Friday, 26 September 2014

(270) September 27: Isaiah 10-12 & Galatians 5

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider how we are to be encouraged by the idea of judgement.

To ponder:
Isaiah continues denouncing those in the northern kingdom who act unjustly and oppress the needy, affirming they will have no-one to run to for help and no-where to leave their riches for safekeeping on the “day of reckoning.” All will be lost. And for the fourth time, we read with this God’s anger will still not be turned away from this section of his people (10v1-4).
            The “woes” of judgement now, however, turn to be against the Assyrian king (see 10v12), who God will use as his agent of anger and wrath, when he sends him to plunder and trample Israel (10v5-6). The reason the Assyrian will nevertheless be punished, is that, although inadvertently serving God, his intent is to destroy nations, proudly boasting that his commanders are kings and of how he has conquered cities, seizing kingdoms from their idols. In boasting of how he would deal with Jerusalem and her images too, their idolatry, which warrants God bringing the Assyrian against them also, is stressed (10v5-11). Here, then, we see the compatibility between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. He directs even evil acts, but in a way that doesn’t absolve those who do them, because whereas God’s intent is good (here, his justice), the intent of the human being he uses is evil.
            So Isaiah declares that when God has finished with Mount Zion and Jerusalem (in judgement), he will punish the Assyrian king for his pride in saying that he has achieved his world dominance in subduing and plundering nations by his own hand and wisdom (10v12-14). Such arrogance is described in terms such as the axe raising itself above the one swinging it. In other words, the king as God’s axe against Israel is considering himself above God who is wielding him (10v15). The point is that it is God who is the true king over all the earth. And so Isaiah promises that God, as the “Holy One,” will destroy almost all the might and land of Assyria with disease and fire (10v16-19). A remnant of people from all Israel will then no longer rely on the king of Assyria, who struck them down, for protection, but on the LORD. Picking up the name of Isaiah’s first son, God therefore promises only a “remnant” from the vast nation of Israel “will return” to him in faithfulness. Here “Mighty God” is one of the titles given to the promised child (10v21, see 9v6), implying the people will return to God enfleshed as a man!
In the light of all this, the LORD encourages his people in Jerusalem not to fear the Assyrians, as his anger against them will soon end and be redirected to Assyria, lifting their burden from Judah’s shoulders (10v24-27). He then predicts how his people will flee the Assyrians only to find their advance halted at Nob, from where they will overlook and shake their fist at Jerusalem, before God fells their tall trees – referring to their great cities and probably leaders (10v28-34). Most probably this refers to the events of 2 Kings 18-19. And it reminds us that whatever evil may be done to the church, whether in judgement for its compromise or not, those doing it will be brought to account and the faithful will be kept from falling in any ultimate sense.
            With the trees (leaders) of Assyria fallen, Isaiah moves to a branch springing up in Israel from the line of Jesse (David’s father). This king will have God’s Spirit rest on him, granting wisdom, power, and fear of God so that he reigns with justice, righteousness and faithfulness, caring for the needy. Yet his reign will be universal, bringing justice against the wicked and decisions for the good of the poor throughout the earth. Moreover, under this rule, Eden-like order will be brought to the world as animals live in harmony with one-another and with human beings, Mount Zion is freed from destruction, and the earth filled with the knowledge of God (11v1-9). We saw such a description previously (9v1-7). This is the promised Christ to whom the remnant from Israel will turn (10v21) some time after their oppression by Assyria.           
Previously “that day” referred to the day of God’s judgement, but here it refers to his day of salvation through his Christ. This descendent of Jesse will be like a banner to which the nations rally, just as has been the case after Jesus was lifted up on the cross (11v10, John 12v20-23). With this in mind, the “glorious place of rest” may actually be the cross, or Jesus’ reign from heaven. Yet now the remnant is a wider group, comprising exiled Israelites from all over the known world, as at Pentecost. So the Christ will bring peace between those from the northern and southern kingdoms (11v10-13). But the language of war is used too: The united people are said to then plunder Israel’s ancient enemies, and with echoes of the Exodus, we are told God will dry up the Egyptian sea and Euphrates river so the remnant can travel to the land from Assyria just as they once had from Egypt. In the figurative language of poetry we are being told that God will work a new Exodus-like deliverance for his people, ensuring they are able to come to his promised king. And they will inherit the earth and so the land of their ancient enemies, who will themselves be destroyed – hinting perhaps to how God’s people will share in the judgement of the nations (Rev 2v26-27). On “that day” they will praise God for turning his anger away, affirming and trusting him with joy as their salvation, and no longer fearing their enemies. In psalm-style they will call people to thank him, call on him, make know how he has saved them, and sing for joy at his greatness (12v1-6).
This all seems quite a jump from 700BC, but we must remember that the prophets often saw the future compacted, without an awareness of the time span between the different events they predicted. So in what Isaiah says, the final state of new creation is mentioned as if occurring at the same time as the church age in which the nations come to Christ. In short, “that day” spans the period of Christ’ two comings. It should encourage us as we are oppressed by spiritual enemies, just as it would have Judah when faced with their physical enemy.

Praying it home:       
Praise God for the peace that will be enjoyed in the new creation. Pray that you would able to wait for this patiently.

Thinking further:
None today.

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