Isaiah 9:8-10:34

God hates pride and arrogance of heart.

“Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth.” (Isa. 9:9b-12a)

People of Samaria thought they could restore what was ruined themselves, but God raises another adversaries to judge the arrogance of the people. The degree to which the people of God rejected him was so great, God’s anger didn’t subside easily. “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still” (Isa. 9:12b). God’s feelings for his people are so very real and personal. He cannot simply overlook rejection from his lover and pretend that nothing happened.

“For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isa. 9:12b, 17b, 21b, 10:4b)

This exact statement appears four┬átimes in this passage: first because of Israel’s pride and arrogance, second they did not turn to God who struck them and everyone is godless and an evildoer (Isa. 9:13, 17), third due to their wickedness and insatiable cruelty against each other (Isa. 9:18, 20), and lastly they forsake the needy and rob the poor of their right. Basically, they abandoned God and justice and turned to wickedness and cruelty.

God does not overlook such evil. God is a holy and righteous God. It matters to him that we love him and we take him seriously. It matters to him that we love each other and maintain peace and harmony and justice within ourselves.

God uses Assyria as “the rod of [his] anger” (Isa. 10:5). It may seem by purely humanly perspective that it is simply a political conquest by a more powerful nation, but behind it all God has his grand plan, and Assyria also will be punished later. “When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes” (Isa. 10:12).

So Israel will be destroyed. And Assyria will also be destroyed. What a tragic end… Well, not really.

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” (Isa. 10:20-21)

A remnant of Israel will return. They will no more lean on human powers and idols, but will lean on God. They’ll truly love God. They’ll respond in love to God with their genuine heart because God has spared them from their well-deserved judgment. God is both just and gracious, righteous and loving.

“Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.” (Isa. 10:24-25)

God’s fury will come to an end. His anger will be directed to their destruction. God promises redemption of his people. His deepest motive was never destruction of his people. His motive was to win them back, restore them as true children of God who genuinely desire and love God, to transform their hearts and not just behaviors.

There was another time when God’s justice and loving grace met. There was another time when his anger was directed to another’s destruction. It was on the cross two thousand years ago when Jesus took the wrath of God on behalf of humanity. The godlessness and wickedness and lack of peace and love and harmony on earth caused by humanity necessitated the consequence of God’s righteous judgment. Yet, God loves us too much to rid us completely. So he sent his Son, and allowed his anger to be directed to him instead. His fury has ended on the cross.

God’s judgment on Israel and on Assyria was absolutely righteous. But his grace surprisingly spared a remnant of Israel to survive and turn back to God. God’s grace demonstrated on the cross was infinitely more radical because unlike Assyria the One to whom God’s anger was directed was sinless. God’s wrath on Jesus was completely unfair, infinitely more unfair than his dealings with Israel and Assyria. Yet, innocent Jesus died on the cross. It cannot be explained apart from God’s love. It is the proof that God loves us. His love made everything that Jesus went through happen.

God’s motive is to win us back. He fiercely loves and desires us. He goes through the cosmic trouble in order to prove his love for us and transform our hearts. The sad reality is that not everyone will believe in this wonderful news, the gospel. But those who believe, God will redeem. They will turn back to God, and God has completely destroyed the ultimate enemy of humanity, Death, the result of our sin.

God loves us. He showed his love through the cross. He defeated our worst enemy. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.

Isaiah 7-8

e7d9ae02b01868d8408ff4de9e47e305

“When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”  (Isa. 7:2)

Ahaz was terrified. But God tells him not to fear.

“Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Ramaliah.” (Isa. 7:4)

“It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” (Isa. 7:7-9)

They will not stand. They are mere humans. God decides the course of human history, the destiny of kingdoms. God says, “do not fear,” and “be firm.” He says, “trust in me, and ask me for a sign from me to strengthen your faith” (from Isa. 7:11), but Ahaz makes a lame excuse saying “I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isa. 7:12), and goes to Assyria for help instead. He schemes to have Assyria attack Israel and save him, but he ends up setting a snare for himself.

Because of Ahaz’s unbelief, God will let Assyria destroy Judah, there will be not many people left on the land (Isa. 7:21-22), and every place that used to be fruitful will become briers and thorns. Ahaz rejected God and relied on human power, and that very human power ensnared Judah. (Isa. 8:6-8)

But God will give Judah a sign,

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14)

Isaiah urges the people to fear God and wait for the LORD. “But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isa. 8:13-14).

“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” (Isa. 8:17)

The people in their spiritual blindness and darkness will be greatly distressed, hungry, and enraged (Isa. 8:21), they will indeed stumble and fall and be broken, be snared and taken. (Isa. 8:15)

What this piece of the history of Israel teaches is that humans fall because we rely on others rather than on God. Only God’s promise is reliable and makes us truly firm. The Immanuel has come. The sign has been given. We have all failed to look to God in faith and ask Him for a sign, but God gave us the sign anyway because he loves us too much not to.

One thing I notice is that it is repeatedly said that this good news will be “a stone of offense” to some people. There are, and will be always people who deny and reject the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ when they hear the gospel. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

We should trust in God in all situations no matter how terrifying it may seem. Using all the human resources and information is wise because they are after all God’s creation, but we shouldn’t put our deepest trust on any of them ultimately. Our sense of security comes from the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ. On that secure basis, we do everything else in wisdom and love for the glory of God. Otherwise we become desperate and miserable.

Be careful, be quiet, do not fear. Trust in Jesus, wait for the Lord.