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A good title for our message this morning would be “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” – but Jonathan Edwards still owns the rights to that impactful phrase. We have been bouncing back and forth in our study of these early chapters in the book of Isaiah between Gloom and Glory – between dark promises of impending judgment and brilliant glimpses of hope regarding the coming of Messiah and the righteous reign of the millennial kingdom.

Most of the attention since 7:1 has been on Isaiah’s interaction with wicked King Ahaz and how God will deal with Judah – the southern kingdom. Ahaz had the opportunity to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith. He was invited to seek a confirming sign from God. He chose to go his own way and rely on his foolish political alliance with Assyria to protect him from the dual threat of Israel and Syria. So the Lord did an end run around Ahaz and initiated His own dramatic sign to the people of Judah – the virgin birth of the Messiah – a promise expanded in chap. 9 where we learned last week more about the character and role of the child that would be born, the son that would be given. Now the attention turns to Israel and the northern kingdom of 10 tribes – sometimes referred to by its largest tribe Ephraim, its capital Samaria or by Jacob. What will be their fate – given their rebellion and apostasy?

Van Parunak: The focus since 7:1 has been on Judah, and references to the judgment on the northern kingdom have been due to their role in opposing Judah . . .Now Isaiah turns his indictment against the North for their own wickedness. . . The four stanzas each include both sin and judgment, though only the fourth explicitly echoes the “woe.” Then, 10:5-31 gives the most detailed description yet of the coming Assyrian invasion.

The passage addresses sin and judgment on a national level – but we can make application to our personal lives as well. We have studied earlier sections that speak of the signs of a society that has so degenerated into wickedness that it should expect the imminent judgment of God. We have seen that our society fits those sobering criteria. Here the structure of the section is made obvious for us – four stanzas ending in the same refrain which echoes the theme of our study for today. 9:12; 9:17; 9:21; 10:4


(9:8-9a) PRELUDE: Rejection of the Counsel of the Lord Leads to Judgment

“The Lord sends a message against Jacob; and it falls on Israel.

And all the people know it, That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,”

Van Parunak: First, he sends only one word, not “words.” When someone sends “words,” the reference is to a message that the recipient is intended to understand . . . But when God sends a single word, it is a command that has its effect, whether or not anybody understands it: Ps. 147:18; Is. 55:11. Thus the point here is not that he spoke to Jacob, but that he uttered a command concerning them. . . What did they know? The only reasonable reference is that they knew that the Lord had decreed judgment against them. 2 Kings 17:13-15 recalls all the prophets that the Lord sent to the Northern Kingdom to warn them about their sin and its consequences. “All the people knew” that they were sinning, but they would not admit it outwardly.

Young: All the people, the entire Israel, will know as a result of experience. The word has reached them and accomplished its end. Until now they have paid no attention to God’s threatenings, but the word has reached them. Experiencing the divine chastisement, the entirety of the people will obtain knowledge, but even so will continue in hardness of heart.

Oswalt: Those who have thought they were independent will know the truth of God’s word (Hos. 9:7; Ps. 14:4; Job 21:19), for through it they will come up against the unshakable fact that they are finite; there are limits to their abilities and potentials.




A. The Sin Problem – The Foundations Have Crumbled

“The bricks have fallen down”

For the nation of Israel – especially the ten northern tribes – we have seen that their society has disintegrated; they have rejected the Lord and turned away from following His Word; their foundations have crumbled; they are way off track when it comes to serving their covenant God; they are like that derailed train this week over in Rosedale – they are already burning and the clouds of dense black smoke are visible everywhere – “Houston, we have a problem” – it cannot be denied; How will the nation respond

How do you respond when the foundations crumble?

Where have the foundations crumbled in your life? Or maybe just some of the bricks are starting to come loose – some of the bricks in your walk with the Lord – some of that closeness and intimacy – or some of the bricks in your marriage or family relationships – or some of the bricks in your career or in your health – there are many ways in which our life seems to break down and crumble

B. The Sinful Response = Self Reliant Reconstruction – “We will rebuild”

1. Image of a Building

“we will rebuild with smooth stones;”

Self Help program; self reclamation; self reformation

“Can a leopard change its spots”

2. Image of a Forest

“But The sycamores have been cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.”

“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”

Beall: Cedars were tall stately trees that often stood for the pride of Israel (since they were imported by Solomon at the height of the kingdom–see Isa 2:12-17; Jer 22:6-7, 13-17, 23-25; Ezek 17:3, 11; 2 Kgs 14:8-10–Jehoash, the king of Israel, mocks Amaziah [Uzziah’s father] by calling him a thistle, while Jehoash is the cedar.

