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The TWO-EDGED SWORD
FOR and AGAINST
and the setting is
SIN or SALVATION
DISQUISITION FROM THE BIBLE
Isaiah 54:17, 10:5-21
We come now to Isaiah 54:17.
Here some wrongly apply it to this case of divine protection for Israel. However, in this case, it has a broader reference, for it is to the servants of the Lord, those expressly under His tutelage and protection. To be sure, Israel has certain guarantees even as to its continued existence during its duress as renegade from divine reality, in refusing its Prince of glory, the Messiah; but this is a specific for those whom the Lord knows as His own, and Israel in its divorce, as current, has indeed still a standing in the heart of the Lord, but it is one which involves a broken covenant and not a secured one, except as in mercy God applies the final sequences of the multipartite story.
In this Chapter 54, the topic, following the famous 53, chapter of redemption and of those who DO hear the Lord's voice and salvation, we come to the application in mercy of the profound difference which any one, Jew or Gentile, finds on application to the awesome salvation of God by faith. Afflicted ? indeed, but "I will lay your stones with colorful gems ... All your children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children." THIS is by no means the situation (cf. Leviticus 26 in its succession of divine rebukes for Israel in its divorce from deity) for Israel until it returns (as in Romans 11:25) in that glorious day (Romans 11:12).
It is against those who would assault those who are already in this happy situation, that the promise in this part of Isaiah, is applicable.
"No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD
and their righteousness is from Me, says the LORD."
Is there a slanderer, a distorter, a devious spouter, an evil doer ? They teem against the people who know and serve the Lord of glory, bound in the body of Christ their sacrificial King (as in 49-53). Yet such will not be in the judgment upheld, and against the voices of protest and disengagement from evil words wrongly attributed to them, this will be the one that endures; for God is with them, and so, WHO CAN BE AGAINST them ! Only the ringing tones of evil intonations, execrations and the wanton follies of attack, dismissed as unruly and feeble forces of evil in the judgment. Neither distortion nor caricature nor export of evil mind of foolish imaginations or vicious acts will stand; and as to His servants, Christ has paid for them, and they are His, His blood their ultimate testimony.
We return now to our topic, more precisely Israel the nation and the divine actions in its varied predicaments and perils.
That being so, there is now Isaiah 10:5-21 on which to alight in our journey.
What a compress, a synthetic combination of rebuke and glory, deliverance up to doom and from it, divine determination and human self-elevation is here.
We focus on one of Israel's pet antagonists, one for whom Israel was early a choice piece of tender sirloin, if not indeed fillet mignon with mushrooms on a cold night, to which add the baked potato of temple treasure, expressly set there for rifling. What a sight, an appetite for contemplation before engulfment by greed was there! How the ravening lust of Assyria expressed itself, as we see a little later in the writings of the prophet Isaiah, for example in that notorious self-congratulation of the super-power of the day, in its macrophage gobblings.
In Isaiah 36 for example, we find the emissary of King Sennacherib, a sort of national al-Qaeda in its ravenings, as if allied with Hamas and current Iran's mighty mouth.
"What confidence is this in which you trust ?
Do you speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words ..."
So comes the boastful assault in its psychological warfare phase.
The speaker even duplicates the contemporary Allah-talk we so often hear, in that he claims, like some in the Islamic prophetic movement (IPM) to have a divine power to back him up. He slyly adds:
"But if you say to me, 'We trust in the LORD our God,' is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and Jerusalem,
'You shall worship before this altar' ?"
In other words, he was now digging into the divine, on his own account. Now, despite his vile violence, for which Assyria, like so many current Islamic militants was infamous, he was becoming a very arbiter in religious matters. He could assess Judah's King Hezekiah's revival and indeed his reformation, imagining reformation ruination. Yet in this purging of multiple places for sacrifice, Hezekiah was returning to the singularity of the place for divine sacrifice as for centuries ordained. Of this purge, the ignorant Assyrian tried to make an encounter, as if it were an attack on the very God who in fact had commanded that this be so! There it is, laid out in Deuteronomy 12:5-11, 14:23, 26:2, Joshua 9:27. I Kings 8:29, Psalm 78:68, 132:13-14, and II Chronicles 7:16, 33:4. These all attest this very fact.
Therefore what was he doing that so resembles the militant Islamic verbal assault of today ? He was making it appear that right was wrong, that what was sound was unsound and that what was a species of arrogant misuse of religion contrary to evidence, attestation and verification over a long historical period, both for good and for rebuke, was the path of power!
Now to be sure, current Israel, contemporary version, is still set on a collision course with God; but this too is both ordained and enveloped by them with some little appetite, alas to their grief and continuing discomforture. It is so to this day of writing, July 2009; for repentance, like a Big Ben about to sound, has not yet come to the land; so that little Israel is now being protected EXCLUSIVELY by a divine mercy so profound, that it is filled with the very love of God. It resembles a patient father still loving a chastened son, and longing for his return, and indeed it is all put so succinctly and dramatically in Jeremiah 31:18-20:
" 'I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus:
'You hast chastised me, and I was chastised,
as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke:
turn me, and I shall be turned; for You art the LORD my God.
after I was turned, I repented;
and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh:
I was ashamed, yea, even confounded,
because I did bear the reproach of my youth.'
Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child?
for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still:
therefore My bowels are troubled for him;
I will surely have mercy upon him,' saith the LORD."
