The LORD Has Sent a Message Against Jacob

9: 8-12

    DIG: From 7:1 and 9:10-11, what must have happened in Isra'el? (Note: The opposition of King Rezin of Syria in 9:11-12 indicates this prophecy was given before the alliance described in 7:1). How did the people of Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria respond to these attacks in 9:9-10 and 13? How should they have responded? For this reason, what will God do to their leaders in 9:14-17? With what result? The repetition in 9:12, 17, 21 and 10:4 shows that this is a poem or song. From this refrain, what do you think the poem is about?

    REFLECT: From these verses, what attitudes and actions do you see are particularly offensive to ADONAI? Are any of these evident in your life? In the life of our nation? God’s final judgment came only after many attempts to warn the people about the consequences of their deeds. What has the LORD brought into your life recently as a warning of the consequences of where you are heading? How have you responded to those warnings?

    The doublet, generally saying the same thing over twice from different perspectives, is one of Isaiah’s traits. The second element in the doublet always gives clearer meaning to the first. For example, Chapters 28-29 mirror 30-35, and Chapters 42:18 to 43:21 reflect 43:22 to 44:23. In this case 9:8 to 11:16 runs parallel with 7:1 to 9:7. The prophets recognized, but never accepted, that the northern kingdom of Isra'el and the southern kingdom of Judah were divided. But one day they will become one kingdom under God and Messiah will reign forever. Under the inspiration of the Ruach, Isaiah has just traced this course of action for Judah in 7:1 to 9:7. Now he does the same for Isra'el.

    God’s Word had been rejected in favor of Isra'el’s self-will. Her internal collapse (9:10) would be followed by external invasion (9:11). When the vineyard produced stinking fruit, the wild animals were allowed to come in and trample it (5:4-5). The only way a nation can recover from this kind of devastation is returning to the Word of the LORD. They had truly built an amazing capitol city of Samaria, and humanly speaking, had much to be proud about. But to leave God out of the equation only invites disaster (Amos 5:11).

    In the first part of his four-stanza poem, Isaiah prophesied: ADONAI has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Isra'el (9:8). The word message is in the emphatic, meaning that the LORD had spoken! Would His people live by His Word or not? This message came through the ministries of Amos and Hosea from 760 BC onward. Although writing to the nation of Judah, Isaiah often used the northern kingdom of Israel, also called Jacob, as an example of the fact that God judges His sinful people. The message was one of coming judgment on the northern kingdom of Isra'el. The last part of the verse is a Hebrew idiom meaning soon to be realized. Isra'el would fall very shortly. She would soon realize that her boasting was only hollow words. This was also a not so subtle message to the southern kingdom of Judah, who should have realized that she too would be destroyed if she persisted in her sin.

    Pride was the main reason that the LORD’s message would fall on Isra'el. Ephraim, with its capitol of Samaria, was one of Israel’s largest tribes. It often represented the entire Northern Kingdom (7:2 and 17). With the immediate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy all the people would know it was the word of ADONAI. Sadly, they will realize this too late. Their pride would be their downfall. Isaiah makes his point more forcefully by means of a metaphor. All the people will know it – Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria – who say with pride and arrogance of heart, “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars” (9:9-10). Their pride was seen in the fact that they thought they could experience only temporary setbacks (the bricks have fallen) if the Assyrian army would attack them. ADONAI was using Assyria to discipline Isra’el, to humble her so that she would return to Him. But it was as if Isra’el shot back at God, saying, “We’re not going to repent, we’re just going to rebuild. And we don’t need You to do it.” The northern Kingdom had a spirit of defiance and rebellion in this response.

    They felt that they would be able to make their nation better than ever. The expressions here go from that which is cheap to that which is expensive, from bricks to dressed stone (So what if the Assyrians break down our homes made of brick, we will rebuild them with new dressed stone), and from fig trees to cedars (So what if the Assyrians cut down all our fig trees, we will replace them with cedars). But sadly, this was not to be the case.

    Jeroboam II (782-753 BC) gave the northern kingdom of Israel prosperity, restoring the boundaries that King Solomon had established (Second Kings 14:25). But he led the nation into spiritual adultery (First Kings 12:25-33), and eventual political collapse (Second Kings Chapters 15:31 and 17:1-41). Of the last six kings reigning during the final twenty years of Israel, four died of assassination and only one passed the throne to his son. So much for replacing fig trees with cedars!

    Finally, the first wave of judgment hit. But the LORD has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them and has spurred their enemies on. Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west have devoured Israel with open mouth (9:11-12a). Devoured is an ironic indictment of the alliance with Syria (Rezin was king of part of Aram or Syria). Israel saw herself as having cleverly secured an ally; but God saw her as being devoured. On every hand adversaries would arise, not in spite of ADONAI, but at His bidding. From the east and west they would come, before them and behind them. It would be Magor-Missabib (Jeremiah 20:3), meaning terror on every side, and a foreshadowing that Judah would eventually experience. The mouths of their enemies open wide to devour those who had been so confident in themselves. Having taken themselves out from under the hand of blessing, they would find that the hand of God was still outstretched, but then it would be for judgment.

    But even this judgment did not appease God’s wrath, because the people refused to deal with their sin. As a result, just as they thought their judgment had come to an end and breathed a sigh of relief, Isaiah prophesied: Yet for all this, His anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised (9:12b). This refrain is repeated three more times (9:17, 21 and 10:4). It increases the effects of ADONAI's intense anger, highlighting the certainty of continued judgment.

    Where is the line between “decent self-respect” and pride, or between “healthy self-esteem” and self-conceit? The answer is deceptively simple. It all depends on what the “self-respect” or the “self-esteem” is based. If it is based on placing ourselves at the center of our world, as the world does (First John 2:15-17), then it is deadly. Such an attitude is nothing other than pride and conceit, because we are trying to make ourselves the basis for our own existence. That is not possible in this world the LORD has made. As a result, to say, “I am somebody important because I say so,” is ridiculous.

    We are not complete in ourselves. As charming as the story of The Little Engine That Could may be, saying, “I think I can, I think I can,” does not create the ability to do anything. Only when we surrender to the love of ADONAI and learn that we are worth the life and death of the Prince of Peace, will we discover how much we are really worth. Only when we have admitted to ourselves that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature (Romans 7:18) will we be able to know the inner strength that enables us to say: I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).36

 

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