The Voice of the LORD Will Shatter Assyria

30: 27-33

   DIG: What images, names, and verbs are associated with God? What do these teach you about who the LORD is, what He does, and why? What will happen to Assyria at Topeth (see Jeremiah 7:31-32, 19:12-14)?

   REFLECT: When we pray Your Kingdom come, what does that imply about those who resist God and are not part of His Kingdom? Should one rejoice at the thought of God’s judgment? Why or why not? Knowing the LORD’s judgment is certain, how does that strengthen you to keep on following Him? God intended to deliver Judah even while she persisted in rebellion. What hope does that offer you (see Romans 5:8)?

    These verses combine the “now” and the “not yet” of the believer’s life in an important way. The “now” that Isaiah spoke of was for him and his generation, prophesying that the Assyrian army, which was surrounding Jerusalem, would be defeated (37:36). This occurred in 701 BC. ADONAI, in His raging anger, would rush against His enemies. But in addition to this near historical prophecy, Isaiah and his generation also looked forward to the ultimate protection of Messiah in the millennial Kingdom.

    We experience the blessings of today, all the time knowing that there are incredibly greater blessings to come on the other side of the grave. This is the “not yet” aspect in the life of a believer. However, the modern secular view denies that there is any other world than this one. The secularist believes that the physical-material world is all there is. But the biblical world is markedly different. It insists this is a real world, where real decisions of great consequence are to be made. We may choose to make our lives here and now better, or we may choose to make them worse. But why is this world real? Because it is the product of the invisible Creator, and that leads us to the realization that as real as this world is, it is only of a larger reality that includes the unseen world.

    Thus, believers live in two worlds. We live here and now and confront “the Assyrians” of our everyday life. We seek to live as obedient subjects of the Kingdom of God this very day. But at the same time, we know that there is more to come. Just because “Assyria” is defeated today does not mean that there are no more “Assyrians” ahead. And we see a world where the kingship of the Creator is not yet fully worked out. So we live faithfully and confidently today, looking to the last day when all God’s enemies will be defeated forever, and when He will ascend His throne and rule His happy subjects forever.108

    Isaiah catapults us back to the present situation that presented itself to Judah. As respect to the Assyrian threat, would she trust ADONAI or Egypt? God’s prophet prophesied that the Assyrian army (30:31), which was surrounding Jerusalem, would be defeated (37:36). God is shown as coming from a great distance on the wings of a storm. See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; His lips are full of wrath, and His tongue is a consuming fire to overcome His enemies (30:27). Neither Assyria, nor her king, could escape the wrath of ADONAI.

    The Name of the LORD points specifically to God’s character as redeemer (see my commentary on Exodus Bz - Redemption). It is important to understand that this appearance of Him should begin with His Name. For His character and His Name had been slandered by both the leaders and people of Judah by trusting in Egypt. He would vindicate His Name by delivering Jerusalem from the very Assyrian army that had sent them to Egypt for help.

    His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck (30:28a). This speaks of wadis, or gulches, which are normally dry but can be a rushing torrent in a matter of minuets as a result. Therefore, because His Name was slandered by the king of Assyria (37:9-13), he and his nation will be shaken by the strainer of destruction. He places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray (30:29b). Each of these figures leads to destruction: the rushing torrent of drowning, the strainer to divide the good grain from the useless chaff, and the bit that leads an unbreakable horse to its death.109 They will be up to their neck in trouble.

    The defeat of Assyria would result in a new Passover song for Isra'el. ADONAI said through His prophet: And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival (30:29a). At the time of Israel’s national salvation there will be a song in the night. Their hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Isra'el (30:29b). This joy of God’s judgment is also seen in Psalm 91:2-3. It is not odd Assyria’s destruction should be compared to a time of feasting. Biblical feasts were first and foremost times of rejoicing over ADONAI’s acts of deliverance. It was as if God was saying, “You have abandoned Me because you thought I could not help you. That abandonment will bring destruction upon you. But despite bringing the Assyrians against you, I have not abandoned you. The proof is that one day you will be able to rejoice over what I have done."

    Theirs was the song, but His is the victory. The LORD alone will cause men to hear His majestic voice and will make them see His arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail (30:30). Judah would be a joyous spectator to these acts. Isaiah prophesied that God would fight Assyria in battle with the blows of His arm (30:32). Therefore, here God's prophet introduces the concept of the arm of the LORD. It will be developed further in the book as Isaiah expands our understanding of this phrase. This is the first of nine times it is used by Isaiah (40:10, 50:2, 51:5 and 9, 52:10, 53:1, 59:1 and 16, 62:8, 63:5).

    Merely by the command of His voice, ADONAI will shatter Assyria; with His scepter He will strike them down (30:31a). Assyria had claimed to hold the scepter of the world; but in reality, ADONAI held that scepter and would shortly strike down the imposter outside the gates of Jerusalem. The point is, what God will do in the future against all the nations, He will now do to Assyria. This would cause Judah to rejoice. Every stroke the LORD lays on them with His punishing rod will be to the music of tambourines and harps (30:31b). The reference to tambourines and harps reminds us of Jehoshaphat’s defeat of the Edomites (Second Chronicles 20:13-30, especially 20:28). All Israel had to do was to praise God in confidence and receive His blessing.

    God’s war is specifically against the Assyrian king who will be defeated (see Chapters 36 and 37). Topeth has long been prepared; it had been made ready for Sennacherib, the king. It’s fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze (30:33). The result is the preparation of Topeth, which is the same as the Valley of Ben Hinnon, a valley on the southern side of Jerusalem. In Greek, it was called the Valley of Gehenna. It was a place where human sacrifices were offered by the kings of Judah to the god Molech (see my commentary on Jeremiah Cf - They Will Bury the Dead in Topeth) The people of Jerusalem dumped their garbage there and burned it. Therefore, it was a place of continual burning. Later, the homeless dead, with no one to claim their bodies, were thrown in the fire. So it eventually became a symbol of hell. Isaiah says that hell is already prepared for the Assyrian king.

    The expression: Topeth has long been prepared means has been prepared since yesterday. Hell has been prepared since yesterday for the king of Assyria. It is from this expression of yesterday that the rabbis came up with the theory that hell was made on the second day of creation. Because that was the first day that could have a yesterday. For this reason they said that no blessing could be pronounced on that day. Every other day God said it was good, but He doesn’t say that on the second day (because, the rabbis would say, hell was not good).

    So again Isaiah is counseling His people that they need not seek an alliance with Egypt because of their fear of Assyria. What they really needed to do was to draw closer to the One who truly held Assyria’s destiny in His hand. And drawing close to the LORD when we are in trouble sounds like good advice for us also.

 

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