Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 84

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 84

We look at Chapter 31 today and Isaiah is warning King Hezekiah and the people not to send to Egypt for help. I think Isaiah must have preached this message for quite some time but Hezekiah entered into the alliance anyway. In the end, Isaiah was proven right, because Egypt never showed up in Judah's hour of need.

"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 31:1) We talked the other day about how it's a human tendency to want to turn to the Lord last, after we have tried everything else. I am not really sure what the cause of this is, but in Judah's case I think their fear of the advancing Assyrian army was greater than their fear of God. They wanted to meet a powerful army with another powerful army (which they did not possess themselves) and turned to Egypt's military might. They had forgotten that all the hosts of heaven were at the Lord's disposal. The prophet Elisha, outnumbered and surrounded, once prayed for the Lord to open the eyes of his servant who was in a panic, and the Lord answered, "The Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." (2 Kings 6:17b) Elisha knew God's army was there because he believed it on faith, but the servant needed some extra help. He needed something he could see with his eyes. In the days of King Hezekiah, it was easier for the people to put their faith in something they could see, like the Egyptian army, instead of having the faith of Elisha that God's mighty army was fighting for them.

The Egyptians were not going to be successful against Assyria. They also were not going to be successful against Babylon, who would follow Assyria. "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. 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 31:2-3) The Lord keeps His promises; "He does not take back His words". But Egypt? They will fail to be any help. They will be defeated in the one major battle they attempted against the Assyrians and will run back to their own nation. They won't be able to make good on their promise to help their allies push back the Assyrian army and relieve them of paying tribute to its king. 

Isaiah wants to make it very clear that he is speaking words received directly from Almighty God. These words are trusted and true. It's one thing to scorn the word of man but it's another thing to dismiss the word of the living God. "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 a bird hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; He will shield it and deliver it, He will 'pass over' it and rescue it.'" (Isaiah 31:4-5) Judah will be cut off from all help, facing Assyrian soldiers. When Jerusalem is delivered her people will know the hand of the Lord did it. The Lord is going to place them in a situation where He is their only help and they will never be able to doubt their help came from Him. 

Have you ever been in a circumstance that you couldn't fix and that no human help could fix? You knew if things turned around it was going to be by the power of the living God? Isn't that a beautiful place to be? I can look back on several times in my life and know it was God alone who delivered me. I was incapable of doing it myself and the problems were too big for even my closest friends to solve. I knew it was going to take a supernatural act of the Lord. I believe He orchestrates our circumstances so that, from time to time, we are reminded that He is God and that all things are possible with Him. The Lord so graciously puts wonderful loving family members and friends into our lives but there will be things they can't help us with, no matter how much they want to. We encounter problems that need help from above. And when we know our deliverance depends on Him alone and He comes through for us, our faith is strengthened like never before. The faith of those who love us is strengthened too. 

The people need to get back to the roots of their faith and trust in the One about whom King David said, "I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." (Psalm 18:1-2) Isaiah instructs the people to return to the One who can deliver them from the enemy. "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 31:6-7)

"'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." (Isaiah 31:8-9) This seems to be a twofold prophecy. First, the Assyrian soldiers will fall through a plague the Lord sends on them. Jerusalem will not have to fight the battle. The people of Jerusalem will get up in the morning to find the enemy army lying dead. Second, the entire nation of Assyria is going to fall. In a little while, the nation that Jerusalem fears will be conquered.

God describes Himself as a lion in today's passage. A lion that comes out of the forest to snatch its prey has no fear of the shouting of the shepherds or the waving of staffs. He knows he is able to take them all on. The Lord has the people of Judah securely in His hands. The enemy may shout and rage, waving battle swords, but He is able to take them all on. Of us who have placed our faith in our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus says, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:28) 

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