Salvation in Isaiah 31
Chapter 31 of Isaiah’s prophecy is a resume, a further underlining of the message of Chapter 30. God, not Egypt, will defend Judah from Assyria. The Assyrian army of 185,000 soldiers were massed outside Jerusalem and the people of Judah were afraid.
Isaiah was warning the people of Judah, on God’s behalf – to trust Him! God would deal with their enemy. Indeed it was God who motivated and stimulated the Assyrians to oppress Judah – in order that He Himself might show them that He was able to deliver them.
The sad thing is that they had lost confidence in God. It was not that God had not given them ample evidence of His power to save and keep them – but that they had preferred to trust in tangible, material things, rather than the God who they could not see – One who called them to trust Him by FAITH rather than by sight.
Sadly this is the state of our society today. Most people today have no confidence in God.
Yet 95 years ago in North Wales there was a notable spiritual movement when people were aware of God and His holiness and power. 50 years ago there was a similar movement in the Outer Hebrides on the islands of Lewis and Harris. The unseen God can reveal Himself to His creatures so that they have no doubt about Him and His mercy and forgiving love.
But there is a famine in Britain today of the knowledge and the power of Almighty God, even in those places where these revivals had happened.
What is wrong? It is the same as happened in Jerusalem and amongst the people of Judah – an attention to material things as a sign of security; a confidence in the military might of men as a sign of power and defence; and a preoccupation with false religion and superstition as an attempt to meet the deep spiritual need of human beings WITHOUT belief in God the wise and kind creator.
Gross national product is more important than grateful national praise to God for His provisions of good harvests, trade and comfortable living in a modern society. How much we have! How ungrateful we are! We believe that we alone are responsible for our possessions and our security. God does not come into the reckoning.
Material things and trusting in them are the norm today – rather than trust in the unseen spiritual being, the Lord God Almighty who is Spirit.
People make the excuse – how can I pay attention to someone who is supposed to be powerful when I can’t see Him? Our God would answer such a question with another – can you see electricity? No – but you know it is there because of what it can do – including giving a nasty shock when you touch a live wire!
If we can pay respect to electrical power – which is created – why can we not pay respect to Divine Power, which is not – but is self-existent and omnipotent!
And yet the people of Judah had their history to think about. They had ancestors – patriarchs – who trusted the Living God.
Abraham – heard God speak to him to leave Mesopotamia and travel to Canaan. He trusted the God whom he could not see to provide for him.
Abraham trusted that when God told him to offer up his much longed for son Isaac as a sacrifice – he obeyed believing that God was able, should He choose, to raise the dead to life again and so fulfil His promise – to make of Abraham and his family a vast nation of people.
Jacob Abraham’s grandson also believed in this unseen God and trusted Him to increase His family and to preserve them into a mighty group of people.
One of Jacob’s sons Joseph so believed in God’s power that when he was a prisoner in Egypt he honoured God in the interpreting of Pharaoh’s dreams – he became Prime Minister and was the means of the fulfilment of God’s promises to his great grandfather.
400 years later one of his descendants Moses also believed in the God who cannot be seen. He had been brought up as a Prince of Egypt in the royal court. Yet he listened to God calling him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and captivity.
And after they arrived in Canaan the Judges were men and women of great faith in the Lord God, doing mighty deeds of heroism through faith in the unseen God.
And when Judah and Israel had kings to rule them some of them, not all, were godly men, who honoured and loved the unseen God. King David was one of them who said the words that were read to us earlier from Psalm 20
7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.
David was a military man – a hero – a commander of thousands of soldiers and very successful in fighting the Lord’s enemies. But his trust was NOT in military strength – but in the Name of the Lord God.
Now we see all this in the context of Judah’s unbelief and rejection of God. They began to trust in horses and chariots – not their own – but Egypt’s. Egypt will help us to fight and beat the Assyrians. Where is God? He is nowhere to be seen. We have to get on with defending ourselves!
Isaiah comes back to Judah and tells them they are wrong! Verses 1 – 3
The Egyptians are mere men! And it is the Lord Jehovah who will help you!
He gives them 3 illustrations of the way that the sovereign Lord God was protecting Judah, His chosen and precious, though rebellious and rejecting, people.
