English Standard Version
Behold, the name of the Lord comes from afar,
burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke;[a]
his lips are full of fury,
and his tongue is like a devouring fire;
his breath is like an overflowing stream
that reaches up to the neck;
to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction,
and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray.
29 You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. 30 And the Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. 31 The Assyrians will be terror-stricken at the voice of the Lord, when he strikes with his rod. 32 And every stroke of the appointed staff that the Lord lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them. 33 For a burning place[b] has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.
The description of God here is what God looks like when He comes in judgement. We are told that Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb. When Christ returns in the book of Revelation to the earth the description of how He looks is vastly different from what we see when Jesus came to the earth the first time (Rev 19:11-16). God’s desire is to display His mercy upon people, but when the arrogance and wickedness of people reaches a point, God will surely come in judgement and He will be terrifying.
It says the name of the Lord will come from afar. It is a picture of a storm that has been moving toward a location. It is not that God has been absent, but when He comes in judgement, He comes quickly. It speaks of His burning anger coming forth in thick rising smoke and His lips filled with fury. This is a very different description of God than many are used to today. Because of the compromised preaching of our day many have a false sense and understanding of who God is. God is full of love, grace, and mercy. But that mercy can only be experienced if an individual humbles themselves before God and repents. He desires a relationship with us, but a continual rejection of God puts a person in a very terrifying position.
It says here that His tongue is like a devouring fire. When God created all things He spoke it into existence. It is by His word that His purposes are accomplished. When God sends forth His word, His power and might are manifested. Here God speaks of dealing with the nation of Assyria. It would be by His might and power and Assyria would be defeated and driven back. It again reveals the foolishness of Israel trusting in foreign nations and false gods.
God speaks of bringing judgement upon the arrogant and wicked nations. His breath would be like an overflowing stream. When a river or stream is at flood stage it will naturally overflow its banks and its effect will be devastating on all around it that are in its path. This is the case with the judgement of Almighty God. There will be no escape when God begins to move and accomplish His purposes.
Its says the breath of God will sift the nations with a sieve of destruction. A sieve was a tool used to separate solid and liquid particles. It looks like a strainer. God would use the judgement to come to deal with the wicked and the righteous. His judgement would destroy the wicked because they have rejected Him and His ways. It speaks of a bridle to lead the people astray. The purpose of a bridle in the mouth of a horse is to dictate the direction and action of a horse. Ultimately when the judgement of God comes it will dictate the course of the nation that God is dealing with. The time of His mercy will be over.
The reaction of the people of Israel when the judgement of God is poured out on the Assyrians will be one of joy and gladness. The Lord states you shall have a song in the night when a holy feast is kept. It will be a time of joy and gladness. As they watch the Lord intervene and bring great victory. All through Isaiah the Lord is showing that He alone is in control of the nations of the earth. Israel’s greatest place of peace is found in simply trusting God at His word and relying fully upon Him. It is important in this life that we surrender all things to Jesus Christ. It is only then that true peace can be found.
God is referred to as the Rock of Israel. In the King James it is translated as the Mighty One of Israel. In the Hebrew the word means a cliff, boulder, or a place where refuge is found. The benefit of trusting in Almighty God is that no matter what we face, He is always greater. No matter what Satan assaults us with and how many enemies surround us, God is greater. The true test comes down to trusting God with all of our heart.
When God sends forth His voice and His judgement is released, it is terrifying for those who God is dealing with. His voice comes forth majestically and His arm comes forth as a devouring fire. It is meant to consume and destroy all those who stand in His way. These description of God in this way would shock many today. We act as if God is some happy grandpa who sits in heaven desiring to answer our every desire. But God is holy and those who worship and follow Him must be holy. Great joy and peace is found for those who simply trust God at His word. For those who mock the Living God, it is a terrible and dreadful thing to fall into His hands.
The focal point of God’s judgement will be the Assyrians. They will believe that they are able to destroy southern Israel and invade Jerusalem after they send Northern Israel into exile. The Assyrians believed after they overcame Northern Israel that the God of Israel was no match for the gods of the Assyrians. But what they failed to understand is they were only able to do what they did because God allowed it. God used them as a tool of correction and discipline. But now God would deal with them for their arrogance, wickedness, and cruelty. Sometimes we may wonder if God is ever going to deal with the wicked, but God always does things in His perfect time.
Everytime God strikes the Assyrians, the people of God will celebrate with tambourines and lyres. For the wicked it will be a time of suffering and terrifying fury from the Living God. For the people of God it will be a time of triumph and joy. One of the things revealed in scripture about how awesome God truly is, is that He speaks of things to come. He speaks of events before they have happened. When God speaks and sends forth His word it will not return void. It will always accomplish what it has meant to accomplish. (Isaiah 55:11).
In the King James Translation it says in Tophet where the ESV translated it a place of burning. Tophet was a valley south of Jerusalem where bodies were burned and sadly children were sacrificed in the flames to pagan gods. The Lord says that this valley of burning is prepared for the king of Assyria. The wood and fire are in abundance. The fire of God would burn thoroughly and completely. It would rightly deal with the sin and wickedness that has taken place. There would be no escape from the mighty hand of God. The breath of the Lord is like a stream of sulfur in which it kindles the fire and brings incredible heat and destruction. It reminds us of when God dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord destroyed that wicked city with fire and brimstone.