In our study of Isaiah chapter thirty, we look at the fact that the Lord is our strength and help in times of trouble. We look at Judah and Israel's opposite reactions when they were faced with threats from Assyria.
'Woe to the obstinate children,' declares the Lord, 'to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh's protection, to Egypt's shade for refuge.'
Isaiah relays the words of God to the people of Jerusalem speaking of the fact that the northern kingdom (Israel) had formed an alliance with Egypt when faced with threats from Assyria. We see the details of these events in 2 Kings 7 and Isaiah reminds the people that this was not a part of God's plan for His people. He calls them obstinate children because they ignored the warnings of Amos about the coming judgment at the hands of the Assyrians. They were "heaping sin upon sin" because of the fact that they put their faith (trust) in someone other than God. The reference to Egypt's shade speaks of someone trying to avoid the heat of the day by finding a shade tree. In a sense, when it got hot in Samaria, they went to Egypt to look for their help instead of trusting in the Lord.
'But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame, Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace. Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace.'
God reminds the people of Jerusalem that Egypt did not protect Israel and save them from the judgment at the hands of the Assyrians. He speaks of shame and disgrace as one that has been found out to be a fraud. The people of the northern kingdom had claimed to be God's people but, when the going got tough, the truth was revealed. This is a reminder that God allows tough times in the lives of His people so that they will grow in their faith (trust) of Him.
A prophecy concerning the animals of the Negev: Through a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes, the envoys carry their riches on donkeys' backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation, to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.
Isaiah continues to tell of the fact that Israel's efforts to form an alliance with Egypt to save them from the Assyrians was doomed to failure. The last part of the passage is an unfortunate translation and it is better translated in the KJV. It speaks of the fact that God called Israel to rest in Him but, in their pride (rahab), they could not sit still and trust in Him. That is one of the great challenges even in the life of a Christian. When we are faced with troubling situations, the flesh tells us that we have to find a way to fix or get out of the situation. Meanwhile, God is calling us to rest in Him and trust Him to get us through.
Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.
The tough times grow us in our faith but our reaction to them can help others to grow as well. The experience of Israel is a witness to us that our hope and help only comes from the Lord.
For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction. They say to the seers, 'See no more visions!' and to the prophets, 'Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophecy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!'
Isaiah goes on to tell us what was to be written down about the people of Israel and their rebellion in this matter. We see that their rebellion was not because of the fact that they did not know any better. They had been warned but told the prophets to basically shut up.
Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: 'Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.'
Isaiah continues to recount the events that preceded the fall of the northern kingdom. We see, here, that the name of God that is used is "Holy One" and it was intentionally used to underscore the fact that God is separate and not a part of some alliance. Israel had rejected the promises of God and had put their hope in an alliance with Egypt but that alliance is described as a cracked and bulging wall. This was a reminder to Jerusalem and is also one to us that God is not to be our "plan B" to be used in case all other efforts fail. He is to be set apart (holy) in our hearts as the One that is in control and has the power to protect us. If, like Israel, we choose to look to allies in this world to help us instead of trusting in the Lord, we will find out that they too are like a cracked wall. The wall might make you feel good for a time but it really does not change the situation. We are also reminded of the fact that this attitude of alliances will be embraced in the last days and will make it possible for the antichrist to rise to power.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.'
God reminded the northern kingdom that He was in control and that all they had to do was to sit still and trust in Him. They did not do that, so they would face the consequences. The same type of thing applies to us as Christians. When things look their darkest, we can choose to wait on the Lord or we can search for a solution on our own. If we choose to try to fix things on our own, then, God will allow us to do so but we will have to deal with the results from our bad decision.
'You said, "No, we will flee on horses." Therefore you will flee! You said, "We will ride off on swift horses." Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.'
Isaiah continues to describe what happened to the northern kingdom when they chose to run to Egypt for help instead of repenting and trusting in the Lord. He refers to Deuteronomy 32:30 and the fact that Moses had predicted that Israel would turn to idolatry instead of trusting in God. With the reference to the flagstaff and banner, Isaiah spoke of the fact that Israel's lack of faith and the resulting exile would be a sign (testimony) to Judah and Jerusalem.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Even as God handed Israel over to the Assyrians, there was still the promise of mercy and compassion because they were His chosen people. Once they were in exile, they would have no choice but to wait and trust in God to deliver them. Those who remembered that fact did not have to worry about the future as they could be confident that God would keep His promises. Those who did not, would continue to worry about what was going to happen to them. So, what does this have to do with us as Christians in the world today? We, too, can learn from the history of Israel. When we are faced with difficult situations, we can choose to trust God and wait on Him or we can try to run to others for help. If we wait on the Lord and see His deliverance, we will grow in our faith and it will be easier to trust in Him when a bigger challenge comes along. If we run to others for help, they might help us with our present trouble but we cannot be sure that they will be there every time. At some point, they will let us down.
