from one extreme to another – open rejection and criticism of the way that our leaders are sending men to war on one hand, and positive support for the same action – with some papers in the middle saying if it’s necessary then we had better do it.
What does God think about these things? Can we find any clues in the scriptures? When we think about His sovereignty and rule in the universe what are we to make of the current situation?
Has the Lord God sent the Americans and British to threaten Saddam Hussein? Has the Lord God provoked Saddam Hussein to challenge certain things about western culture that displeases the Lord by encouraging terrorists?
The principles of scripture tell us that we are to consider world events in light of God’s ruling and over ruling, but never that He is the author of evil in any way.
The passage in Isaiah 10 immediately addresses the issue. The nation of Assyria, mighty, armed to the teeth and hungry to dominate and create an Assyrian Empire, was an instrument in God’s hand to bring punishment to His people the Jews who had forsaken His ways and broken His laws. Assyria was no better and no worse than any other power hungry nation. They were sinners, non-Jews, gentiles, who rose to power – and then were permitted, by God’s permissive will, to do what sinful power hungry men do – to attack and maraud other nations. Including Israel and Judah.
Assyria is called here GOD’S ROD – verse 5,
O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger
A rod is used to drive an animal; but in some cultures crime is punished with strokes of a rod on the bare back. The Jews themselves had this punishment although for mercy’s sake it was restricted to 39 strokes. You may recall that Paul suffered this several times.
2 Corinthians 11 v 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
We can divide this chapter into three parts.
1. GOD’S RETRIBUTION v 1 – 19: His use of a Gentile nation to chastise his people.
2. GOD’S REMNANT v 20 – 27: Not all of Israel and Judah would be destroyed in the retribution – some would be spared.
3. GOD’S RESCUE v 28 – 34: How God would deal with the Assyrians and rescue His remnant.
Let’s think about the first part.
1. GOD’S RETRIBUTION
Isaiah was a prophet. One commentator describes Isaiah using his PROPHESCOPE to see ahead the advance of the Assyrian army, the agents of God’s anger.
We can notice straight away that God the Lord had used diplomacy at the beginning of His controversy with His people. No, it was not through the United Nations, or NATO nor through any worldly coalitions or summits to discuss things. No – God sent emissaries. He sent His prophets to warn and plead with the special people who should have known better. They had every privilege of God’s grace and favour. God set down His ways for them to live and to be blessed in life and all they had to do was to follow them. Right from their beginnings as a nation after the captivity in Egypt, God made sure that they knew where He stood. Deuteronomy 7 v 1 – 11.
1 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. 4 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. 5 But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. 6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10 And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 11 Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.
What a statement this is. Could anything be more plain? Could the chosen people have had any doubt regarding their responsibilities? And did they not know what the consequences of sin would be if they failed to obey?
Now Isaiah, one of a succession of prophets sent by God to preach God’s ways to the people and to call them back earnestly, has to announce what God had determined to do because of their refusal to love God and show their love by obeying Him.
We saw last week the beginning of it.
For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
The details now emerge.
First, in verse 6 Isaiah has to tell them that Assyria is coming against a hypocritical nation, profane in her ways, polluted by idolatry and wickedness, which refuses to distinguish between the holy and the unholy, the godly and the godless. And they are the people of God’s wrath. Assyria has been given permission to tread them down in the mire of the streets. It is not so long ago in this country that instead of the paved streets in our towns that we have, the streets were filthy places, muddy, polluted with animal droppings and waste thrown out from the houses. Streets were not nice places – when it rained they were slippery and muddy; when it was hot they smelt horrible. Here is where the enemy would come and crush the people – a graphic picture of invasion.
Verse 7 is interesting in that it speaks of the motivation of the Assyrians armies. Their generals and soldiers had no idea that they were God’s instrument. It was not Assyria’s intention to serve God and His purpose – but God was using the character of the Assyrians, whose heart was driven by the urge to conquer the world, for His own ends.
