English Standard Version
“Now I will arise,” says the Lord,
“now I will lift myself up;
now I will be exalted.
You conceive chaff; you give birth to stubble;
your breath is a fire that will consume you.
And the peoples will be as if burned to lime,
like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.”
Hear, you who are far off, what I have done;
and you who are near, acknowledge my might.
The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
he will dwell on the heights;
his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks;
his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.
When God is moving in the earth there is a time when God moves and accomplishes His purposes. Here it says “Now I will arise, now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted”. This is a picture of God sitting upon the throne. When wickedness has reached its full, the Lord will respond in perfect justice. Sometimes when we see wickedness increasing in our day we can wonder where God is and we can wonder what He is doing. But when the time comes God will move with finality and in the process of bringing perfect justice the name of the Lord will be highly exalted.
The Lord’s word here is directed at Assyria. The Lord says they will conceive chaff and give birth to stubble. Both of these are easily consumed by fire. Assyria in their own eyes were a mighty empire that could not be stopped. But now the Lord of glory has arisen from His throne and the effect it would have on Assyria is that the Lord would turn them to dust and ash. They would be consumed by their own fire. Their wickedness, sinfulness, and pride in the end would ultimately destroy them. This is always how God deals with the wicked. He gives them time to repent and to turn from their wickedness. But in the end, God will have His way.
Things that were burned with lime were turned to dust. Thorns were easily burned and consumed by fire. Often when the Lord is describing what will take place, He uses poetic language to give us a picture that we may be familiar with to enable us to understand in a greater way. God is showing the full effect of His judgement upon Assyria. Assyria at this time may have heard these words from Isaiah the prophet and think they are foolishness. They didn’t think anything could ever stop them. Their trust was in the false gods that they served. But God would turn them to dust and ash.
The Lord says those who are far away and those who are near. God is calling all to be a witness to what He has done. The manifestation of His power and might brings glory and honor to His name. God’s desire is that people would be in right relationship with Him. Even when God pours out His correction and judgement, His desire is for people to repent and turn from their sins. It tells us that those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). God is calling all to witness what He is going to accomplish in His dealings with the nation of Assyria. His call is especially to the people of Israel so that their hearts would be given fully to God.
It says the sinners in Zion are terrified, trembling has seized the godless. Why are they terrified? They are terrified because of the consuming fire of the Lord. There is nowhere to escape the hand of God Almighty. They cry out who can live with the consuming fire and everlasting burning? The only option when dealing with the Living God is to surrender to Him. He is God Almighty. Our sin separates us from Him and invites His judgement and wrath. But in His mercy He has sent His Son to make a way for us to be right. To be saved from the fires of Hell. To live forever with Him in His kingdom.
The question is asked in the previous verse who can live with the consuming fire and everlasting burning of the Lord. Now the Lord gives the answer. He says those who walk righteously and speak uprightly, who despise the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands lest he hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from looking on evil. Those who exemplify these things in their lives are those who demonstrate that their hearts belong to God. We can claim all day long that we love God and even worship Him with our lips, but if our lives are not consecrated to Him, it means nothing. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night.
True blessing is found in living according to the word of God. His word is not a mere suggestion, it is instruction for all aspects of life. Some today may like certain parts of God’s word but reject those that challenge them to fully surrender to turn from the world. But God has revealed Himself through His word so a decision to reject any part of God’s word and not embrace it is a decision to reject God Himself.
Those who live for God and give their lives to Him will dwell on the heights. Their lives will be well fortified and protected by Almighty God. They will never be lacking bread or water. True peace and safety is found in trusting the Lord. Even in the midst of a storm, the Lord surrounds us, protects us, and provides for us. Oftentimes the reason we experience a lack of peace is because we have taken our eyes off the Lord and have begun to focus instead on circumstances. But here God shows that even with an empire like Assyria that seemed impossible to stop, God when it came time would bring them to dust.
The nations of the world are in the hands of the Lord. He allows things for a season of time. He waits for people to repent and turn from their wickedness. But when they continue in wickedness and are blinded by it, God will show up suddenly and will rightly deal with the wicked. We must continually trust the Lord, keep our eyes fixed upon Him, bring all things before Him in prayer, and rest in His will and purposes.