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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 5

Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Isaiah 32-35: The Glorious Future

Chapter 11: God’s Treasure

Isaiah 33-35 prophesies of the destruction of ungodly nations, which God had used to judge Israel and Judah. Divine judgment is always temporary, though it may seem long by earthly standards. When the long sentence of captivity ends, God then brings judgment upon those vessels of wrath that He had raised up to judge His people.

Assyria, the Slave Owner

The judgments of God are corrective in nature, designed to restore a right relationship with God. Judgment begins at the house of God, but it does not end there. Whoever is judged first is also the first to be restored. God uses vessels of wrath to judge those who He intends to restore first, and then He judges the others later so that they too might be restored.

It is clear that God raised up the Assyrians to bring judgment upon Israel. They judged Judah partially, but the Babylonians completed the task a century later. Daniel tells us that other empires would arise to continue the work that Babylon had begun. Each empire was to bring judgment upon the previous empire until the end of the age when the last empire would fall and the Kingdom of God would be established.

Isaiah 33:1 begins,

1 Woe to you, O destroyer, while you were not destroyed; and he who is treacherous, while others did not deal treacherously with him. As soon as you finish destroying, you will be destroyed; as soon as you cease to deal treacherously, others will deal treacherously with you.

The prophet was setting forth the general principle, but in his day it applied specifically to Assyria. God had raised up a “treacherous” nation to bring judgment upon Israel and Judah who had in turn dealt treacherously with God. To put it in other terms, God sold Israel into the hands of Assyria because Israel was unable to pay its sin-debt (Exodus 22:3). Hence, Israel was enslaved to Assyria by divine decree.

Slave owners were also responsible under God to teach men righteousness and to be examples of godly behavior. In other words, biblical slavery was designed to correct the sinner by putting the sinner under the authority and care of a good citizen of the Kingdom. All authority comes with an equal measure of responsibility.

The Assyrians, however, did not know the law of God, for their only concern was to obtain more slaves who would profit them.

The Assyrian’ ungodly view of slavery caused them to act with self-interest, and so God exposed this practice as treachery. The judgment of the law demands that the judgment should fit the crime. Hence, Assyria itself was to be judged by others who were equally treacherous, nations that were equally ignorant of the law of God and who would mistreat their slaves.

The nations, then, are not judged for conquering and enslaving Israel and Judah but for their irresponsible mistreatment of their slaves. God Himself sold His people into slavery, as Scripture clearly shows, but the nations who were ignorant of God’s law did not know or believe that their slaves were God’s children and that they should be treated responsibly.

Yet in regard to the immediate situation in Isaiah’s time, Assyria had already dealt treacherously with Judah. King Hezekiah had made a covenant (or treaty) with Assyria, agreeing to pay him an enormous amount of gold and silver in order to turn aside Sennacherib’s desire to conquer Judah.

We read of this in 2 Kings 18:13-16,

13 Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them. 14 Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 Hezekiah gave him all the silver, which was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasuries of the king’s house. 16 At that time Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.

Nonetheless, the next verse says in 2 Kings 18:17,

17 Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem…

In other words, the King Sennacherib broke his word immediately and demanded full surrender. That was an act of treachery after Hezekiah had met his demands. The Assyrian army, however, was to be destroyed as a prophetic type of the greater destruction at the end of the long time of tribulation while in captivity. It appears that God destroyed that army on account of this Assyrian treachery.

The prophet foresaw this and prayed an early prayer for deliverance that foreshadowed his later prayer after Hezekiah asked him to pray (Isaiah 37:4).

Isaiah’s Prayer for Deliverance

In Isaiah 33:2-4 the prophet prays,

2 O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their strength every morning, our salvation also in the time of distress. 3 At the sound of the tumult peoples flee; at the lifting up of Yourself nations disperse. 4 Your spoil is gathered as the caterpillar gathers; as locusts rushing about, men rush about on it.

The prophet’s appeal for grace recognized the sovereignty of God. Grace is something that God extends to us by the power of His own will. That is also how the Apostle Paul sees the term, for no doubt his revelation of grace came largely through Isaiah. Judah’s immediate need for grace (or divine intervention, deliverance, and salvation) came when the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem and threatened it with destruction if it did not surrender.

But the prophet’s prayer in verse 2 was immediately answered in verses 3 and 4 as the prophet became the mouthpiece of God’s response to prayer. First, the tumult caused by the approach of the Assyrian army frightened the people and caused them to flee. But when God lifted Himself up against Assyria, the nations were broken to pieces (naphats).

This literally occurred when God delivered Jerusalem by destroying the Assyrian army (Isaiah 37:36). The “spoil” was all the equipment and food for an army of 185,000. The people of Judah swarmed upon these provisions like caterpillars and locusts.

Isaiah’s Praise for God’s Deliverance

In Isaiah 33:5, 6 the prophet breaks forth in praise for God’s deliverance,

5 The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness, 6 and He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is His treasure.

Most of the people of Judah rejoiced in the wealth that was left by the Assyrian army. But Isaiah understood the true wealth that men should seek, “a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge” and “the fear of the Lord.” That is the real “treasure” that we should seek, for if we know God, and if we acknowledge His right to rule His creation, no amount of material wealth can match the treasure that we possess.

A more complete inventory of God’s treasure is found in Isaiah 11:2, where we are shown the seven spirits of God.

2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

This is the treasure and wealth that Jesus possessed. This same treasure was divided among the seven churches, as I showed in Book 1, chapter 11 of The Revelation.

Hence, the prophet compared and contrasted the material wealth taken from the Assyrian army and the real wealth from God’s treasure. So also, Jesus said in Matt. 6:31-33,

31 Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” 32 For the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”] eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.