Verse 9 describes the onward march of the Assyrians. They came from their territory in the North and from their capital Nineveh. They marched on Carchemish, Arpad, Calno, Hamath and finally Damascus. From there they were poised to attack Samaria and onwards to Jerusalem These cities are all in a line and in order. There was no stopping the Assyrian army. What a retribution this was and there seemed to be no escape.
We must pause for a moment and take a breath!
Why is this piece of history in the Bible, God’s word?
It is to remind readers of the scripture in every age that God is serious about sin in His creatures. He is serious about the breakage and ignorance of His laws. He is serious about the curse of sin on His once perfect world. He is serious about nations and individuals who refuse His righteous rule and His holy directives for living. And He emphasises His seriousness by doing something about it when the rise of sin and wickedness reaches such a point that something must be done.
Is there a case for us to now think that our Western civilizations are declining so rapidly into sin, godlessness, humanism, witchcraft and self-assurance that it can’t be long before God will do something about us? We may think that because we are involved as a nation with another nation in a crusade against those who would disturb our security, can we not see that righteousness is not exactly an adjective for American and British society today? Both nations have passed laws permitting gross wickedness and immorality – not only amongst the noble few, but also right throughout society. We are assaulted every day with iniquity being flaunted and God being ignored. No wonder some call us a Post Christian culture. Are we infected with it my friends? Are we making concessions to the rampant godlessness in our land? What is our purpose as a Church? Surely it is to be Isaiah’s and Jonah’s, Jeremiah’s and Hosea’s – to, first of all, live holy and godly lives in the middle of terrible wickedness; and to proclaim the alternative way – God’s way, the gospel way Christ’s way of living. He has revealed to us the way that we should live and has placed within us the power to do it, by His Holy Spirit.
The judgement and retribution that came upon Israel and Judah should be a warning to us that God is not passively letting things go unnoticed – He is still serious about sin. There are signs that the restraints of sin are being loosened so that sin abounds more and more. How the world needs the gospel desperately – God knows how to judge – are we prepared to warn others of their danger, as Isaiah did?
We will pass over the Assyrians boasts of their victories in verses 10 – 15 and briefly notice that God promises to deal with the Assyrians Himself. The end of Assyria begins in verse 16 – famine will strike them; a burning crackling fire will devour their proud glory. God Himself, the light of Israel and the flame of judgement will be the fire that destroys them. This prophecy’s fulfilment is recorded in Chapter 37 v 33 – 36.
33 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. 36 Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
What an end to a great army! As we said earlier, God is in control; and we come next to
2. GOD’S REMNANT
The prophet Isaiah is reminded of his first son’s name – Shearjashub – a remnant shall return. The message is this – God’s people, though heavily chastised, will be restored. The Apostle Paul quoted this section in Romans 9 v 27 & 28
27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
Paul’s purpose is to point out that God never promised that all the descendants of Abraham would be saved; and those who were saved were always spoken of as a remnant. Paul was referring to the Jews saved under the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the nation will be brought to an end, a remnant shall be saved. Not only would the Assyrians be destroyed but also there will be a complete destruction of the old Jewish nation. That judgement will be a righteous judgement. This is not the final judgement at the end of time described in the New Testament, but to a world judgement as time goes by – Isaiah says it will be “in the midst of all the earth.” This is where Jews are today – in the midst of all the earth – they live everywhere in the nations of the world.
This remnant is a picture for us of the election of grace – God’s electing and preserving love. From amongst the Jewish people, to whom the Lord Jesus Christ came first of all, there were God’s chosen and precious saints. And still the realisation of this salvation of a remnant goes on. The gospel is preached amongst Jewish people today and many are coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Saviour. God always keeps His promises and from Jews as well as Gentiles they come – regenerated by His power under the sound of the Gospel – turning in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly God has not finished with the remnant of the Jews yet – praise His Name! Pray on for the work of evangelism to the Jews.
3. GOD’S RESCUE
The final section in the chapter is from v 24 – 34.
There are some great words of assurance for the people of Jerusalem here. Don’t be afraid! Even though the Assyrian is on his way, he will be brought low – God will deal with him.
