The War [WW II] and God’s Purposes.
ISAIAH 10: 5-34, speaking prophetically of events many hundreds of years before Christ, and with a possible final fulfilment yet future, presents a striking parallel with present day conditions. We may therefore conclude that it has a message for us of first-rate importance.
There are three principal matters left on record here for our "admonition"; that is the word the Apostle Paul uses in 1 Cor. 10: 11, (R.V.) and he tells us, by the Holy Spirit, that the divine writing of Israel's history is "for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come."
We are called to give our serious consideration to:
(1) The Indignation of the Lord.
Twice this word is used (vv. 5 and 25). The indignation of the Lord is not some colourless attitude of the mind, the only effect of which is to bring unhappiness to the person who exercises it, as is frequently the case with small and cowardly souls. It is a thing of character.
(i) The character of divine indignation is divine wrath. So in verse 6, the arresting expression used is "the people of my wrath." We can hardly fail to connect with this a similar expression in Eph. 2: 3, "the children of wrath."
The wrath of God is an infinitely terrible thing; equally with the love of God, it is a thing that must be reckoned with. It is the ever-present reaction of the divine character of infinite holiness to sin. It shows itself in wrath, ever present, where sin is present.
(ii) The object of God's indignation showing itself in the energy of wrath is stated in verse 6, "against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath," that is, the nation of Judah.
(iii) The reason of the wrath of God was their sin and in particular, the sin of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, whether in nations or individuals, incurs the wrath of God. Christ's severest words were addressed to hypocrites: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites."
Let me preface my application by recording my sure conviction that Britain is waging this present war for the cause of righteousness, and I cannot doubt that eventually God will vindicate the right.
But I have an equally sure and deep-seated conviction that God has a controversy with us, and that our present troubles, from one standpoint, are an exhibition of God's indignation against our national sins. We too might be called an hypocritical nation.
We profess to be a Christian nation but in point of fact, there is much, very much, that is far from Christian, in spite of all our light. The irreligion of the nation is too obvious to need argument. Organized religion is largely a lifeless thing; called Christian but lacking in those fundamental principles upon which true Christianity is built up.
Need I enlarge upon our glaring national sins? Our ignoring of God and His claims; our criticism or neglect and culpable ignorance of His Word; our profanation of the Lord's Day; the degeneration of moral standards; the inordinate love of pleasure; the drink traffic; the curse of gambling; social reforms long overdue for real, serious, fearless handling.
God's indignation rises against such things whether in nations or individuals, and the degree of their light will be the measure of their guilt.
And, oh! that we might recognize, and recognize it nationally, that "the present distress" is the chastening hand of God upon us.
As Isaiah saw the burning indignation of God against Judah, he saw also that—
(iv) It was remedial. As a result of His wrath, a remnant would return to the mighty God (v. 21).
Many hundreds are praying daily for a like blessed result now, a remnant returning to the Lord. There is a clamant need for repentance, a clarion call to repent; a call to the professed people of God to repent; may He stir us up, awaken us, revive us again; and there is a call to the sinner to repent. "Repent ye therefore and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that, so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3: 19).
(2) The Instrument of the Lord.
The instrument God chose to pour out His wrath upon Judah was the great and overwhelmingly powerful nation of Assyria. "Ho Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, the staff in whose hand is mine indignation" (v. 5). Under Ahaz, their king, Judah had made a league with their powerful neighbour Assyria. It was probably similar to what we now call a pact of non-aggression, and probably made, on Judah's part, out of fear.
As her weak neighbours have feared Germany, and some have made pacts of non-aggression with the Reich, so Judah made a league with her neighbour and stayed upon Assyria (v. 20), that is, trusted him, but to her own undoing; she stayed upon him with whom pacts were as easily broken as signed, when it suited his purpose to do so. She stayed upon him that eventually smote her (v. 20). How tremendously up to date it all is.
And now the prophet sees the instrument of the Lord for the judgment of Judah in the shape of the invading armies of Assyria, and at the end of the chapter, gives an amazingly realistic prophecy of the horrors of invasion.
The swift offensive is seen in verse 28 as he passes from one objective to another, carrying all before him in his shock tactics.
Here, in verse 28, is the swiftness of the offensive, but in verse 29, we learn of the surprise of the campaign—"They are gone over the pass." Had a series of "incredible mistakes" been made, as the late French Premier suggested in the early stages of the tragic battle for the Channel ports? Or was there treachery in the camp? At any rate, says the prophet, "They are gone over the pass."
Archbishop Lowth describes that pass of Mishmash as being a very narrow passage between two sharp hills or rocks (1 Sam. 14: 4 and 5), "where a great army might have been opposed with advantage by a very inferior force."
But this strategic pass had been forced, the gate to Judah had been left open, the enemy's forces were pouring through and now had their base this side of it—"they have taken up their lodging at Geba."
Then come the paralyzing fear and the heart-broken cries of the inhabitants of the land as they flee before the aggressor; the roads are full of refugees in mad flight. Sir G. A. Smith's, translation is very graphic: "In mad flight is Madmenah. The dwellers in Gebim gather their stuff to flee."
Isn't this exactly what has happened in Poland, and Finland, and Norway, and Holland, and Belgium, and France in the past tragic months of this war?
Let us note particularly God's choice of instrument for the chastening of Judah-Assyria. His imperialism (vv. 7-11; his awful power (v. 13); his consummate wisdom (v. 13); and his pride (v. 13).
Then see God's charge to him. "Against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets" (v. 6). A strange choice and a strange charge. Yes, but "judgment is His strange work."
And another strange thing is the Assyrian was quite ignorant of the fact that he was but an instrument in the hand of God for judgment—a rod, a staff, an axe, a saw (vv. 5 and 15); such is God's estimate of earth's vaunted glory—"Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few" (v. 7).
I cannot help feeling that the position then and the position now are analogous. God has a controversy with us and has withal chosen a strange instrument to chastise us, one nevertheless that is in His hand, and can go not one inch farther than the Lord shall allow. What is going to be the end of it all?
(3) The Intervention of God.
"Wherefore, it shall come to pass that when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the King of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks" (v. 12).
Notice the righteous character of His intervention. "The consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness" (v. 22). See the imagery of it—"The Lord of hosts shall send among his fat ones, leanness and under his glory, He shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire, and the light of Israel shall be for a fire and his holy one for a flame; and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briars . . . The glory of his forest, his fruitful field" (vv. 16-18), and then there is the great promise of verses 32 and 33 (R.V.): "This very day shall he halt at Nob; he shaketh his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion."
In the sight of his goal, he is halted, and then the Lord of hosts hews down his high ones and the haughty are humbled.
And the result of it all. The remnant shall stay on the Lord and return to the mighty God of Jacob (vv. 20 and 21).
One need not make further application. Here is a revelation of the principles underlying the permissions and purposes of God.
Surely for such a time as this, they are written, that we may be warned, instructed, comforted, and exercised.
May He grant to us each that deep exercise of soul that shall lead to a real heart return unto the Lord.
“The Harvester” April 1941.