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Study Notes on Isaiah 9:8-21

Isaiah 9:8-12

New International Version

8 The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel. 9 All the people will know it— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria— who say with pride and arrogance of heart, 10 “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” 11 But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them and has spurred their enemies on. 12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west have devoured Israel with open mouth.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

Isaiah attention would now be turned to Northern Israel. When Israel split into the kingdoms of northern and southern Israel, they were all still God’s people. They were in covenant relationship with the living God because of their heritage through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because they are still in covenant relationship with the Living God they are called to live according to that covenant. Raising their hand against southern Israel and aligning themselves with foreign nations against their Jewish brothers brought the hand of the Lord against them.

Ephraim speaks of northern Israel and Samaria was its capital city. When you study the history of Northern Israel, every one of its kings were wicked and turned their heart against the Lord. The judgement of God comes when we reject the word of the Lord, we reject the chastening of the Lord, and we harden our hearts against all attempts by God to get our attention and bring us to a place of repentance.

The people in arrogance spoke against the judgement that came by God and said no matter what comes we will rebuild. Their trust and focus were upon themselves and their own strength. This is the destructiveness of wickedness. When a person continues in wickedness they are blinded by their own pride. They believe they are untouchable, but no matter how hard they try and how powerful they think they are; the Living God will have His way. He always does.

When northern Israel made an alliance with Rezin what they failed to understand is God would bring the enemies of Rezin against Northern Israel. Whenever we walk in ways that are contrary to God and continue in pride in what we want, the Lord will actually use the very things we are pursuing to bring correction into our lives. God’s purpose in dealing with His people is to always bring them to a place of repentance and obedience. But if we continue in our rebellion and reject the word of the Lord and His gentle mercy, we open the door to His chastisement and if we still fail to heed His voice and leading, it can lead to our destruction if we continue in sin.

Isaiah 9:13-17

New International Version

13 But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty. 14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; 15 the elders and dignitaries are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. 16 Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. 17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks folly.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

God’s desire is that His people would seek Him and draw near. It is in the place of intimacy and abiding in Him that we are enabled to walk in holiness. It is when we draw near in fellowship that we are transformed. Sadly, the people of Northern Israel rejected the Lord for the worship of idols and the wicked practices of false gods. This broke the heart of God and for it He would bring them to the place of repentance and often times it required very difficult and hard things to take place in the lives of His people.

Because the people failed to seek God, every person in the nation would be touched. Those who were in positions of leadership would be touched by God’s chastening and judgement. Those who were the false prophets leading the people astray would be thoroughly dealt with. When the judgement of God came it would come swiftly. Often, we may see the wicked prospering and often wonder when God is going to deal with them. But God has an appointed time to deal with the wicked. When His patience has come to an end, His judgment will have its way.

Those who were in a position of leadership and influence had caused the people to err. This speaks greatly to our own day. Those who are in positions of influence such as our government officials, false teachers in the church, and those in the media cause the people of this nation to go astray. When this happens the Lord must bring course correction. He must move against those who are leading the people astray. He must open eyes and expose the darkness and wickedness taking place. Those who deal and operate in wickedness do so through deception and darkness. Jesus compared people to sheep, and it is very easy to lead people astray. By the grace and mercy of God, it is God who doesn’t allow His people to stay in that place but does all that He can to get their attention.

When the nation of Northern Israel had become steeped in sin and it was time for God’s judgement to come, there would be no place for mercy. God would send the people into exile not to destroy them, but to bring correction and hopefully restoration. Being placed in a foreign land would show the people how fruitless and reckless their worship of foreign gods and idols really was. God’s desire is that His people would turn back to Him with their whole heart. This is what God always desires. He doesn’t desire simply the honor and worship of people’s lips only; He wants the heart of His people. The way we know our hearts belong to God is when we truly decide to live for Him.

Isaiah 9:18-21

New International Version

18 Surely wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns, it sets the forest thickets ablaze, so that it rolls upward in a column of smoke. 19 By the wrath of the Lord Almighty the land will be scorched and the people will be fuel for the fire; they will not spare one another. 20 On the right they will devour, but still be hungry; on the left they will eat, but not be satisfied. Each will feed on the flesh of their own offspring[a]: 21 Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh; together they will turn against Judah.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

The only result of continuing in wickedness is that it will eventually destroy those who continue in it. God is righteous and just and must deal rightly and correctly with sin. His desire is to pour out mercy and for people to repent. But those who reject His word and continue in sin will be destroyed by the wickedness they are engaging in like a mighty forest fire. God calls to them again and again and knocks on the door of their hearts. But sadly, they are blinded by their pride and the wickedness they are pursuing.

During the time of God’s judgement that would come against Northern Israel the people would become fuel for the judgment of God that was poured out on the land. God has sent many prophets to them to declare the word of the Lord and call them to repentance. But time and again the word of the Lord was rejected. We must remember that the heart of man is inherently wicked. We are prone to seek out our own desire and way and reject the Lord. It is the word of God that transforms us and renews our mind. Until our heart is changed by God, and our minds renewed by scripture, the very conduct of our lives will not change.

When the judgement of God came upon Northern Israel, they would turn on one another. The disposition of someone who is steeped and given over to wickedness is that every decision and choice is self-centered. It is not in pursuit of what God desires; it is in pursuit of what self-desires. In ourselves we are wicked. Because of Adam’s sin in the garden every person born on this earth is born into sin and has fallen short of the glory of Almighty God. But all of this can be prevented if people would simply heed the word of the Lord when God sends forth His word. But sadly, they would rather do things their way and in the end, they are destroyed by them.

Manasseh and Ephraim were the two sons descended from Joseph. When wickedness takes hold, it will turn brother against brother. It will turn families against one another. We see this in the first two brothers in which because of sin Cain ended up murdering his own brother. When confronted by God, Cain asked the question to God arrogantly “Am I my brothers keeper”.

Whenever wickedness takes hold of the heart of an individual or a nation their hatred for Israel will increase. We see this in our world today as anti-Semitism is rising on the earth. But all of it is according to God’s plan and will. Just like the days of Isaiah in which judgement would come to Northern Israel, judgement is on the horizon for the nations of the earth. Because of the wickedness of humanity and its unwillingness to repent and turn to the Living God, all that is written in Revelation concerning the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgements will be poured out.

The Lord ends this section again saying in spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out. The full measure of God’s judgement was coming because the people refused to repent. The grace, mercy, and love of God is far greater than we can understand. But on the other side of the coin His justice, righteousness, and judgement are far greater than we can understand. When people think about Heaven, they cannot comprehend how wonderful it is. But the same stands for the Lake of Fire. The level of punishment and suffering some day for those who have died in their sins and rejected the precious blood of Christ is something that we cannot fully comprehend on this side of eternity.

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