The Outstretched Hand of God

To whom will you flee for help? There is no other safe hiding place besides Christ.

Anson Kroeker on May 22, 2022
The Outstretched Hand of God
May 22, 2022

The Outstretched Hand of God

Message By:
Passage: Isaiah 9:8-10:4
Service Type:

Have you ever been in a situation where you were thinking or daydreaming about some dream or hope in the future that you had? A dream for things in your life to get better soon, or maybe for a relationship to improve, or for a pain to go away? And then all of the sudden, your mind snaps back into the reality of the present. You realize that that dream is far off, or maybe never coming in your lifetime. You were feeling so hopeful, and now you’re sort of grounded, and sober. That’s sort of what’s happening in our passage today (Isaiah 9:8-10:4). We’re bursting out of an amazing passage full of hope for God’s people to come in the future through a promised child, (Isaiah 9:1-7). And now, immediately with zero transition, we’re brought back to Israel’s present reality of sin, and judgment, and impending doom.

Our passage today is a difficult one. There really isn’t any hope offered in the passage itself, and at face value, it’s down right depressing. But we believe that every word of this book, the Bible, is from God Himself. We believe that there is something valuable for us in every line. So, we can look at a passage like the one we’re going to look at today, and be helped somehow. So, if you’re not already there, please turn to Isaiah 9, starting in verse 8.

The section we’re looking at this morning is a poetic rebuke to Israel. It’s actually the beginning of a larger section, which runs into chapter 12, but today we’ll only make it into the beginning of chapter 10. This rebuke is mostly intended for the northern kingdom of Israel, which might make us wonder; If God sent Isaiah as a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah, what is Isaiah doing prophesying against the northern kingdom of Israel? Well, there’s two answers to that. The first is that the God of Judah is the same God if Israel, and if He wants to use Isaiah to speak against them for His purposes, He can do that. The second reason is this; In seeing a rebuke, and warning of judgment to the northern kingdom of Israel, the southern kingdom is probably intended to take note, and realize that this is serious business. This God they serve will judge His own people, and Israel is going to be an example of that. My twin sister and I are the youngest of 6, and we knew all too well growing up that when you see the first sibling getting spanked, you’d better straighten up because mom’s serious about discipline, and you’re next. The same thing is going on here. Judah should see this judgment falling on Israel, take note, and correct their path.

So, this rebuke to Israel is divided into 4 stanzas, or 4 judgments. Section one deals with the judgment on the pride of the people of Israel. Section two deals with the judgment against Israel’s failure to repent in response to discipline. Section three shows the effects of the sin in the land, and how the sin of the people spreads. Section four deals with the judgment on Israel for her corruption in power, and the social injustice in the land.

So, let's start with section one in verse 8.

The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel;
and all the people will know,
Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,

Now all of these different names here, are all just referring to the northern kingdom as a whole. Jacob is another name for Israel, Samaria is the capitol, and Ephraim is a major tribe of the 10 tribes in the north. Notice here Isaiah says that the Word of the Lord falls upon these people. It’s coming down on them hard like a hammer, which is how Jeremiah speaks about the Word of God – “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29). So why is God speaking against them?

Keep reading:

who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen,
but we will build with dressed stones;
the sycamores have been cut down,
but we will put cedars in their place.”

This is speaking of Israel’s pride in the face of God’s judgment and discipline. Because of Israel’s sin, God was sending surrounding nations, or natural disasters to begin to slowly destroying the kingdom. And instead of heeding this warning from God and repenting, the people brush off God’s judgment, and say they’ll rebuild even better. In other words, they’re saying “You want to punish us God? No big deal, we’ll just build everything back better. The old bricks fell? Oh well, we’ll raise dressed stones. The sycamores fell? That’s nothing anyway, we’ll grow larger cedars. And we’ll do it without your help.” These people are self-sufficient, proud, and refuse to look to God. So, what does God do about these people?

11 But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,
and stirs up his enemies.

Now, Rezin was the king of Syria, and the enemies of the Syrians were the Assyrians. So basically, God is going to stir up conflict within the nations around Israel, in a way that all comes down on her head. She will be caught up in a massive conflict caused by God’s anger against her sin.

