God’s Way with the Wayward

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), July 18

Twice Isaiah warns King Hezekiah of the trouble or distress that will come upon them, should they make an alliance with Egypt to protect themselves from the Assyrians,

“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!” (Is. 30:1-2) “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!” (Is. 31:1).

The Assyrians had already carried away many from the northern tribe of Israel into captivity, in spite of alliances that they had made with other nations. The Assyrians now surrounded Jerusalem. How would Hezekiah respond? Would he trust in the LORD or rely on an alliance forged with Egypt?

The Assyrian army was only as powerful as the LORD allowed. Behind their power and might stood God, “Yet I will distress Ariel…I will encamp against you all around; I will lay siege against you with a mound, and I will raise siegeworks against you” (Is. 29:2-3).

Ultimately, Judah’s battle was with the Living God, not the Assyrian army. The LORD had raised up the Assyrians to surround Jerusalem to get Judah’s attention. They were in between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place. They were wayward and needed course correction, so the LORD raised up the Assyrians against Judah.

Sometimes the LORD engineers “between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place” for those who’ve turned their backs on Him. The Assyrians were simply a tool that God used. Judah’s real enemy was God. Isaiah described Judah as, “rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the LORD” (30:9).

imagesThis standoff between Judah and Assyria reveals a number of truths about God’s way with wayward people:

  • Strong-willed, wayward people require strong-armed methods. Therefore, God raises up strong enemies to get the attention of the wayward.
  • Behind strong enemies stands a compassionate God. He will dismantle and punish  the opposition once those who are called by His Name return to Him.

Just as Isaiah urged Judah to repent, “Return to Him against whom the Children of Israel have deeply revolted” (31:6), so the LORD recognizes the “white flag of surrender” of the rebellious today. God’s pressure on His people is His goodness to bring them to repentance toward Him (Rom. 2:3-4).

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Is. 30-33):

Early in their history the LORD had warned Israel about making alliances with other nations for protection. They were to trust in Him. Rather than humbling themselves before God and trusting Him for deliverance, Israel often made treaties with other nations. Now under treat by the Assyrians, Judah makes a treaty with Egypt.
How does the LORD respond to the treaty that Judah has made with Egypt?
What promise embeds the warning that He gives Judah (30:15)? What does this reveal about God?
Who does God promise to be for those who wait in Him?
How does God view the Assyrians whom He allows to attack the nation of Judah? What doest this reveal about God and about those whom He uses to discipline His people?