Where do we turn for help when we are in danger? Instead of putting confidence in the flesh or seeking the help of sinful men, we need to put all of our dependence in the Lord who alone is the Righteous Judge and the Victorious Warrior. He will conquer all enemies and deliver us in the day of trouble. One day in the future the nation of Israel will repent and turn back to the Lord and experience complete deliverance.
Rich Cathers: Isaiah 31 picks up where we left off in chapter 30. The nation of Judah is facing the inevitable invasion from the mighty Assyrian army. There were some counselors in King Hezekiah’s court who were trying to get Hezekiah to get help from the Egyptians. They had already sent an entourage of camels bearing gifts to beg help from the Egyptians. Yet God was desiring that the people would look to Him for help.
Warren Wiersbe: Think of the money Judah would have saved and the distress they would have avoided had they only rested in the Lord their God and obeyed His will. All their political negotiations were futile and their treaties worthless. They could trust the words of the Egyptians but not the Word of God!"
VICTORY IN THE LORD OVERCOMES THE FUTILITY OF CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH — FOUR REASONS WHY WE NEED TO TRUST IN THE LORD
I. (:1-3) THE ARM OF FLESH WILL FAIL YOU – LOOK TO THE HAND OF GOD ALONE FOR HELP
If you want to learn by experience and suffer disaster, go ahead and trust in the flesh and in man’s wisdom and see where it takes you…
- The Apparent Power of the Flesh is Deceptive and Futile
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And in horsemen because they are very strong,"
Stedman: Egypt is always a symbol of the world in its wisdom.
- Effective Power Can Only Be Found in God – the Righteous Judge
- The Character of the Righteous Judge
- Holy and Covenant Loyal: "But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!"
- Wise: "Yet He also is wise"
- The Character of the Righteous Judge
MacArthur: Sarcastically, Isaiah countered the unwise royal counselors who had advised dependence on Egypt.
Constable: The politicians in Jerusalem who advocated alliance with Egypt undoubtedly considered their policy wise (cf. 5:21; 19:11-15; 28:14-15; 30:1-2). But Isaiah, in irony, pointed out that the Lord, who purposed disaster for those who refused to trust Him, was the truly wise one. He would be faithful to His word to oppose the party of evildoers and those wicked "helpers" in whom the Judeans trusted.
- The Activity of the Righteous Judge
- Sovereign in Executing Judgment: "and will bring disaster"
- Faithful in Executing Judgment: "and does not retract His words"
- Righteous in Executing Judgment Against Sinners: "But will arise against the house of evildoers and against the help of the workers of iniquity."
- (:3a) Contrast Between Human Weakness and Divine Omnipotence: "Now the Egyptians are men and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit;"
Young: The distinction is metaphysical, designed to set forth the difference between the Creator and the creature
- (:3b) The Effective Power of the Hand of the Lord
"So the Lord will stretch out his hand,
And he who helps will stumble
And he who is helped will fall,
And all of them will come to an end together."
II. (:4-5) THE LORD OF HOSTS WAGES WAR VICTORIOUSLY
Do you want to enjoy victory or defeat? Do you want God’s umbrella of protection over your life or do you want God to stalk and pursue you and hunt you down and punish you??
2 Contrasting Images from Nature:
- (:4) Relentless in Pursuing and Destroying its Prey – Like a Ferocious Lion
"For thus says the Lord to me,
‘As the lion or the young lion growls over his prey,
Against which a band of shepherds is called out,
And he will not be terrified at their voice nor disturbed at their noise,
So will the Lord of hosts come down to wage war on Mount Zion and on its hill.’"
Jim Bomkamp: This is an illustration of a lion who has taken down a sheep amongst the fold and who is crouching over his captured pray, and as the shepherds over that flock begin to circle around the lion he is not the least worried or concerned about their threat or presence.
- (:5) Protective in Rescuing and Delivering His Own – Like a Hovering Mother Bird
"Like flying birds so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem.
He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it."
