Part 3 of the Isaiah Series
This message is about a tool God use to correct the Children of Israel. In that spirit, I want to include a couple of tools that helps me on this journey to unpacking and better understanding the book of Isaiah.
The Following Videos are from “The Bible Project.”
The bible has many exciting things, fanciful things even. Hands appearing out of nowhere in the book of Daniel and writing words on a wall. Donkeys rebuking their owner for hitting them. People tossed into fire and not burning up. But today’s message is about tools that talk back. That’s right! Have you ever been working with a tool and it malfunctions? Hammer slips and smashes your thumb! What a mean hammer! Or the powered screwdriver strips a screw and now you have to leave the screw there or cut it off? I don’t know about you, but I do have a propensity for not talking so nice to my tools when they act up. Today we will be looking at a tools that God used in the bible. Also what happened when that tool talked back.
Assyria was God’s Tool
- Judah (under Ahaz’ leadership) fails to trust God. God used Assyria to judge and punish Judah. – This was his Tool.
- As we looked at two weeks ago when we examined the differences between King Ahaz and his son Hezekiah – Ahaz kept wicked things in place and did not put his trust in the One True God.
- He actually put his trust in the group who overthrew him – the Assyrians. We will get back to them in a little bit.
- Hezekiah came into power and changed things. Removing idol worship, he broke bad treaties. He trusted in God to take care of his people.
- Unlike his father, this choice led him to remain king for a while.
- Hezekiah got sick, prayed to be healed (against what appears to be The Lord’s will) and he recovered. (this began his downfall.) [Isaiah 38]
- He trusted in his wealth. He foolishly showed it off to his friendly neighborhood Babylonians. (Isaiah 39)
- After his inevitable death, (15 years after his prayer request) new kings reigned until Babylon came and took them into Exile. This was one of the Lord’s tools.
But today we will focus most of our attention to the earlier tool, The Assyrians.
When the Ax Talks Back
When the Ax talks back – the center of our scripture journey today.
We’ve got to backtrack just a little bit. We blew through the consequences of Ahaz. But what about the tool God used to punish and correct? What about the Assyrians?
The arrogance of Assyria – (Isaiah 10:12,15)
Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
or a club brandish the one who is not wood! (Isaiah 10:15 NIV)
I want you to picture the absolute absurdity of this idea being presented in verse 15.
It’s as if we’ve got this silly ax or whatever tool. It’s effective. It works well. But all of a sudden, it grows a face and mouth:
If we back up a bit to verse 12 and 13 The Lord sets up his charges against this tool of his, Assyria.
12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem,
STOP. What was the work? Correcting. Punishing. Consequence of not trusting. Losing in battle, being de-throwned. Remember, Ahaz lost significant political influence in his own kingdom to the Assyrians because he sought them for help.
OK, Back to verse 12:
he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,Isaiah 10:12-13 NIV
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
This is the Ax saying: I’m so awesome! It was under my power and will that I did all these things! Aren’t I great?! Of course, I am.
Much of this conflict takes place in 2 Kings. Isaiah has a bit of history in it but is mostly prophecy. So to get a better understanding, I read through 2 Kings 17-20.
Israel (Northern Kingdom) is conquered by the Assyrians. They are taken into exile. Then eventually this Southern Kingdom of Judah – the one who Hezekiah became King of, was confronted and bullied by these same Assyrians.
- Assyria’s plan was to totally destroy the nations of Israel.
- God’s plan was to leave a remnant.
Assyria wanted to wipe out the people of Judah. Take and repurpose their land as they had in Israel. 10:6 starts off, God is talking about the King and nation of Assyria:
“I send him against a godless nation,
I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
But this is not what he intends,
this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
to put an end to many nations.” (Isaiah 10:6-7 NIV)
The conquest was part of God’s correction to his Children. But God wanted to leave a Remnant.
Why? Two movie quotes came to my mind.
