Text: Isaiah 9:8-10:4
When God’s people go astray, He sends His prophets to frankly and bluntly warn them of their sin and admonish them to repent and return to Him. Again, when I speak of God’s people, I am speaking of the church, Jewish believers, and Jews that do not yet believe that Jesus is their Messiah.
The LORD does not desire for any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). So, He sends Isaiah to speak to Jerusalem and Judah. And He has assigned me to speak to today’s believers.
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be “His Hand Is Still Stretched Out.” “Hand” means strength, power, and it is stretched out against His people in Ephraim (northern Israel) who defy Him and continue to rebel against Him. But it is also stretched out today, against His people who defy Him and rebel against Him. His anger does not turn away from those who refuse to repent.
Verses 8-10 —
The Lord (the LORD of Hosts, the Captain of the armies of the LORD) sends a message (a word — that is, a prophecy) against Jacob, and it falls (lights upon) on Israel. Again, when His people Israel are backslidden, he calls them Jacob, the supplanter and deceiver who wrestled with Him and was changed by Him, and his name was changed to Israel.
And all the people know (declare) — Ephraim and the inhabitants of its capitol, Samaria. In pride and arrogance, they speak, because they think they are wiser than the LORD!
What do they say? The bricks have fallen down. We are being conquered! But WE will rebuild! The sycamores (fig-bearing trees) have been cut down, but WE will replace them with cedars, a symbol of tenacity — that is, firmly gripping.
Assyria had already overrun some of the northernmost parts of Ephraim. But the rest of northern Israel, especially the capital, Samaria, think they cannot be conquered.
So they pay no attention to Assyria, nor to the LORD’s prophets. No matter what our enemies do, we can and will rebuild! They exalt themselves against their God! Their arrogance flies in the face of the Lord, who has warned them again and again, through His prophets!
How often do believers do that today? The LORD has allowed Satan to attack them, but they say, I will build myself back up, better than ever! I will firmly grip my future, and make it happen!
They do not stop to ask the Lord if they are broken down because He is disciplining them for their sin. I pray they would see it, and repent!
Verses 11-12 —
Because of the arrogance and rebellion of all of Ephraim, the LORD raises against them adversaries from Rezin (Syria) and spurs them on! The Syrians on their east, and the Philistines on their west, devour Israel with the whole mouth. They greedily gobble them up!
No matter where northern Israel turns, they will find that their neighboring countries have joined forces with Assyria. And their enemies arise at the LORD’s orders. He is in charge, not His people Israel!
In spite of all that the LORD has just described to them, His anger does not turn away. It is not yet quenched. And His hand (power, strength) is still stretched out against them.
Verse 13 —
Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them, nor do they seek the LORD of hosts. They see their enemies invading them, but rely on their own strength and spurn Him! They do not cry out in repentance and say, Forgive us! They say, we can take care of ourselves! Thus, they act foolishly!
Verses 14-15 —
Therefore, the LORD cuts off (destroys) both the head and the tail from Israel, palm branch (the most honored) and bulrush (the most humble in circumstance but not in heart) in a single day. The head is the elder and honorable man (exalted of face), and the false prophets are the tail.
They will be cut off, they will be killed, in a single day! It is just as with Assyria, when they came against Jerusalem. The angel of the LORD struck 185,000 in one night!
Verses 16-17 —
There is a lesson here for all of us! And the lesson continues. Those who guide this people and lead them astray will be brought to confusion (destroyed). The Lord shall not rejoice over their young men (He has no regard for their natural strength), nor will He have pity on their orphans or their widows.
What? Aren’t orphans and widows innocent and living in humble circumstances?
Hear the LORD, beloved. Widows and orphans who follow falsehood are as guilty as those who lead them in that way!
For every one of them — leaders, false prophets, young warriors, orphans and widows — is godless (soiled with sin) and an evildoer. They are all rebelling against the LORD. Even the orphans and widows listen to those who speak lies to them. Every mouth is speaking foolishness (wickedness).
Verses 18-19 —
Their wickedness is like a forest fire, consuming everything in its path. A huge column of smoke rises, as His rebellious people are consumed. Sin will consume you, O believer!
Assyria may appear to be the source of Ephraim’s destruction, but it is by (because of) the fury of the LORD of Hosts that all of the land is consumed by fire. It happens because He is stretching out His power and strength against His own people, so they may turn and repent.
His outstretched arm, His outstretched power and strength. For thirty years, Assyria will invade and consume the land, laying siege on it, as the instrument of the LORD, for the punishment of His people. Then their work will be complete.
But remember, His goal in judging them and punishing them is that they would hear and heed His words, and repent and return to Him! It is the same today.
Verses 20-21 —
These verses illustrate the long-held hatred between Manasseh and Ephraim, tribes of northern Israel, and their combined hatred of their brethren, Judah.
They devour one another’s strength (right hand), but that is not enough to quench their hatred. They eat both the right hand and the left, but still they hate each other. And their mutual hatred devours both Manasseh and Ephraim.
Is there hatred in your heart? You will surely devour yourself with it. Repent and cry out for the Lord to give you a new heart! Cry out for Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit!
In all of this, the LORD’s anger does not turn away, and His hand — His power and strength — is still stretched out. He will send them all into exile, far away from His presence!
Verses 1-2 —
The LORD’s judgment continues. Woe to those who enact evil statutes — ones that are contrary to Him! And woe to those who constantly record unjust decisions — ones who rule against those who are faithful to Him!
Why do they do such things? In order to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of His people of their rights! Unjust rulings abound against those who are least able to defend themselves.
Verse 3 —
So, what will Ephraim do in the day of punishment and in the devastation the LORD has ordered from afar? To whom will Ephraim flee for help? Where will they hide the wealth they prize, so it is not taken from them?
There will be nowhere for the people of Ephraim to hide, and no help from the Lord. He will send them into captivity, that they may turn and repent.
Verse 4 —
In the day of punishment, there will be only two choices for His rebellious people can do — crouch among the captives, or fall among the slain. Go into captivity, or try to fight, and die at the hands of the Assyrian army.
In all of this, His anger does not turn away, nor does He withdraw His hand (his strength, His power). There is more to come, not only for Ephraim, but for Assyria and Jerusalem. The LORD has promised, per 8:8, that Assyria will even come up to Jerusalem’s neck! Yet Assyria will flee, when the angel of the LORD destroys 185,000 of their soldiers in one night!
O Lord, the arrogance of northern Israel is seen in today’s church. May believers and church leaders see that boasting about man’s strength, the cleverness of man’s ways, and man’s intellect is as repugnant to the Lord as Ephraim’s reliance on their riches and their own military strength. May they understand that You are furious with them, Lord, and repent. Let it be so, I pray. Amen.