How tenderly does the Lord protect what is yet to come, and with what compassion does He seek even for what WILL not come (as in Jeremiah 48 with Moab)! Yet how trenchant is truth when mercy WILL not be received. Alas for the chronic recalcitrant, the bold spokesperson for evil, for even before history began, the Lord who, knowing all, has known it from of old, before the creation so much as happened (Romans 8:29ff., Ephesians 1:4, Isaiah 46:10)!
Thus in the day of Hezekiah, came the evil bloom of the arrogance of Assyria, the non-true religious fantasy of the day allied with military power; and just as is false prophecy in its national assemblages now, or its force-crazed segments, it wagged its tongue and distorted the facts. So does man specialise in such overtures of evil, over the centuries, before the ultimate destiny and doom that confronts non-truth with the eye of the Almighty.
Even for Israel today, though there are adverse facts, and these are powerful - the nation still WILL NOT come to Jesus Christ as Messiah - yet there are holy facts too, that God WILL NOT LET IT GO (so beautifully apostrophied in the Jeremiah passage above). This you see in symbolic but hard factual form, all altogether, in Hosea's account in the first three chapters, and then in Hosea 11, where God makes it clear that HE HIMSELF PERSONALLY is going to be the Redeemer and cover the sin of His people, even of all the remnant to be His. Indeed, to this He assigns a national outcome; and that, it is as in Micah 7 and Isaiah 49, and many other places as so often shown (cf. With Heart and Soul ... Chs. 4, 5, 6, 7).
Zechariah, with the same message in Chs. 3-6, also gives a more detailed account of the bubbling in the Middle East towards the end (Zechariah 12-14), when at long last, Israel has that magnificent dénouement in return to Jesus Christ (Zech. 14:5), which is soon to come (in view of Luke 21:24).
In the name of gods who are not there, have so many assailants come to Israel, each knocking with a pseudo-sublime assurance in which arrogance of flesh in the day of their power, makes up for spirituality and reality, till their number falls due, and their truancy from truth the more obviously appears, This comes, when no longer shielded by force and bluster, whether in the ruin of Sennacherib's Assyrian army, the diminution of papal power to persecute (once so high - Ancient Words .... Ch. 14), the end of Hitler parade in a Berlin bunker, or other shrivellings.
Now as to the ancient day of Hezekiah, at which we are looking to see God's attitude to the lustful assailant, it is noted that God did indeed APPOINT this wayward King of Assyria, Sennacherib by name, not initiating his evil, but the direction which - given it was his option - it would take. Such also was the case with Pharaoh of Egypt. You see its treatment in the principles of Romans 8:22ff. - What if God bore with much patience the blusterings ... it is not as if He did not have concern even for the reprobate, and at times, He has found them as in II Chronicles 33:9-14.
Thus the case was clear. In that ancient day, the Lord deemed that Israel deserved discipline. That, it is fact one. Sennacherib was chosen to deliver it - fact two (Isaiah 10:6). But this appointed king relished his own power, mistook God's use of him for mighty prevailing hubris of his own, like an axe forgetful - if it could think - of the one who wielded it, imagining great things for itself! (Isaiah 10:15ff.).
God put him in place verbally (Isaiah 37:11ff.), and militarily in that order (Isaiah 37:36ff.).
Now let us resume with Isaiah 10. Assyria was in that day ordained to rebuke Israel, but if that King IN SO DOING dared to arrogate power and glory to himself, then he too, and for good reason, would himself be rebuked. If, further, he rioted in the very process of imparting discipline to Israel, and if indeed he dared mock it, then he would learn the meaning of mockery for himself. Again and again we find this divine divulgement: Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind, be arrogant and be reduced, swagger and snap (Hose 8:7).
Thus the Assyrian King would boat (Isaiah 10:5-7), even in direct ascription of the works of God to another source, and he made the FATAL action: he ascribed his devastation on kingdoms in his power to a capacity which would be equally effective against Israel, no gods being able to withstand him.
In view of this (10:7), he not realising his mission and its basis and limits, there came a divine sentence.
"Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, 'I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the glory of his haughty looks."
Israel, in its own carelessness towards God, it too would learn its lesson, for
"the remnant of Israel, and such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, will never again depend on him who defeated them, but will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel."
As to Assyria, did it indeed have power over all gods indifferently ? THAT, God reduced to the asinine level that it deserved. Of this, we read in Isaiah 37:23, where God addresses the self-important swallower up of gods with his own delusions:
"Whom have you reproached and blasphemed ?
"Against whom have you raised your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high ?
"Against the Holy One of Israel. By your servants you have reproached the Lord ..."
Notice here that the voice against Israel, in religious terms, against a nation notable for its God, however much it had failed Him, was fatal.
"Because your rage against Me and your tumult have come up to My ears,
therefore I will put My book in your nose,
and My bridle in your lips,
and I will turn you back by the way which you came."
In railing against sinful Israel, with daring and vulgar effrontery to its God, against whom it had indeed sinned, the King of Assyria did what in the end is done by all false prophets and their followers, when martially minded. And what is it that they do ? It is this: they call like Pharaoh of old, on gods who are not there, and wallow. Thus it happened: and as soon as a powerless Israel becomes the focus, IN DIVINE TERMS, then action stormed and folly was exposed.
Such is the manner of false-prophet bombast. It may take a little time; but in the end there is the whine of the whip. Alas for folly! it is for many the inheritance of pride and the regurgitation of food ill-taken with the appetite of arrogance.