Wednesday, July 19, 2023

2023.07.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 9:8–10:19

Read Isaiah 9:8–10:19

Questions from the Scripture text: Now against whom is Isaiah prophesying (Isaiah 9:8-9)? What does Israel think they are doing (Isaiah 9:10)? Although Israel thinks they’re strengthening themselves, what is actually happening (Isaiah 9:11-12b)? What refrain do we now hear repeated (Isaiah 9:12c–d; cf. Isaiah 5:25, Isaiah 9:17, Isaiah 9:21, Isaiah 10:4)? Who is actually striking them, and how should they be responding to Him (Isaiah 9:13)? Who will each have their part in the judgment (Isaiah 9:14-17d)? Why? What will this still not resolve (Isaiah 9:17e–f)? What will God’s wrath give them over to in their interactions with each other (Isaiah 9:18-21b)? What will this still not resolve (Isaiah 9:21c–d)? What have they done as part of their provocation to the Lord (Isaiah 10:1–2) that will contribute to the nature of their punishment (Isaiah 10:3-4b)? What will this still not resolve (Isaiah 10:4c–d)? Who else will be punished (Isaiah 10:5a)? What are they being used for (Isaiah 10:5-6)? But what do they think they’re doing (Isaiah 10:7-10Isaiah 10:13-14)? But where will this self-glorying literally end (Isaiah 10:11-12)? What great mistake does all pride make (Isaiah 10:15)? What will the Lord do to Assyria in response (Isaiah 10:16-19)? 

Why is humanism in the state and the church so dangerous? Isaiah 9:8–10:19 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when man trusts his own solutions, he provokes God's wrath and leaves himself without help. 

This section in the book of Isaiah really runs through the end of chapter 11, with that messianic prophecy paralleling Isaiah 9:1-7 as this Israel section (Isaiah 9:8-11:16) parallels the Jerusalem section (Isaiah 7:1-9:7) that we covered in the previous devotional. But we are taking up through Isaiah 10:19, because the restoration of the northern kingdom will include their enfolding back into Judah at Zion, where indeed a remnant multitude of Gentiles will be enfolded into God’s people at Zion. For this week, we consider the short-term consequences of the northern kingdom’s alliance/dependence upon men (Syria/Aram). Their sin is fundamentally the same as Judah’s in the previous section.

After the peak of northern kingdom power, Israel went rapid-fire through have a dozen declining reigns as the Lord began to judge them (Isaiah 9:8). But they continued to tell themselves that they were rebuilding, and their best days were still ahead (Isaiah 9:10). Sadly, they brought themselves into alliance with Syria’s Rezin. Having surrounded themselves with those whom they styled as new allies, Isaiah seems them instead as having been devoured by new enemies (Isaiah 9:11b) and old (Isaiah 9:12a–b)?

The punishment they had been going through should have provoked them turn to the Lord (Isaiah 9:13), but apart from grace, people respond to pain not with repentance but with pragmatism. It was especially the place of their civil and spiritual leaders to call them to repentance (Isaiah 9:14-16). But what had they done? Forged an alliance with Syria! There are leaders who abuse their people directly (Isaiah 10:1–2), but the worst leader-abuse is to lead the people in the very sin by which they will all burn down (Isaiah 9:18–21b).

Because they have mistaken that the Lord is the real threat, not Assyria, they have sought for help that cannot possibly avail (Isaiah 10:3). They have neglected the only help that man can have (Isaiah 10:4a–b). But Assyria has made the same mistake! They think that they are the great power to be reckoned with (Isaiah 10:7–10Isaiah 10:13-14). What they have intended for the evil of their national self-exaltation, God had intended for the good of Israel’s chastening (Isaiah 10:5-6). But that doesn’t get Assyria off the hook for their own wickedness!

Here is an important principle for understanding history: the Lord often uses the wicked as an instrument of chastening upon others. But the Lord also holds those wicked ones entirely accountable for their wickedness. He is both totally sovereign and perfectly just. 

To judge Assyria, the Lord will give them over to a fatal mistake: boasting over-against not only Jerusalem but Jerusalem’s God (Isaiah 10:11b, cf. chapters 36–37). What Assyria says about the other nations’ gods is true. And those who are suppressing the truth about the true God in their unrighteousness (cf. Romans 1:18) often point to the futility of idolatry and claim that the living God is the same, that Christ is the same. By doing so, they misplace the credit for their life, all that they have, and all they are able to do. This is what Assyria has done. 

What shall we do? Let us acknowledge God’s sovereignty over and through all others. Let us not over-fear men or under-fear God. Let us take every difficult providence as an opportunity to improve it by self-examination and repentance. Let our hearts give God all credit for any ability or success that we have, earthly, or spiritual. And let us remember that for every wrong done to us, the Lord will require a full accounting and exact a full vengeance. 

What difficulties have you gone through? At whose earthly hands have they come? But Who has sovereignly ruled over all of it? What sorts of good intentions does He have toward you? How do you know?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You that You rule and overrule all things. Even the evil can only carry out the evil that they intend if You have intended it for good. And You will bring them all to complete justice. Forgive us for being so slow to receive your chastening or learn from it. Forgive us for the pride in which we have been impressed with ourselves, rather than with You. Leave us not like Ephraim or Assyria, but humble us before Yourself in Jesus Christ, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, from the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

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