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If you are a serious student of history [ not really my focus], you have your favorite authors for various subjects. Some of the most recognizeable classical historians would be: Herodotus and Plutarch; You could talk about experts in a specific world kingdom – such as the rise and fall of the Roman Empire – Edward Gibbon, for example; or historians that have analyzed the Christian church [I am more familiar with these] – Albert Newman, Philip Shaff. But all of these have attempted to interpret the events of history after the fact. Only God writes the history of nations before it happens and executes His sovereign judgments according to His timetable of events.

We are in the second major section of Isaiah – chapters 13-25 – that detail God’s planned judgments against various evil nations. [Last week we reviewed the first 12 chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy.] We already studied the judgment leveled against Babylon. Isaiah opened with that nation since it is symbolic in the end times of any evil world empire that tries to oppose the kingdom of God. So Babylon gets some serious treatment up front by Isaiah. Today we study just 4 short verses that speak of God’s sovereignty in exercising judgment against Assyria. It is surprising to see Assyria get such brief treatment here.

How does this brief paragraph fit into Isaiah’s flow of thought? Liberals respond by saying this paragraph is out of place – some type of redaction that was inserted by some misguided scribe. It doesn’t belong here. However, this is the perfect spot for this important theme. It reinforces what Isaiah has just predicted about judgment against Babylon. By looking at how God will deal with the immediate threat of Assyria, one can have greater confidence that God will respond in like manner to enemies that crop up further down the road. In fact the Big Idea of this paragraph is the central thought of this entire section of chapters 13-25.


Ps. 103:19 “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.”

We know the Scriptures teach this consistently and without apology. But we need to be reminded constantly about the practical applications in terms of how we are to respond to this great truth.

Definition: To be sovereign is to possess supreme power and authority so that one is in complete control and can accomplish whatever he pleases.


God wants us to understand that He is serious about this Pledge —

God’s purposes are immutable

A. The Significance of the One Pledging

“The LORD of hosts”

  • Not some local, tribal leader

  • Not even the king of the most powerful nation on earth

  • Not even a league of nations united around one world-wide agenda

We lose sight of the invisible armies that are commanded by the Lord of hosts

Pink: Who is regulating affairs on this earth today – God or the Devil? What saith the Scriptures? If we believe their plain and positive declarations, no room is left for uncertainty. They affirm, again and again, that God is on the throne of the universe; that the scepter is in His hands; that He is directing all things “after the counsel of His own will.” They affirm, not only that God created all things, but also that God is ruling and reigning over all the works of His hands. They affirm that God is the “Almighty,” that His will is irreversible, that He is absolute sovereign in every realm of all His vast dominions. And surely it must be so. Only two alternatives are possible: God must either rule, or be ruled; sway, or be swayed; accomplish His own will, or be thwarted by His creatures. Accepting the fact that He is the “Most High,” the only Potentate and King of kings, vested with perfect wisdom and unlimited power, the conclusion is irresistible that he must be God in fact, as well as in name.

B. The Significance of the Manner of Attestation = Swearing an Oath

(not swearing in the sense of cursing with profane language)

“has sworn saying,”

Study the scriptures to see what types of things rise to the level of God swearing an oath …

Van Parunak: sworn,–About 20 times in the OT, we read of the Lord’s swearing an oath . The two most common categories are the patriarchal blessings of the land and his special relation to Israel, and his judgment (not only on Gentiles, as here, but on rebellious Israelites). [A smaller third category would be promises relating to the Messianic fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom.]

Deut 7:8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Psa 110:4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Heb 6:16-18 tells us that this mode of speech is condescension to us:

16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

God wants us to know that these things originate in his sovereign counsels, and not in the power of men.

2 immutable things = God’s promise and His oath

MacArthur: God’s Word does not need any confirmation from someone else. It is reliable because God Himself is faithful. People confirm their promises by appealing to someone greater (especially to God) as witness. Since no one is greater than God, He can only provide an oath from Himself. By doing so He is willingly (v. 17) accommodating Himself to human beings who desire the confirmation because of the characteristic unreliability of human promise.

How sure is our salvation? It is all dependent on the Promise and Pledge of God who cannot lie; He is the God of Truth

C. The Significance of the Immutability of the Pledge = His promises and pledge are unchangeable and effective

“Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened,

and just as I have planned so it will stand,”

Look at the plans of man and see our limitations in contrast to the exclusive sovereignty of God:

– No accidents with God – think of the tree that fell and killed my brother-in-law

It’s a different world if you think that accidents can get in the way of God’s plan

– No surprises with God —

– No false threats with God – Don’t you hate it when you hear parents threatening their children with discipline but not carrying it out?

– No frustration with God – never has His plans thwarted by someone else

– No vacillation with God – I said I was going to do this … but maybe I should really do that …

Is. 46:9-11 “My purpose will be established”


God wants us to understand that His purposes are redemptive and glorify His name —

A. (:25) Near Term Redemptive Purposes – Deliverance from Assyria

“to break Assyria in My land, and I will trample him on My mountains.

Then his yoke will be removed from them, and his burden removed from their shoulder.”

1. Involves Smashing God’s Enemies

“break” “trample”

Van Parunak: (25) That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains [I will] tread him underfoot: — Note the chiastic emphasis on the Lord’s agency and the Lord’s authority over the land. The Lord’s sovereign “I will” here stands against the pathetic and failed “I will” of the Babylonian king in 14:13-14. Our purposes are always contingent on the Lord’s pleasure. His purposes are absolute.

2. Involves Protecting God’s Sovereign Turf

“My land” “My mountains”

Zion is the fortress of the Lord; place of safety and protection

3. Involves Delivering God’s Covenant People

“yoke removed” “burden removed”

What type of yoke or burden is crushing you down right now?

