Isaiah Chapter Ten: The hammer of Assyria strikes Israel
This post is part of an ongoing series of posts covering the entire book of Isaiah. Each post covers one chapter in the book. We should remember that the chapter breaks are not part of the original message from the Lord. The message flows from chapter to chapter so we should never think that a vision or message stops at each chapter break. Always read through to find the end of a thought the prophet has made.
Each of these chapters is part of a broad series of visions, warnings, and wisdom God gave to Isaiah. God intended that the visions, wisdom, and warnings would be shared with the nation of Israel. Other nations were involved but the primary focus for the prophet was the nation of Israel.
Who’s the message for?
As we take a look at chapter ten of the book of Isaiah let’s keep something in mind.
The message was to the Nation of Israel thousands of years ago, not America, Europe, or whatever nation you might live in today. The message was directed at the people who first heard it. Prophetic messages many times will have a present, future, and then an end-of-days fulfillment. Good bible students should look for all three but try to determine the present fulfillment first.
We should always ask this question. What did the message mean to the people who first heard it? That’s a very important starting point for any study in bible prophecy. From there we can expand out to look for future meaning and application.
Note: Since Isaiah 10:1-4 continued the thought from Isaiah 9, we already looked at that in the previous Isaiah post. (Here)
If God had a hammer:
Have you ever used a hammer to drive a nail into the wood? Has the hammer ever boasted of its nail-mashing skills? I’m guessing that never happened. I was a carpenter before I became a pastor. I drove, at a minimum, tens of thousands of nails into wood using many hammers over twenty-something years. Never did the hammer turn on me and boast of it’s hammering skills. Though I do remember boating of my own nail-mashing skills. In this passage of scripture the Lord tells the prophet he will use Assyria to hammer Israel. Unfortunately for Assyria, they assumed too much and took credit for the work. God used them as a hammer. He then warns the hammer their day will come as well.
Assyria, the unknowing instrument in the hand of God.
“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Yet he does not mean so, nor does his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off not a few nations.”
Assyria was a successful ‘masher’ of surrounding nations. They boasted of their accomplishment. The Lord called them “the rod of my anger.” He acknowledges that he used them, but the rod became proud of itself. The One who used the rod would not forget. The tool God used, Assyria, didn’t care for Israel or any other nation they conquered. God judges fairly so Assyria would soon have their own day in court before God.
The leader of Assyria boasts that he cannot be stopped:
“For he says, ‘Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria, as I have done to Samaria and her idols, shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?'” 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.” For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am prudent; also I have removed the boundaries of the people, and have robbed their treasuries; so I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man. My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people, and as one gathers eggs that are left, I have gathered all the earth; and there was no one who moved his wing, nor opened his mouth with even a peep.”
Assyria knew that no one could stop them. No one ever had. Their princes had the stature of kings. They boasted of their prior victories. God declared to the proud Assyrians, “I will punish…the arrogant heart.”
The Holy One of Israel will bring a fire
Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it? As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up, or as if a staff could lift up as if it were not wood! Therefore the Lord, the Lord of hosts, Will send leanness among his fat ones; and under his glory, He will kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. So the Light of Israel will be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame; it will burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day. And it will consume the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field, both soul, and body; and they will be as when a sick man wastes away. Then the rest of the trees of his forest will be so few in number that a child may write them.
In this passage, we begin to see how passionate the Lord is for Israel despite their rebellious ways. He didn’t love the Jewish people because they were better than anyone else. He loved them as an example, to the world, of his unwavering faithfulness to his own. The Lord committed himself. He gave his Word that he would never let Israel completely fall away. He uses language that shows how committed he is to Israel. God is the “Light of Israel” who will punish the Assyrian. He also is the “Holy One” who would not let Israel be cast aside forever. That same commitment that we see toward Israel is available to any follower of Christ today.
Destruction is certain, but a remnant will return:
And it shall come to pass in that day that 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, in truth.
The remnant will return,
the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them will return; the destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a determined end in the midst of all the land. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts:
“O My people, who dwell in Zion,
do not be afraid of the Assyrian. He shall strike you with a rod and lift up his staff against you, in the manner of Egypt. For yet a very little while and the indignation will cease, as will My anger in their destruction.” And the LORD of hosts will stir up a scourge for him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; as His rod was on the sea, so will He lift it up in the manner of Egypt. It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil.
There is a sad irony in this prophetic passage. Israel often made treaties and trusted in the nations that eventually conquered them. The Lord warned them to trust him not surrounding countries. Every time they trusted in others, instead of God, the result was devastating. The same is true for us. We need to trust in the Lord, not our own abilities. Many times our trust is the one who signs our paycheck rather than the One who holds the universe together.
The arrival of the Assyrian army:
He has come to Aiath, he has passed Migron; at Michmash, he has attended to his equipment. They have gone along the ridge, they have taken up lodging at Geba. Ramah is afraid, Gibeah of Saul has fled. Lift up your voice, O daughter of Gallim! Cause it to be heard as far as Laish; O poor Anathoth! Madmenah has fled, the inhabitants of Gebim seek refuge. As yet he will remain at Nob that day; he will shake his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.
Oh, that dreadful day when judgment finally comes. I held an envelope in my hand recently, I stared at it and somberly commented to my wife, “This is the day I feared most.” I made the statement with a sarcastic grin on my face. I opened the envelope and looked at the numbers. The property tax bill was twice as large as ever. I was joking about this being so dreadful. I knew the bill would be large, I was only making light of something I knew was coming.
Death & Destruction
For Israel, they couldn’t make light of their situation. Death and destruction were literally at their doorstep. What should have given them solace were the words of God in the previous passage. “The remnant of Israel,” is the phrase that should give the Jewish people hope. From the time the Assyrian army entered their borders till today and into the future, that phrase is the tiny fragment of hope the Jewish people should cling too. They will need that hope one more time.
The LORD, the Mighty One humbles the proud:
Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, will lop off the bough with terror; those of high stature will be hewn down, and the haughty will be humbled. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.
We looked at this passage almost exclusively from the standpoint of Israel past. In the future, another Assyrian leader will enter modern Israel. He will be killed in battle and the world will rejoice. That leader will be the mysterious figure the Bible refers to as the Antichrist. I’ll address his identity in future posts.
Keep reading and studying.
More from Isaiah.