This response is the typical response we see in our country today to any type of calamity. [Not dealing here with trying to make any such direct link to the calamity and divine judgment – that is a more complicated issue for us..] The flood or the hurricane or the tornado strikes and there is unbelievable devastation. But immediately our leaders step forward and in self reliance proudly proclaim, “We will rebuild” – “We will make it even better than before.” Isn’t that the message that we hear all the time? As if we have the power in ourselves to make this happen apart from the grace and providence of God. If God chooses, He can send a second tornado right along the same path as the first. As fast as we can construct a Tower of Babel, God can knock it down, if He so chooses. Our mindset in terms of priority should be to seek the Lord and rely on His grace and resources. Karen and I always shrink back from those public figures that have achieved success in some realm and put themselves out there with the motivating message: “You can do anything you set your mind to do” – really? Is that what the Bible teaches? Our society is permeated with these positive self help messages – “We will rebuild”

Look at the Root Motivation:

C. The Root Motivation: Pride and Arrogance

“Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart:”

Motyer: “Pride” from word meaning “to be high”; “Arrogance” from word meaning “to be great”; to depict one who stubbornly backs his own judgment, trusts his own responses, depends on his own resources and puts his own policies to work. . . an awareness that “things are falling apart” met by a spirit of self-confidence towards the future, never stopping to read the lessons of the past. Not only will the set-back be overcome but the future will outshine the past as dressed stone and cedars surpass (mud) bricks and (common sycamore) fig-trees.

Oswalt: the sin for Israel, the source of all other sin, is the pride which exalts humanity above God, which makes God but a tool for the achievement of our plans and dreams.

The Lord hates pride in any of us; the Lord hates pride in any nation; if we refuse to humble ourselves before Him, He has unlimited ways to humble us and show us His sovereignty and majesty and dominion and power

D. The Response of the Lord in Further Judgment – Sending Stronger Enemies to Oppose Them

“Therefore the LORD raises against them adversaries from Rezin, And spurs their enemies on, The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west; And they devour Israel with gaping jaws.”

Adversaries from Rezin (from Syria) or adversaries of Rezin (= Assyrians)

Beall: the expression could be either a rival party in Syria (so Martin, Ridderbos, Vine–see v. 12) or Assyria.

The Syrians (their former allies in the confederacy against the Assyrians) on the east and the Philistines (their permanent nemesis) on the west.

It sounds like all nations are now against Israel.

Van Parunak: What event does Isaiah have in mind? TP3 subjugated Syria in 734-733, when he destroyed Damascus. Pekah was overthrown by Hoshea (2 Kings 15:30). 2 Kings 17:1-6 records how Hoshea ruled for nine years. At first he was a vassal to Assyria, but then he rebelled and turned to Egypt for aid. In punishment for his treason, Shalmaneser V beseiged Samaria (2 Kings 17:5), which fell to Sargon II three years later in 722. This passage appears to have been written during this nine year period, when the first blow has fallen, but not the second.

You remember the movie Jaws? Here you have enemy nations rising up and devouring Israel in their jaws like they were just a little snack, an appetizer – nothing more than a mouthful. No contest; nothing that Israel could do to mount a defense; where is their pride and arrogance in the face of such strong foes?

Who is driving this judgment? The Lord Himself – personally, directly

E. Refrain of the Unrelenting Wrath of God

“In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out.”

Isa 5:25 “On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people, and He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down. And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets. For all this His anger is not spent, but His hand is still stretched out.”

Wrath of God not satisfied; man cannot make propitiation for his sins

Image of stretched out hand can remind you of parental corporal punishment of young children – paddling them for their stubborn, willful rebellion – continuing to extend that hand until they yield – at that point you want nothing more than to embrace them and verbalize your love and commitment to them – but Israel would not repent and the Lord in His wrath would not relent

Wave #2


A. The Sin Problem – Failure to Depend on the Lord for Leadership and Direction

“Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them,

Nor do they seek the LORD of hosts.”

Hard times intended to drive us back to the Lord; that should be the effect of discipline;

We are dealing here with an impenitent people; no repentance on their part

B. The Sinful Response – Relying on Human Leadership – both in the Political and Religious Realm

1. The Head – Respected Politicians Providing the Decision Making

“The head is the elder and honorable man”

Come to believe that they are above the law; they are not accountable

2. The Tail – Lying Prophets Providing the Input

“And the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail.”

Book of Jeremiah has much to say about the false prophets – the Lord did not send them; they do not speak His truth; they speak what the people want to hear

Van Parunak: “Head and tail” represents the entire animal. “Branch” (the lofty palm frond) and “rush” (growing in the marsh) represent the highest and lowest plants. The prophet is describing a devastation of the land that has touched the entire society. Historically, the likely reference is to the preliminary deportation of Galilee around 732, described in 2 Kings 15:29.

Oswalt: That pride and arrogance which exalts humanity issues in an adulation of the “great” men of a society. But that very adulation renders them less and less able to lead their people. For just leadership can only come from persons who know their own weaknesses and corruptibility.

C. The Root Motivation: Foolish Spirit of Godless Independence in Reliance on Human Wisdom

1. Their Incompetence — Blind Leading the Blind

“For those who guide this people are leading them astray;

And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.”

2. Their Wickedness and Foolishness

“For every one of them is godless and an evildoer,

And every mouth is speaking foolishness.”

