Summary: This is from a mid-week Bible Study, mostly a brief outline and some study notes with bibliography at the end.
Responding to the Discipline of God
Intro. Ill.: A family trapped by a raging forest fire which is rapidly advancing toward them, blown by fierce winds / The father lights another fire and burns out a nearby area ahead of the approaching wildfire. The family moves to this burned out area and the wildfire passes around them because there is nothing left to burn where they stand. The fire of God’s wrath against sin fell on Christ on the cross and those that stand there are saved from the approaching fire of God’s wrath.
This passage is a prophetic poem consisting of four stanzas, each one ending with the sentence: “For all of this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.”
This was written to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They had been warned about the coming judgment on their sin numerous times. This prophetic poem speaks of the unrelenting anger of God against the sin of his people. It also speaks of the unrelenting love of God, “for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.”
Each of the four stanzas has a slightly different emphasis.
1. Their pride was leading to their fall (9:8-12)
a. They were rejecting God’s word in self-sufficient pride.
b.V. 8 – They faced the same issue Judah faced, i.e. would they accept by faith and live by faith in the word of the Lord?
c.V.9 Pride and arrogance was displayed in their feelings of superiority and self-sufficiency. They were relying on their own resources and reasoning.
d.V.10 “Bricks fallen” – what should have been seen as a warning shot over the bow of the ship of state and led to humble repentance was completely misread and therefore not properly responded to. They saw it as an opportunity to display their strength by making the future brighter than the past (mud bricks replaced by cut stone and sycamores replaced by cedars).
e.V.12 Israel was busy making what they thought were smart political alliances, but they turned out to be the means of their destruction.
f.Winston Churchill’s final volume on WWII had as its theme “How the great democracies triumphed and so were able to resume the follies which had so nearly cost them their life.”
g.Where there is not reflection on the reason for God’s anger there will be no humility and no repentance.
h.God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble
2.Their act of ignoring God was leading to an absence of wise leadership. (9:13-17)
a.There was no repentance so the Lord was undermining the leadership and widespread suffering was the result.
b.V.13 By stating what they had failed to do, Isaiah was telling them the answer to the problem of God’s wrath. We flee from the wrath of God by running into the arms of God. The fire of wrath is quenched in the sight of real repentance. Returning to God brings redemption (Prodigal son story).
c.V.14 Head and tail = one end to the other and palm branch and bulrush = highest to the lowest
d.V.17 Both the leaders and those who follow are held responsible because leaders had a choice as to how they led and followers had a choice as to who to follow.
e.Orphans and widows are special objects of God’s concern and when God withdraws his compassion from them that nation is clearly rejected.
f.The point is that this was not wrath without reason.
3.Their self-seeking was leading to their self-destruction (9:18-21)
a. V.18 “Wickedness” = life away from and without God in consideration. Once this is allowed this kind of wickedness takes on a life of its own and burns like a fire, it is self-destructive.
b.V.19 It is self-destructive but it is God who wills it to be so. There is built into the very nature of life in this world a cause and effect. Wickedness, the cause in this case, has the effect of destroying the ones who embrace it. It is what Hawthorne called the “bosom serpent.”
c.V.20 These people were consumers of the highest order. They were bent on getting more and more and the aim was to satisfy their inner longings even at the cost of damage to others and themselves. In spite of what Isaiah calls “devouring” they shall “not be satisfied.” Sin never satisfies the real needs of the human soul.
d.There would be such self-centeredness that brotherly love and kindness would be thrown out the window. (Manasseh and Ephraim were the brother tribes as descendants of Joseph).
4.Their selfish use of power would lead to the departure of God’s presence (10:1-4).
a.Leadership is again in view here but not in the same way as in the second stanza. There leadership lacked the wisdom necessary to lead. They were incompetent. Here the leadership is immoral. They are using their position to craft legislation for personal gain. They are willing to use their position, not to protect, but to plunder the most helpless in society – the widow and the orphan.