Beall: V. 25 is fulfilled in Isaiah’s lifetime (Sennacherib,m701 B.C.–see Isa 37 for the fulfillment).

Van Parunak: The reference to Assyria takes us back to ch. 7. The correct solution to Assyria is neither to mount an independent attack (the approach of the Syrian-Ephraimite coalition) nor to send them tribute (as Ahaz wished to do), but to turn to the Lord.

Constable: The near fulfillment came in 701 B.C. when the angel of the Lord slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who had surrounded Jerusalem (37:36-37; 2 Kings 19:35). Later fulfillments came in 689 B.C., when the Assyrians under Sennacherib sacked Babylon, and in 539 B.C., when Cyrus the Persian destroyed it.

B. (:26) Eschatological Redemptive Purposes – Ultimate Deliverance in Day of the Lord

“This is the plan devised against the whole earth;

and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations.”

God’s decrees concern the whole world; everything is under His sovereign control

What you see accomplished in miniature will ultimately be played out on a global scale in the end times in the Day of the Lord; It is the same hand of the Lord that sovereignly plans and executes such plans of judgment and redemption

Motyer: The substance of these verses is that the Assyrian threat, current in Isaiah’s day, would be decisively crushed in the Lord’s own land (24–25), that is, with his then people as witness. This attested act of God is then used as an example of the way the divine hand governs all nations and executes an irresistible world purpose (26–27). The outstretched hand of verse 27 forms an inclusio with 13:2. The historical act which they see will be replicated in the eschatological judgment on the whole world and now acts as a guarantee of it….The Assyrian incident is the model for the eschaton.

Jim Bomkamp: No nation upon the earth shall escape the judgment of the Lord that is going to come, for all of the nations have determined their own fate and refused to submit themselves to the counsel and purposes of the Lord.

James Barker: Emphasis on word “purposed”; It is an eternal purpose of God; Rom. 8:28 – all things including sickness and death – called according to His purpose; Ephes. 1:11 being predestined according to the purpose ….; Ephes. 3:11 according to the eternal purpose …; 2 Tim. 1:9 God has saved us and called us with a holy calling … according to His own purpose . . .; 1 John 3:8 for this purpose the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil;


God wants us to understand that His power cannot be thwarted by any person or any nation –

God’s purposes are effective

“For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it?

And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”

– Can the will or actions of man frustrate God’s plans?

Rom. 9:16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

2 Tim. 1:9 “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity”

– Can the counsel and combined alliance of the most powerful nations frustrate God’s plans?

Psalm 2:4 “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.”

Job 12:3 “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.”

Dan. 4:34-35 “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’”

Man is not even in a position to question God’s sovereign actions

– Can the power of Satan frustrate God’s plans?

Ps. 135:5-6 “our Lord is above all gods”

1 John 3:8 “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Possible approaches to dangers and threats (such as faced by King Ahaz):

– Fight back in the power of the flesh

– Capitulate in the panic of fear – pay tribute; make a deal

– Submit in the peace of faith to the sovereign plan of God


History has been defined as “His Story” –


Practical Applications:

– Have security in your eternal salvation – God’s calling is without repentance

– Set your priority is on the progress of God’s kingdom rather than the furtherance of any earthly kingdom

– Persevere in your spiritual service, knowing that it is not in vain since the Lord is sovereign over all – especially over the results of your labors

– Be comforted that no trial or pain or disaster that strikes you is outside of the providence of God’s sovereign control

– Be excited about the fact that God has a purpose for your life

You never know how God is using you in His sovereignty –

Gladys Talbot — Illustration – quoted by Rich Cathers

Gladys Talbot tells the story of three little trees who wanted to be something in life. The first tree wanted to be a pretty cradle when it grew up. One day some people came to the forest and cut the tree down. The tree was hewn into rough pieces and carelessly put together to form a manger in a stable in Bethlehem. The little tree was disappointed because it was shoved into a dark cave with no one to see it but some cattle. One day however, God laid there His own Babe — the Son of God. the manger quivered with delight. “Oh, this is wonderful! In all my dreams I never thought to hold a Baby like this. This is better than all my planning. Why, I am part of a miracle!”

Years passed by, and men came to the forest to cut down the second tree. This tree aspired to be a great ship when it grew up. But the little tree did not do great things. It was not made into a great vessel, but instead it became a tiny fishing boat, owned by a simple Galilean fisherman named Peter. The little boat was most unhappy. One day it stood by the shores of the Sea of Galilee dejected and disappointed. A crowd had gathered by the shore and because of the multitude, a Man, called Jesus, stepped into the little boat and taught the people from it. “This is wonderful!” it whispered. “In all my dreams and planning I never thought I would be used as part of a miracle.”

After some months, men came to the forest to cut down the third tree. This tree just wanted to remain on the hillside and point to God. But men did not leave the little tree alone. They tore away its branches; they cut into its bark, and deeper, into its very heart. They hewed it apart and put it together again, in the form of a crude cross. The little tree quivered through all its being.

“This is terrible!” it whispered. “They are going to hang someone. Oh, I never wanted this to happen to me — I only wanted to point to God! This is awful!”

One day, outside of Jerusalem, a great crowd gathered. In the midst of the crowd was Jesus and beside Him was the cross. After nailing Him to the cross, the little tree heard words of forgiveness and peace that were offered to the whole world. Then Christ completed His work of redemption and “gave up the ghost.”

And the cross began to understand! “This is wonderful!” it whispered. “In all my dreams I never thought to point to God in this way. I am part of a miracle. This is better than all my planning.”

— Talbot, G.M., Stories I Love to Tell, Chicago: Moody Press