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
Now, Isaiah speaks of the situation that faces Jerusalem and he basically says that they do not have to suffer the same fate as the northern kingdom. He reminds them of God's promise of grace if they would simply turn to Him and trust only in Him. Isaiah goes on to say that they won't even have to wait for "God's timing" but reminds them that he was prepared to immediately act on their behalf. This is a reminder to us that "waiting on the Lord" does not always mean it will be some period of time before He answers. Sometimes, it means turning to Him first for the answer instead of using faith as a sort of backup plan.
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'
Once the people turned back to the Lord, they would be able to hear and understand the words of the Lord as delivered by His prophets. This is a big contrast to the northern kingdom where they were told to keep quiet. It is a reminder to us as well that God will not force us to listen and do what He says but He will give us the direction and the ability to make a choice.
Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, 'Away with you!'
The first thing that the people do once they are able to hear the words of God again is to throw out their idols. This is due to the fact that they realize that God is holy (set apart) and that He does not share His place with anything.
He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.
Isaiah shares the fact that, not only would God hear the cry of His people, but He would also take care of them, Here, the prophet speaks of the Millennial Reign and the fact that the land of Israel will once again be very rich and productive. The "day of great slaughter" refers to the battle where Satan leads the nations against Jerusalem just before the arrival of Jesus to deliver His people (see Revelation 19). The end of this battle will start the Millennial Reign and the "streams of water" refers to the fact that the people will be taught about the things of God by Jesus. The days and nights will be much brighter just because of the presence of Jesus Christ. This is preparation for the new Jerusalem where the glory of the Lord will provide all of its light (see Revelation 21). The bruises and wounds that Isaiah speaks of refers to the suffering of the Jewish people that is growing in our world today. This suffering at the hands of the nations will be ended with the arrival of Jesus and the final battle. So, what about the part that says "he inflicted" the wounds? The suffering that afflicts God's people even today is allowed by God and it has a purpose which is to draw them to Him and His saving grace. We are reminded of the fact that, even for this final battle, it is God that draws the nations against Jerusalem (see Ezekiel 38) so that His glory and power can be displayed to the nations and to His people.
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.
Isaiah continues to describe the moments just before the start of the Millennial Reign and, here, he describes the second coming of Jesus Christ. This is a stark contrast to the peaceful baby being born in a manger as we see that Jesus' return is with wrath at the fact that so many have rejected Him and His authority.
His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck. He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; he places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray.
Isaiah describes Jesus' return as being as unstoppable as a river at flood stage and he tells of the fact that the nations have been drawn to Jerusalem. We might ask what is the "bit" that Isaiah speaks of is talking about. It speaks of the false belief that man can do anything if we would just all band together. This is the ultimate act of idolatry as the people band together in an attempt to take control of the city of Jerusalem even though God has set aside that city for Himself.
And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people playing pipes go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel.
Here, we see a clear separation of God's people and those who have rejected Jesus Christ. Those that have rejected Him and come against His city are subjected to judgment while His people sing and rejoice. This is a reminder to us that, if we wait on the Lord and His timing, He will take care of those who threaten His people. Today, there are all kinds of man made efforts to bring peace to Jerusalem. We can choose to run after all sorts of people or governments to intervene on our behalf (much like Israel did when faced with the threat from the Assyrians) or we can confidently wait for Jesus to return to take up the fight.
The Lord will cause people 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.
Why is God going to draw the nations to Jerusalem for a great battle before the Millennial Reign? We see that its purpose is to demonstrate once and for all the power of God Almighty. This is truly a "drop the mic" type of event where, once Jesus shows up, it is over!
The voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria; with his rod he will strike them down. Every stroke the Lord lays on them with his punishing club will be to the music of timbrels and harps, as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm.
Now, Isaiah returns to talking about the situation that the residents of Jerusalem were facing at the time. He describes how God will take care of the Assyrian threat even as His people celebrate and worship with musical instruments.
Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its 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.
Topheth is a place in the southeast end of the valley of Hinnom which is south of Jerusalem. Basically it was the place where the trash was taken out of the city and burned so that there was constantly a fire burning and a stench that filled the air. Although the fires do not burn there today, the place was a picture of the fiery pit of hell that awaits those who reject Jesus Christ. Isaiah uses the picture of this place to reassure the people of Jerusalem that the Assyrians would be taken away from the city and the threat would be eliminated. The key was for them to wait on the Lord as he says that Topheth was "long prepared" for this time. The same thing goes for us as we face threats and trials in the world today.