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Isaiah 9:8-10:4

Daniel Tan

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 (NKJV)

The Lord sent a word against Jacob, And it has fallen on Israel.

All the people will know — Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria — Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:

“The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.”

Therefore the Lord shall set up The adversaries of Rezin against him, And spur his enemies on,

The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth.

For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

For the people do not turn to Him who strikes them, Nor do they seek the Lord of hosts.

Therefore the Lord will cut off head and tail from Israel, Palm branch and bulrush in one day.

The elder and honourable, he is the head; The prophet who teaches lies, he is the tail.

For the leaders of this people cause them to err, And those who are led by them are destroyed.

Therefore the Lord will have no joy in their young men, Nor have mercy on their fatherless and widows; For everyone is a hypocrite and an evildoer, And every mouth speaks folly.

For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

For wickedness burns as the fire; It shall devour the briers and thorns, And kindle in the thickets of the forest; They shall mount up like rising smoke. 

Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts The land is burned up, And the people shall be as fuel for the fire; No man shall spare his brother.

And he shall snatch on the right hand And be hungry; He shall devour on the left hand And not be satisfied; Every man shall eat the flesh of his own arm.

Manasseh shall devour Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh; Together they shall be against Judah.

For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

“Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, Which they have prescribed

To rob the needy of justice, And to take what is right from the poor of My people, That widows may be their prey, And that they may rob the fatherless.

What will you do in the day of punishment, And in the desolation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your glory?

Without Me they shall bow down among the prisoners, And they shall fall among the slain.”

For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Today we look at the Lord's anger at Israel, having delivered the message about the Messiah. “For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.” This statement repeats itself thrice, even to the end of this chapter. And in fact continues into Chapter 10 for a fourth time.

If this is a song, this line would be the chorus. And what a terrifying chorus to think about. God’s wrath and justice does not turn away just because of physical devastation or even death and destruction. It persists and persists until repentance is found; an endless loop that keeps going until a condition is met. If for nothing else, we should repent for that reason. It is such a depiction of God that has been misunderstood by many, both Christian and non-Christian, as a vengeful and tyrannical God. In truth, God merely tries to set things right. If we will not repent He is not like a parent who will relent after a while. The punishment and the consequences continue until we turn back from our wrongdoings and try to be better. I start the analysis from this chorus line not only because of its impact and its repetition, but because it links all the verses together and therefore helps to establish the thematic links. Isaiah 9:8-21 and 10:1-4 read like the lyrics of a song. A very worrisome song to be sure, but a song nonetheless. A song about how even though Israel would fall prey to enemy forces and destruction, their pride and arrogance would still grip them. Though the “bricks have fallen”, their hearts have not and their response is to rebuild with dressed stone. Though the “sycamores (fig trees) have been cut down”, their haughtiness still stands tall, as the cedars they wish to replace the figs with. What was, in their minds, would be replaced with something better. But God has other plans. The enemies would crush them far greater than Israel could ever imagine. God's hope is not their suffering. He does not relent because they suffer. What He wants is repentance. Yet the people do not repent. They do not seek God. So both the “head” (the elders) and the “tail” (lying prophets) will be cut off because they have misguided and misled the people to not seek God but other things. Those who were appointed as leaders and as shepherds to head the flock are now corrupt and do not have anything to do with God. Perhaps with these people gone, the rest might seek God. But there is no pity for those who suffer because everyone is ungodly and wicked and “every mouth speaks folly”. Instead of prayers of redemption, their mouths speak only falsities and ignorance. The wickedness within them burns and consumes, everything good is taken up and the land is scorched because the people use each other as fuel for the fire. They devour but are never satisfied because nothing is ever enough for them. They will even feed on their own flesh and blood but nothing will sate that hunger. Are we not the same sometimes? Has the society around us not also devolved into a bloodshed where people consume each other in vitriol or in plots to get the better of each other? Hopefully not. But glimpses show themselves ever present. Those at the forefront who make “unrighteous decrees” and issue oppressive laws are to be given woe. Those that pervert justice and deprive the poor of their rights; preying on widows and robbing the fatherless. When disaster comes, and the day of reckoning approaches these people will not be able to flee from the coming destruction. There will be nowhere to run. There will be nowhere to store riches. Only to crumple up and cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet their repentance is not seen. They cling on ever still. And so God continues. His anger not turned away, His hand still upraised at the wicked child; at the unfaithful bride.

Daniel Tan

Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.

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