Summary: Just what did God want from Israel and Judah. What was he doing? Our passage helps sort these questions through.
Isaiah 10:20-34 Real Reliance
3/25/01e D. Marion Clark
It is hard to figure out punishment, at least when you are on the other side of it. We’ve all been punished and usually we thought at the time that it wasn’t quite fair. Sure, we may have admitted that we should have been punished, but it never seemed to quite fit the crime. After all, we never meant to do wrong, at least to be really bad. Of course, the more trouble we got into, the more unjust the punishment seemed. It sure seemed like we were being picked out more than our fellow law breakers; it seemed like our parents or teachers or whatever authority worked us over more than others and looked for us to do wrong.
Israel, both Israel and Judah, certainly wondered if God has chosen them among all the nations for punishment rather than blessing. Both kingdoms had it rough with the neighbors and the prophets certainly were not encouraging. It seemed that they could do little right. If they stood up against the powers of the day, they got whipped; if they tried to form alliances with those powers, the prophets would pronounce doom on them. Just what did God want from them and what was he doing?
Our passage helps sort these questions through.
In the previous passage, God turned his attention finally to Assyria. He had raised Assyria to power to be his instrument for punishment for Israel and Judah. Assyria, puffed up with pride, had other plans, which included world domination. God’s warning is, Once I am through with the judgment of Israel and Judah, I will deal with you.
In this passage Isaiah helps to put the whole subject of judgment, especially for God’s people, into perspective.
20 In that day the remnant of Israel,
the survivors of the house of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him
who struck them down
but will truly rely on the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob
will return to the Mighty God.
22 Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea,
only a remnant will return.
Destruction has been decreed,
overwhelming and righteous.
23 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, will carry out
the destruction decreed upon the whole land.
The judgment of Israel (both kingdoms) is a judgment that preserves and purifies. It is a judgment that ultimately brings atonement.
In that day refers to the judgment that will be directed towards Assyria, who also represents all of Israel’s oppressors including Babylon still to come. In that day of judgment against Israel’s enemies, God’s people will be delivered and come to truly rely on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel.
This refusal to trust God has been a sore spot in the relationship between God and Israel. He delivers his people from Egypt, forms them into a nation, carries them through the wilderness, gives them victory over the settled nations in the Promised Land, gives them great judges and kings, sends them mighty prophets, and still they turn to idolatry, to alliances with pagan countries, and to trusting their own abilities and power for protection and success. Judah, through Ahaz, even looked to Assyria for protection and embraced that countries idols and religious practices.
So, out of the judgment will come a holy remnant who will rely on God and remain faithful to him (21). Verse 22 is hard to follow. Is Isaiah saying that though the number people of Israel used to be like the sand, there will now only be a few remaining? Is he encouraging Israel saying, But her people will be like the sand again when the remnant return?
It could be both ideas are correct. Only a small remnant will survive the judgment, but that remnant will grow to be like the sand.
Destruction, i.e. the judgment will come and it will be thorough (22b,23), but it will be a righteous judgment – righteous in that the punishment will justly fit the crime and righteous in that a righteous people will be the result. This supposed is the intent of punishment – to bring about repentance and change in the offender; God’s judgment will bring such results.
Verses 24-27 then give assurance to Israel that the judgment will not be total and that the instruments of his punishment will themselves will receive an even greater punishment.
24 Therefore, this is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says:
“O my people who live in Zion,
do not be afraid of the Assyrians,
who beat you with a rod
and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did.
25 Very soon my anger against you will end
and my wrath will be directed to their destruction.”