In our study of Isaiah chapter thirty one, we look at the futility of running to men for help when the real answer is to trust in God. There is an old song called "Where could I go (but to the Lord)" that came to mind when I was studying this chapter. It speaks of the same type of situation that Jerusalem was facing during Isaiah's time where there is danger and you have a choice to either stand on your faith or to run to men for help. In chapter 30, Isaiah reassured the people that God would fight the battle for them and, now, he continues by describing what will happen if they look to men for the help that only God can provide.
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.
Isaiah gives a strong warning about what will happen to the people if they run to Egypt to protect them from the Assyrians. We might ask: What is wrong with allowing others to help? The first thing is that they were looking for someone to do what God had already promised to do Himself. The second thing is that it is a form of idolatry in elevating men to the position of sustainer which is God's place.
Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against that wicked nation, against those who help evildoers.
This verse can be a little bit confusing but it speaks of the fact that God would be against the nation of Egypt if they tried to help the people of Jerusalem. He goes on to describe the people that trust in the Egyptians as "evildoers" and it may seem harsh but that is the way that God looks at those who refuse to trust in Him. That fact should cause each of us to ask ourselves whether we lead people to trust in God or do we teach them to rely on the good will of men.
But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, those who help will stumble, those who are helped will fall; all will perish together.
Isaiah warns the people of Jerusalem that, even if the Egyptians decided to try to help them, they would fail because they were up against the will of God and not mere men. Even as Christians, we often forget that God is in control of all things. We can worry about perceived dangers and even try to form alliances for protection but our hope is in the Lord. Even men with the best of intentions will eventually let us down if we look to them for help. Isaiah makes it clear that this proposed alliance between Israel and Egypt was an alliance against His will. This is a picture of what will happen in the last days as nations will join together to attempt to overthrow the will of God for Jerusalem.
This is what the Lord says to me: 'As a lion growls, a great lion over its prey - and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against it, it is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor - so the Lord Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights. Like birds hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will "pass over" it and will rescue it.'
God compares His will with a lion that is feasting on its prey and is threatened by a band of shepherds. Just as men do not scare a big lion from its food, the plans of men to thwart the will of God does not concern Him. He had promised to protect Jerusalem from the Assyrians and, now, He looks to the final triumph of His will over the feeble efforts of men. He calls to mind the Passover when Israel was spared from death and freed from the bondage of the Egyptians and promises to do the same in the future. This passage speaks of the time just before the start of the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ.
Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against. For in that day every one of you will reject the idols of silver and gold your sinful hands have made.
Isaiah calls the people of Jerusalem to repent and put their trust in the Lord. He sees the fact that, when Jesus shows up to defend Jerusalem, the people will realize that He is the Lord and they will turn from their idols. That battle will demonstrate to the entire world that there is only one true God and that He is in control of all things. This will set up the one thousand year reign of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.
'Assyria will fall by no human sword; a sword, not of mortals, will devour them. They will flee before the sword and their young men will be put to forced labor. Their stronghold will fall because of terror; at the sight of the battle standard their commanders will panic,' declares the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, whose furnace is in Jerusalem.
The events described here is exactly what happened when the Assyrians marched on Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 18:35). The angel of the Lord went into their camp and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men. They then withdrew back to Nineveh just as God promised here. So, what does it mean when it talks of the fire in Zion and the furnace in Jerusalem? Fire and a furnace speaks of refinement and making something pure. Why did God take care of the Assyrians? He did it to refine the faith of the people of Jerusalem and the same type of thing will happen in the last days. It is just amazing that all it takes is a tiny amount of faith and that is given to us by God. That little bit is refined and grown as we see Him at work in the situations that we face.