12 The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west
devour Israel with open mouth.

Again, the Lord is having nations on either side of Israel close in on her to swallow her up. The nation is proud. For this, God is going to bring in pagan nations to devour them. Devour their houses. Devour their land. Devour their people. And then, this first section ends with this refrain, that will repeat a few more times:

For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

This is all a direct result of God’s anger and judgment. The phrase here “His hand is stretched out still”, can be understood in two ways. One way is legal or judicial. Like a judge with his hand raised ready to give a judgment. The second way is more likely; in the near east at this time, this phrase could refer to a king raising his hand with a mace ready to crush and beat his enemies. And because of their sin, Israel is becoming an enemy to God. This phrase sets us up to understand that all of the judgment in this passage is directly from YHWH. The Assyrians, Syrians, or Philistines aren’t the real threat here. The real threat is God and His wrath. These nations are only like a mace in His hand to punish Israel for her sin. So, this is the first section against Israel’s pride. Pick up in verse 13, section two; Israel’s failure to repent

13 The people did not turn to him who struck them,
nor inquire of the Lord of hosts.

Notice it God who strikes the people, and notice it is meant to lead them to repentance. They’re supposed to seek God and inquire of His guidance when they see this judgment coming, but they refuse to. They’ll go to some other god. They’ll find some other way, and form some other plan without help from YHWH.

14 So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail,
palm branch and reed in one day—

This is a metaphor for completion. God’s judgment is going to be total. Nobody is going to miss out on it.

15 the elder and honoured man is the head,
and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
16 for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,
and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.

This is describing total chaos in the leadership. The elders who were supposed to lead Israel are leading her astray. The tail (the prophets) who should instruct both the elders and the people are giving false hope, and false prophecies. So, as a result, the leadership that was supposed to protect Israel is going to swallow Israel up and bring her harm.

17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,
and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;

Here’s an interesting one; Even the fatherless and widows Lord? No compassion for the least of the people? Why?

for everyone is godless and an evildoer,
and every mouth speaks folly.

In other words; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The kings, the prophets, the poor, the widows, the fatherless, the whole picture. All have rejected YHWH. And here’s that phrase again;

For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

So, there’s section 2. From the least to the greatest, Israel won’t turn to God, and for that, Gods hand is raised against them in wrath.

Now, in section three, we’re going to see the effects of sin on the people, and how that in itself is a judgment from God.

18 For wickedness burns like a fire;
it consumes briers and thorns;
it kindles the thickets of the forest,
and they roll upward in a column of smoke.

The briers and thorns here being consumed by this fire are rebels. People against God. Isaiah likes to use these terms for pests in the vineyard that need to be rooted out, and the fire will devour them totally. So, what is this fire consuming the people? In one sense, this is a metaphor for the pervasiveness of sin in the nation. It starts as a small flame. And left unchecked it becomes a forest fire devouring everything. And isn’t that so true about sin? How often does unchecked lust turn into career destroying adultery. Which murder didn’t start just a tiny seed of anger in someone’s heart? How often has the sin of apathy turned into total apostasy? If we leave sin unchecked, it will grow, and grow, and grow until it burns us either for a season (if we repent), or (if we don’t repent), for eternity. But the sin of the people isn’t the only thing burning them up. Look at verse 19:

19 Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts
the land is scorched,
and the people are like fuel for the fire;

So, behind everything the Lord’s wrath is fuelling the fire. But as we’ve seen, the fire is also fuelled by the people’s sin. These two things go hand in hand. Remember, we saw in Isaiah 6 that God’s judgment on the people was to give them over to their sin, and let their hearts become hard, so that they didn’t repent. The same is going on here. It’s a perpetual cycle. The people sin, the wrath of God is kindled, He lets them continue in their sin, and the sin devours the land. Over, and over. This is both the manifestation of the people’s sin and God’s wrath, and verse 19 says the people are fuel for the fire. Here God’s anger is going to devour His own people, because He hates sin that much. He can’t stand it. So what will the outplay of this cycle look like? Continue at the end of verse 19.

    no one spares another.
20 They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry,
and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied;
each devours the flesh of his own arm,
21 Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh;
together they are against Judah.

There’s some irony here to look at, but first let’s look at what Isaiah’s saying. The self-destructive language here (i.e., each devours the flesh of his own arm), is displaying Israel destroying herself with sin. The people are all beginning to turn against one another, because sin ultimately divides and destroys. This is grisly imagery to show us how serious and corrosive sin can be. Manasseh and Ephraim are two tribes of Israel destroying each other, and at the same time in their common hatred for Judah they’ll destroy her as well. The only unifying feature here among God’s people is sin and hatred. Here’s the irony; Manasseh and Ephraim should be especially unified, because they’re both descendants from Joseph. And beyond that, the whole nation should have been united due to all of the exterior threats we’ve already look at. But instead sin has so blinded them that they’ve decided to destroy each other instead.

And again:

For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

As long as sin persists, God’s hand of wrath and judgment are raised against Israel.

Something I hope that we’re realizing by now is that God’s anger is not arbitrary or uncalled for. It’s the concentration of His pure hatred for sin. He must be angry because He is pure. He must hate sin because He is holy.

