Summary: Isaiah tells the people of Judah that he will be there for them--his obstinate children--even though they rebel against him now.
The Promises of God—Grace to Obstinate Children
For those of you who have had children, did you ever have a particularly obstinate child? All of us have strong willed children. In fact, there are far more strong willed children than compliant children. The scariest part of our family is that our most obstinate child is the most compassionate child so far too. Our most obstinate child is the child we think will most likely take care of us in our old age. But have you ever had a child that you couldn’t tell them anything? That they would rarely ever listen to your advice? That’s what God is feeling with his people Judah.
The Lord looks at his people, the people of Judah, and he says, literally “Hoy!” As in “Oy veh!” God is expressing his frustration using that very Hebrew interjection! “Alas! The obstinate children! I can’t tell them anything! Oh yes, the go for advice, but they don’t come to me. They seek a protective covering, but they don’t want it from my Spirit. They go to Egypt, but not because I advised them to do so.”
If you’ve had that obstinate child in your life, then you know the frustration God is feeling as the fear of Assyria has rushed upon the people of Judah. In his commentary, Leupold says that this text was probably written during the time of King Hezekiah, at the end of the eighth century, during the Assyrian Crisis of Judah. Years prior, his father Ahaz had tried to buy the support of the king of Assyria. But then the Lord blessed him in a mighty way, and so Hezekiah rebelled against Assyria. He had re-taken control of the coastal regions of the Philistines. God was blessing his kingdom and his faithfulness to destroy the idolatry of Judah under his father Ahaz.
But Assyria remains a threat. And as Assyria encroaches on the borders of Judah and threatens to start taking the fortified cities of Judah north of Jerusalem, we discover in this section of Isaiah something that neither the author of the Kings or of the Chronicles tells us—Hezekiah agrees with the counsel of his advisors and sends ambassadors to Egypt to the embassy in the Egyptian delta at Zoan where the Pharaoh’s son was governor, and to Hanes, 50 miles north of Cairo, where Pharaoh Shabako himself had his palace, to seek the protection from Pharaoh in person.
This move on Hezekiah’s part was not the wisest. From a human point of view, Pharaoh Shabako was a very weak Pharaoh. History says that this 25th Dynasty of Egypt was one of the weakest in Egyptian history. From a spiritual point of view, God in his Law had forbidden such alliances with anybody. Israel’s alliance was only to be with God. And if Hezekiah and his advisors had sought out the prophets of the Lord, they would have heard the commandment again from the Holy Spirit not to do so, but to trust in Him instead, to live by faith and not by sight.
But if that isn’t enough, think about what it meant for the people of Judah to go back to Egypt to get a covering of protection from the Pharaoh. It’s willingly going back into the slavery from which Israel was once freed. Why would you go to your previous captors for help? You’ve got one potential new captor coming your way. Why would you go back to your old slave master? In all seriousness, God forbade it in Deuteronomy 17:16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, "You are not to go back that way again."
Let’s take a moment and ask ourselves, just how obstinate we can be. I mean, let’s be real. There’s a Dutch word for being obstinate. You all know it. What is it? Stifkop, right! And I know that in our culture that’s a very loaded word. That’s a fighting word. That’s a word used in an argument. But that’s exactly how Israel is being in not seeking out the Lord. And that’s exactly how we can be in terms of being spiritually resistant to God. We all have those pet sins we love, and frankly, we’re just not ready or willing to give over to Christ, don’t we? If you don’t have those sins about which we resist the Holy Spirit, then you’re more righteous than I am! But for us, they are, as Jerry Bridges would call them, more “respectable sins”; sins that everyone does, and because of that, “I don’t need to deal with them, thank you, Lord.” All of us have issues where we are spiritual stifkops. All of us have sins that we just don’t want to and refuse to deal with. How much we are like Judah. How often we can be God’s obstinate children.