In a description of King Sargon’s march towards Jerusalem Isaiah outlines the route. Remember Isaiah is seeing prophetically into the future – using his prophescope! The inhabitants of Jerusalem are alerted but also comforted – that the advance will be checked. The route goes like this – verse 28 – Ai through the valleys of Migron to Michmash where the heavier equipment was left behind in charge of a rearguard party. This would give the army swift movement. Next to Geba in the tribal lands of Benjamin – then a quick advance to Ramah and Gibeah, where the local inhabitants would be terrified. Panic spreads from Ramah to Laish and Anathoth, all the time getting nearer and nearer to Jerusalem. Madmenah and Gebim are the next places until the army arrived at Nob one of the tabernacle’s resting places in Saul’s days.
But this is as far as the army gets. Here they pitch camp and make their battle plans to assault the Holy City.
Verse 32 – yet he shall remain at Nob that day and wave his fist against the mountain of the Lord.
Isaiah sees all this prophetically – with this endnote – that God the Lord of Hosts shall lop off the lofty branches of the cedars of Assyria. They, who thought themselves great, the Assyrian chieftains, will be hewn down – by the Lord of hosts. So to the people Isaiah says do not fear.
At the last minute Jerusalem will be saved from the Assyrians. What an exciting rescue was being seen and predicted by Isaiah. And because we can read the end of the book, we know that this is exactly what happened! Isaiah 37.
Do not be afraid of the Assyrian! The devil knows how to drag the saints down into discouragement. How easily we get discouraged even though we are the redeemed children of God.
Let us then take Isaiah’s encouraging words – be not afraid of the Assyrian – for yet a little while and the indignation shall cease! Praise God!
The Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross defeated Satan and all his hosts. He purchased our redemption and believers are safe for ever more. Oh let us believe these things – and rejoice that we have been rescued but such a glorious saviour.
As we draw to close let us see the message of the chapter.
From the first section we saw that God is serious about sin – He hates it and can have nothing to do with it. It has to be removed from the man or woman, boy or girl who still have sin in the heart polluting the soul.
There is retribution, punishment for those who die and do not have their sins forgiven, who do not ask for forgiveness, who do not repent of their sins and put their trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is awesome – The Assyrians were described as God’s rod. God wields a rod against those sinners who refuse His provision – the Lord Jesus Christ who bore the rod of the wrath of God on their behalf.
Great is the Gospel of our glorious God, Where mercy met the anger of God’s rod; A penalty was paid and pardon bought, And sinners lost at last to Him were brought! (William Vernon Highham)
But then we thought of the remnant promised by the Lord God and how it speaks of the electing love of God of his children. Can we see the ministry of our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ in this section? Yes we can – for one of His names is there – verse
21 The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.
His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God. This remnant speaks of the elect who will come to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. They will trust Him. They will look to Him for pardon and cleansing from their sins. They will believe His word and they will be changed and made ready for heaven. Brothers and sisters we will see them in glory, and they will welcome us when we get there as fellows in redemption. What a wonder heaven will be!
Finally the Rescue. What we need is rescue from the punishment of hell facing all sinners and we need rescue from the tyranny of sin and Satan. He is our foe.
Satan does all he can to keep us from coming to Christ. He knows who the elect are and he particularly targets them to deflect them from seeking the Lord. He puts obstacles in their way. He attracts them with worldly pleasures and pursuits. He suggests that Christianity is not for ordinary decent folks like you – you will be better off without religion. There is no terror beyond the grave he suggests; no God to answer to; no sins to account for. So stay on his side and you will be alright.
How deceptive the evil one is. Is this what he whispers in your ear my friend? Has he told you what the cost of becoming a believer is and you do not want to take the risk? You don’t want to lose your friends and your lifestyle, so you reject Christ. My friends I tell you HE IS A LIAR! God is ready to rescue but He is also ready to judge and to condemn those who listen to Satan. The Lord Jesus Christ says come! Come and be rescued. Come humbly. Come sincerely. Come, confident in a loving God who is ready to save to the uttermost all who come through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.