The Light of Isra'el Will Become a Fire

10: 12-19

     DIG: Read 9:13-14 aloud, accenting the tone of voice and attitude expressed in the many times the words I and my are used. What root problem does this reveal? According to 10:15 what have they gotten backwards? What is ADONAI's response to the pride of Assyria in 10:15-19? Compare 9:16 with 37:36; what do you think happened here? How is God both like a light and a fire in 10:16-19? What is the truth about the LORD expressed in each idea?

    REFLECT: When was the last time you tried to accomplish something through your own strength and wisdom? How did it work out? Did it last? Was it satisfying? Why or why not? Who has the power in your life? Who holds the steering wheel of your life? Who sits on the throne of your heart? Do you know someone who believes the lie? Does God seem more like a guiding light or a consuming fire right now? How so? When have you experienced Him in the other way? What have you learned about the LORD from these experiences?

    The indignant answer of the prophet interrupts the blasphemy of the Assyrian king who ventures to compare the Light of Isra'el with the useless heathen idols. Isaiah declares that Assyria was not acting out of ignorance. Rather, she was strutting around like a peacock, arrogant and cruel. Therefore, when Ha'Shem has finished all His work against Mount Tziyon and Yerushalayim, He will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes (10:12). The word finished is a tailor’s term, meaning to snip off a thread when the sewing is done. After using Assyria to punish Jerusalem, God would then punish Assyria because of the king’s willful pride evidenced by his haughty look (Psalms 18:27 and 101:5; Proverbs 6:17 and 30:13). This transitional sentence makes it perfectly clear that the punishment Samaria and Jerusalem endures (10:5-11) will not be done in spite of ADONAI, but because of Him. In addition, Assyria’s judgment will be fully justified as a result of her greedy and arrogant attitude.

    The Assyrian king bragged about his abilities and achievements when he said: For by the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a Mighty One I subdued their kings (10:13). The ease at which Assyria conquered other nations made them prideful. The king assumed the victories were a result of his own skill, intelligence and cunning. Six times he said I, and three times he used the word my. The king felt that what was achieved had been done by his strength and wisdom. Then he boasted about his irresistible power. As one reaches into a nest, so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations; as men gather abandoned eggs, so I gathered all the countries; not one flapping a wing, or opened its mouth to chirp (10:14). It was like stealing eggs when the mother bird was gone from her nest. It was that easy. None of these nations offered any effectual opposition.

    The king of Assyria believed the lie that he controlled his own destiny. The more his pride swelled, the more he thought he took the place of God. He grabbed the steering wheel of his own life and in effect said, “I’m driving now!” When he said: Like a Mighty One I subdued their kings (10:13), he usurped ADONAI’s authority and position, because that phrase is an description of the LORD Himself (Genesis 49:24; Isaiah 1:24, 10:34; 33:21, 49:26, 60:16). This produced a sense of self-entitlement, thinking that he could justify anything he did. If he wanted to reach for the wealth of the nations, as men gather abandoned eggs (10:14), then that was his right. But it didn’t make it right. Superior skills and abilities are a gracious gift from God given for His purposes. They do not represent an innate superiority over others to do with as you please. Believing that lie would eventually lead to Assyria’s and his destruction.

    Because of Assyria’s willful pride, the LORD said He would judge the king and his empire. Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it? As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, or a club brandish the one who is not wood (10:15)! Assyria was merely an ax, or saw, or a rod in God’s hand; Assyria’s strength was really her weakness. When she boasts, it is like a tool boasting against its maker. It is not the rod who lifts up the person, but the person who lifts up the rod. Ultimately, the strength is not in the rod, but in the hand of the one who swings it. By itself it will lie still on the ground. So this is Assyria; she is a rod in the hand of God. And since Assyria did not know that, judgment must surely come.

    God said He would destroy the Assyrian army by a wasting disease and fire. All health, vigor and glory in that Assyria exulted would be eaten away and all that will be left will be a wasted, burning carcass. Isaiah prophesied: Therefore, ADONAI, the LORD of heaven’s armies, will send a wasting disease upon His sturdy warriors; under His pomp a fire will be kindled like a blazing flame (10:16). First, God will send a wasting disease upon them (see Gw – Then the Angel of the LORD Put To Death a Hundred and Eighty Thousand Men in the Assyrian Camp). This is among the punishments mentioned in the Torah. The LORD said: Then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life (Leviticus 26:16). At another time Moses announced: ADONAI will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish (Deuteronomy 28:22). Therefore, to show the uniqueness of the punishment, God will not use a second army to wipe out the Assyrians but strike them with a wasting disease.

    Isaiah stresses that ADONAI is the ultimate authority. God is the ruler of the world, not Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon or Sennacherib. Heaven’s angelic armies belong to the LORD and they march to His call (Joshua 5:15). For one who had seen the LORD high and exalted (6:1), Assyria’s enormous army, and suffocating pride, meant very little. Before the consuming reality of ADONAI, all human works are merely timber to be burned up.

    Secondly, the Assyrians, marching on Jerusalem, were walking straight into the fire! The wrath of God would burn against their commanders, who are the thorns, and common officers and soldiers, who are the briers. The Light of Israel will become a fire, and their Holy One a flame and Assyria would fall in a single night (see Gp – The Timeline of Sennacherib’s Invasion of Judah). It will burn and consume Sennacherib's thorns and his briers. The splendor of his forests and fertile fields it will completely destroy, as when a sick man wastes away (10:17-18). Thus, although some are counted as thorns, while others are seen as briers, the difference doesn’t mean much to a raging fire.

    And the remaining trees (soldiers) of his forests (army) will be so few that a child could write them down (10:19). The result is that there will be so few soldiers left that a child could write down all of their names. There is a rabbinical tradition that only ten men survived and, as this number is represented in Hebrew by the letter yod, which is a mere stroke, a little child could do it. The motif that connects the punishment of Assyria with the remnant of Israel that survives is seen next.


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