1. A Lion verse 4. This is the picture of a great lion astride his prey. A band of shepherds have come summoned by the one whose sheep has been snatched away by the king of beasts. But this mighty lion standing over the sheep growls and glowers at the shepherds and defies their shouts and clamouring.
In the same way God will do battle on Mount Zion, Jerusalem. His people are the sheep – but they are kept alive by the Lion of the tribe Judah – God Himself, protecting His people against their clamouring enemies the Assyrians.
2. A Mother Bird verse 5. In this illustration the Lord God is like a mother bird, a female eagle. Fluttering protectively over her young to guard them from danger, poised and ready to attack any who would dare to harm her young ones. So God will shield and rescue His people.
Isaiah asks them how they could fear the Assyrians, despite their large numbers, when a lion and a fierce mother bird of prey stand guard over them.
3. There is another illustration that will not have escaped the people’s notice also in verse 5.
As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.
Passing over is not just a term describing overhead flight of the mother bird. It refers back to Egypt, another reference to that country, borrowed from the scene when the angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites who had sprinkled the blood of the lamb on the lintels of their doors. God had given his promise of protection, through the promised sacrificial lamb, pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ, against the angel of death who would bring death to pass on all the firstborn of all the houses of Egypt. So now He would shield Judah and the threat of death would pass over them!
And here is the marvellous Gospel in our passage tonight! Isaiah has promised and proclaimed God’s protection. He reminds them of what the sovereign Lord did then and what He can do now. He saved the firstborn from death – and he will save their descendants from death too!
Here is the marvellous truth – that God’s own son the Lord Jesus Christ has sprinkled His blood on the lintel of His church today so that death’s angel shall not visit her. All who are safely gathered into the Church, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and in His finished work, do not have to dread eternal death – for it will have nothing to do with those who are true believers.
Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary to purchase eternal salvation and life for his people. They have nothing to fear. Enemies may come to besiege and attack – but the church is safe! God’s people are protected!
Are you one of God’s people?
Have your sins been forgiven once and for all?
Have you realised yet that if you are not a believer, a Christian, then the angel of death will one day come for your soul, bring you before God the judge, pronounce you guilty of breaking God’s law, and then consign you, at the judge’s command to outer darkness in hell?
You may be worried and reply, “How can I know that I may be one of God’s children? How can I be saved from the horror of hell?”
Isaiah tells his people Judah – and we can listen and heed too –
6 Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted. 7 For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.
Where is your trust, my friend? In God or in man – man who is made of dust? We see death as our enemy. The Bible says that death comes through sin – the wages of sin is death – the soul that sinneth it shall die.
But God has overcome death caused by sin in that He is ready to pardon and to forgive all those who will realise that they are sinners and are ready to turn – as Isaiah says – turn to God FROM trusting in self or others – which is futile. Only God can be trusted to deal with death – only God is ready to receive sinners such as you and me.
If He were not ready would He invite us to repent like He does in this verse?
Would He invite us to trust in His Son whom he has sent? How loving and gracious God is when he invites wicked sinners to turn to Him. He invites us to come to the friend of sinners.
Friend, you say! Who will be my friend! I am such a sinner and I deserve to be punished forever.
Yet the good news is that Jesus Christ said
“I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Are you willing to repent of your sins? Repent of the breaking of His laws? The stealing, the lying, the loose and suggestive talk, the immoral thoughts of lust and greed, the disrespect for authority, the hateful notions against others who you dislike, the neglect of your duty as a creature to love your creator, the covetous thoughts of desire for other peoples property? Repentance means a change of mind about yourself. It may be that you have never seen yourself as a sinner until tonight – and now you are aware of your precarious state.
Repentance means a change of heart – God calls us to be sorry for our sins – sorry that we have offended Him by our sin.
Repentance means a change of will – a resolve to leave my sins behind and turn to God.
Judah’s sins were trust in idols. True repentance when the will is changed means that we cast away our idols – of confidence in material things; of belief in superstitious notions; of people who we love and admire more than God. Cast them away my friend – and turn to the One who is able to give you far more than you lose when you repent.
Then come with a repentant heart to find peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ – the One who died for those who come to Him – who bled for them – who rose again for them and prepares a place in heaven for them.