So, we’ve seen the first three sections of condemnation; Israel’s pride; Israel’s refusal to turn towards God; and the results of sin and God’s anger on the land.

Now, we turn to the final section; Israel’s social injustice

10 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,

(This is a reference to those who create laws that are oppressive); With the stroke of their pens, they trample the needy under their feet for personal gain. The Mosaic law, as a revelation of God’s heart, was designed to protect the poor, and the fatherless and the weak. But what do these new corrupt laws do?

to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

The rich in this society feast on the needy as their prey, and because of their immense pride, they think they can keep getting away with it, but here’s what YHWH says:

What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the ruin that will come from afar?
(Referring to the Assyrian invasion)
To whom will you flee for help,

Israel, you’ve rejected God, you’ve refused to repent, you think you can do better on your own; fine. But the mace of His wrath is fixed to crush you. When that happens… where will you go?

    and where will you leave your wealth?

All that money that you’ve extorted from widows will be useless when you’re invaded and overtaken. Israel’s burnt her only bridge of protection; God. Israel’s only true guardian is the Lord, and they’ve turned Him aside, so now, instead, He is their dread and terror.

Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain.

In other words, all that’s left for the people to look forward to, and the best they can hope for is to hide with prisoners, or fake dead amongst countless corpses to avoid being slain when the Assyrians invade. And remember this is all the hand of the Lord against Israel. He is sovereign over all of this. Why is He doing this? Again, one last time, that refrain:

For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

This is the end of our passage. God condemns Israel’s pride, their refusal to repent, the effects of their sin, and their injustice. So, for all of this His wrath is a consuming fire to burn them up, and He’s going to use the surrounding nations to take them into exile where there will be horrible, awful, unspeakable suffering. And we end with His anger still ablaze, and His hand still set against the people in judgment…

Now, we know that there is future hope in the book of Isaiah yet to come. And we know the fullness of that in Christ. But I think that we take that for granted so often. We know that hope is just on the next page, so we never sit in the hopelessness, or fully weigh the result of our sin. So, here’s something for us to think about. What if Isaiah ended right here? With Gods hand being raised against the people to make war on them as His enemies. Because it could. God could have left us here, with no mercy, no grace, no saviour. He could destroy us, or leave us left to our own devices to destroy ourselves. He would be just as good and just as holy, and He would have done us no wrong. Think about a reality with no hope, and without Christ.

Imagine the song “nothing but the blood of Jesus” without that one phrase.

What can wash away my sin?
What can make me whole again?
For my pardon, this I see,
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing can for sin atone,
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing, nothing… nothing.

Without this blood… Without Jesus, the light of the world, we are left in total darkness. The only light that we would be able to see over the horizon would be the fire of God’s wrath barreling towards us to consume us. And there are billions of people who this is the case for.  No access the gospel. No blood. No Jesus. No hope. That could be us. Sit in that. Feel that. I wonder, what will God move us to do about that?

It’s good to feel these things, and to pray for a better understanding of them. It’s good to sit in them for a while. But we can’t stay there EBC. We do have a light, and a hope. We do have forgiveness and grace. How? 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, the Mighty God in flesh went to a horrible cross. With spikes in His hands and feet He was raised up, and suffered for our pride, our rebellion, our lust… And for all this the Fathers anger was not turned away and His hand was stretched out still against His only son.

A little while later, Jesus is likely despondent, in unimaginable anguish, as he suffered for our jealousy, our anger, and our greed. And for all this the Fathers anger was not turned away, and His hand was stretched out still. An hour or two later Jesus was likely beginning to suffocate, unable to lift His body anymore to draw a breath, as He suffered for our apathy, our lack of rejoicing, our laziness… And for all this the Fathers anger was not turned away, and His hand was stretched out still. And then Jesus died. Like we should have.

But He rose again, and swallowed up death forever so that it can’t swallow us up! And since Jesus drank every last drop of wrath, now God’s hand is no longer stretched out against us, but His hands are stretched out to invite us to come and have peace with Him forever! No anger. No judgment. If we repent and believe He is totally for us. So, rejoice!

But if you’re here, and you haven’t come to Him. If you haven’t embraced His outstretched hand of grace… I have a question for you from our text, Isaiah 10:3. What will you do in the day of punishment? To whom will you flee for help? There is nowhere else to go. There is no other safe hiding place besides Christ. Truly He has put away God’s wrath from us, but that can only be found in His blood. So now, let's rejoice together as the church, as we sing the song “nothing but the blood of Jesus” with the hope that the blood of Jesus gives us.

Download Files
Study Guide