The Riddler in Batman Forever has discovered Batman’s identity, invaded Wayne manor, and kidnapped the people he cares about. His partner Two-face gets ready to pull the trigger on an unconscious Bruce and the Riddler stops him…so the rest of the movie can happen.
“Don’t Kill him! If you kill him, he won’t learn nothing!” (The Riddler, Batman Forever)
In Pirates of the Caribbean, one character remarks that Pirate ship, The Black Pearl and the terrifying crew that never leaves any survivors. Main character, Captain Jack Sparrow, replies
“- …Never leaves any survivors survivors? Then where do the stories come from. I wonder.” – Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse of the Black Pearl
God is not malicious. He wanted to be gracious to the next generation.
Much like he did in the desert when the children of Israel wandered and died and the next generation followed Joshua. God wanted them to not repeat the same mistakes of their forefathers. So some remained.
During this time of correction, God’s desire was that a remnant would remain. A Remnant usually refers to a small piece of clothing, something left of a previous fabric. Do you have an old t-shirt or torn up towel you use for cleaning up messes? That’s a remnant. It once was part of a nice, new, and functional piece of fabric. All that remains is a remnant.
So when God clashes with man. When the real wielder of the tool takes hold of it, he is in charge…not the tool. And so, with the Assyrians there is a
Punishment for the Ax
“Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame.”Isaiah 10:16 NIV
The Lord did not let Assyria off the hook for their arrogance. He will sent a “wasting disease.” What do you suppose that was?
I searched first in a few trusted bible commentaries…they were not focused on what the disease was…more what it did.
I did stumble upon an article on “Medical News Today”
Cachexia (Ca-Kex-ee-uh) predominantly affects people in the late stages of serious diseases like cancer, HIV or AIDS, and congestive heart failure.
“…cachexia [is] ‘a multifactorial syndrome characterized by an ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass… that cannot be fully reversed by conventional nutritional support and leads to progressive functional impairment.’ “
The disease causes involuntary weight loss, muscle wasting, and often a decrease in body fat. The loss of skeletal muscle may lead to physical weakness and impairment.
If this is the wasting disease to fall on “the ax” so to speak, it’s a terrible way to go. God is saying in this passage that this wasting disease will fall on the “sturdy ones”.
The strongest and would have been least likely to have this come upon them. It will waste away their strength, the strength and power in which they placed their trust.
Still Made a Stump
Yet, the Ax was still wielded – Made a stump of Jesse
Stumps seem lifeless, intrusive. They remind us of what was there. They are also a reminder that something greater than them brought them down to size.
Is that the end for the tree that gets “the ax?”
No. There is Hope Regrowth. This is something we will look at in next week’s message.
Conclusion – Who was it that was constantly “paying for their sins?”
Assyrians? Babylonians? No. The Children of Israel.
Yes there were consequences for the Assyrians & Babylonians. (especially if they didn’t figure out they were simply being wielded as a tool.)
But God corrects his children because he loves them.
11My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
So let’s recap: 1) God uses tools to correct his children. 2) The tool thinks it’s powerful and self-important. 3) God Clarifies His relationship with his tools (consequences of their own.) 4) This reveals God is the Toolmaster.
Question: Who’s a tool today?
Is it any given nation? Current Governments? Structures and people put in place?
It’s possible that God will use unjust groups to correct and guide his people back to him.
The greatest growth in Christianity has always taken place under persecution.
This should give us encouragement when we feel oppressed.
God is bigger, Greater than any oppressive force.
It should motivate us to be even more productive when we are not oppressed. (not killed or jailed.)
Next week we will look at the prophecy of the Messiah – Immanuel. We will look at a savior figure who was an “immediate” fulfillment of the prophecy and to Jesus, the Ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, the Hope of Regrowth from that old “Stump of Jesse.”
If you’d like a copy of the full poster illustration for The Bible Project explanation of Isaiah, Click here for the poster.