D. The Response of the Lord in Further Judgment – Judgment Without Favor

1. Judgment

“So the LORD cuts off head and tail from Israel,

Both palm branch and bulrush in a single day.”

Beall: the palm branch (hP’Ki, the most honored branch) and the bulrush (!mog>a;, the most lowly). See Isa 19:15, where both pairs of words are again used in connection with the foolish leaders of Egypt. The idea is that the whole will be severed, from the least to the greatest. . . No doubt Isaiah is here mocking the prophets, who were no leaders, but rather told the kings what they wanted to hear (and thus are like a dog’s wagging tail!

2. Without Favor

a. No Favor for the Strong

“Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men,”

b. No Provision for the Vulnerable

“Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows;”

Strong and surprising statement here – the Lord is known for His compassion towards orphans and widows – Yet here He turns His back on them – sounds harsh – but much of Scripture sounds harsh if you do not understand the seriousness of sin; the nature of God’s holiness and sense of justice; the inevitability of His judgment and wrath

E. Refrain of the Unrelenting Wrath of God

“In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out.”


What’s wrong with a preoccupation with self? With thinking only about your own life?

Remember the warning of Jesus – the one who tries to just save his own life will lose it …

A. The Sin Problem – Consumed by the Wickedness that Attracts Them

“For wickedness burns like a fire; It consumes briars and thorns; It even sets the thickets of the forest aflame, And they roll upward in a column of smoke.”

Like the chemicals in the derailed CSX rail car on Tuesday that just continue to burn and send up plumes of dense black smoke

Van Parunak: The kind of fire to which Isaiah compares sin is one that can not only burn up the dry brush at the end of the hot summer, but destroy dense forest as well.

B. The Sinful Response – Retreat Into a Shell of Selfish Isolationism

“And they slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, And they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; Each of them eats the flesh of his own arm. Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, And together they are against Judah.”

Manasseh and Ephraim were the tribes descended from the two sons of Joseph – had a history of some civil conflict – Judges 12

The only time the tribes can come together is to unite against Judah.

How pleasant it is when brothers can exist together in peace and unity.

Here: every man for himself; complete anarchy

Motyer: Under deficient leadership (13-17) the door is opened to unchecked self-seeking. This stanza exposes the betrayal of brotherliness (19), the essential barrenness of the acquisitive life (20) and the breakdown of social cohesiveness (21).

C. The Root Motivation: Preoccupation with Self / Self Absorption

“No man spares his brother.”

D. The Response of the Lord in Further Judgment – Consuming the Land and the People

“By the fury of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up,

And the people are like fuel for the fire;”

E. Refrain of the Unrelenting Wrath of God

“In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out.”

Van Parunak: The alternation of time markers produces a kaleidoscope in which the past, present, and future blur together to make exactly the point stated in the refrain: The same zeal against sin that God has already demonstrated, will continue to operate in the future..

Oswalt: The “prophetic perfect,” in which the tense of completed action is used to describe future events of whose occurrence the writer is absolutely convinced, is common in the book. But here perfects, perfects with waw consecutive, imperfects, and imperfects with waw consecutive all occur together in such a way that all versions are required to emend the text in some way in order to produce any consistency.


A. The Sin Problem – Injustice and Exploitation

1. Injustice – on the part of those who make the laws and those who implement them

“Woe to those who enact evil statutes, And to those who constantly record unjust decisions,”

2. Exploitation of the Weak and Vulnerable

“So as to deprive the needy of justice, And rob the poor of My people of their rights,”

Remember the fundamental mission of government: to protect peoples’ rights; to reward those who do well and punish those who do evil; to provide a just and righteous environment where people can live in peace and security

B. The Sinful Response – Trying to Build a Secure Future

Nothing left to try – no recourse or place to turn for refuge or help

C. The Root Motivation: Greed and Insecurity

“In order that widows may be their spoil, And that they may plunder the orphans.”

D. The Response of the Lord in Further Judgment – No Place to Hide in Day of Judgment and Accountability –

1. Three Tough Questions

a. What will you do?

“Now what will you do in the day of punishment, And in the devastation which will come from afar?”

b. Who will help you?

“To whom will you flee for help?”

c. What benefit to you will be your money and prestige and power?

“And where will you leave your wealth?”

2. Two Bad Destinies

a. Slavery

“Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives”

b. Extinction

“Or fall among the slain.”

Nowhere to hide

Your Wealth does you no good

Van Parunak: Their judgment, according to the questions in v. 3, corresponds to their sin. They have deprived oppressed people of the protection that the nation’s government should offer. Now the Lord will abandon them and leave them without protection.

E. Refrain of the Unrelenting Wrath of God

“In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out.”

Grogan: The refrain that has occurred at various points in this oracle is truly terrifying in its climactic position. If even physical earth does not satisfy the fierce anger of this holy God, what dread punishment lies beyond the grave?


What can satisfy this unrelenting wrath of God that is unleashed against sin and ungodliness and wickedness? Only the propitiation accomplished on the cross by the substitutionary atoning death of the Son of God Himself – Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.