Spurgeon: Let this be our comfort, that almighty love will be swift to succor and sure to cover. The wing of God is more quick and more tender than the wing of a bird, and we will put our trust under its shadow henceforth and forever.
Young: These two comparisons complement one another. First, God is compared with a strong lion, bold, unafraid, powerful; then with tender and loving birds which protect their nest.
III. (:6-7) HUMAN IDOLS ARE WORTHLESS – WARNING: RETURNING TO TRUST IN THE LORD INVOLVES REPENTANCE FROM SIN AND REJECTION OF WORTHLESS IDOLS
- (:6) Plea for Returning to the Lord: "Return to Him from whom you have deeply defected, O sons of Israel."
- (:7) Promise of Future Repentance from Sin and Rejection of Worthless Idol: "For in that day every man will cast away his silver idols and his gold idols, which your sinful hands have made for you as a sin."
- Idols look very valuable (made of silver and gold), but have proven worthless and powerless.
IV. (:8-9) FUTURE ACCOUNTABILITY WILL NOT BE FORGIVING – GOD’S SWORD AND GOD’S FIRE VANQUISH ALL ENEMIES
(Looking at near term fulfillment as well as eschatological fulfillment)
Take advantage of the forgiveness God offers now; God has promised what the future holds in store for those who insist on trusting in the flesh instead of in Him
- (:8) The Power of the Sword of God
"And the Assyrian will fall by a sword not of man,
And a sword not of man will devour him.
So he will not escape the sword,
And his young men will become forced laborers."
MacArthur: The defeat of Assyria by other than human means matched this prophecy well (see 37:36,37), but other such foreign oppressors meet the same fate in the distant future of Israel, during the time of Jacob’s trouble (cf. Jer 30:7).
- (:9) The Power of the Fire of God
"‘His rock will pass away because of panic,
And his princes will be terrified at the standard,’
Declares the Lord, whose fire is in Zion
And whose furnace is in Jerusalem."
Young: The reference is to the fire burning continually upon the altar of burnt offering. Parallel to the "fire" is the "furnace" in Jerusalem by which the prophet designates the burning wrath of God. On the altar there is the sacred fire and in Jerusalem the wrath of God’s presence, which will consume the enemies of the nation.
Constable: The prophet condemned those in Judah and Jerusalem who were relying on the brute strength, the military might, and the trained personnel of Egypt to provide security for their nation (cf. Deut. 17:14-20). Going down to Egypt to secure these things revealed a lack of trust in the Holy One of Israel who had long ago proved His sovereignty over Egypt. Rather the people should have simply looked to the Lord and cultivated relationship with Him.
David Silversides: Our sufficiency is of God
In previous chapters, the Lord has been warning against Israel’s misplaced trust in Egypt for the threat posed by Assyria. Many different expressions from chap. 30 are now brought together in 31:1.
1. (:1-3) A sense of need is no justification for a wrong confidence
Judah felt vulnerable; had a felt sense of need;
Deut. 17:16 – looking to Egypt expressly forbidden; Judah engaged in spiritual battles as the people of God so it was never appropriate to go to Egypt for help;
It is a contradiction of confidence in God and His sufficiency to trust in unlawful means;
God never needs our sinful expedience in order to care for us
Counsel of the world: We’ve got to be wise and do XXX. . .
2. (:4-5) The Lord will maintain His own cause
A pair of contrasting pictures:
– Lion roaring around its prey; shepherds trying to distract the lion and make it drop its prey and go away; but the lion persists;
– a Bird swift to protect His true people – judge apostasy but preserve the true church
3. (:6-9) A message of repentance before the inevitable shame
Their false religion would eventually bring shame
Timothy Dane: Woe to those who trust in flesh
No conflict with human responsibility and planning and taking necessary action; talking about areas where God has said: "This is the way it has to be" and then man seeks alternative counsel and help; Principles apply to us today because they are timeless;
Reasons why we should trust in the Lord and not in ourselves:
God’s early warning system for us – listen or you will have serious consequences…
1) (:1-3) If we trust in ourselves (or human strength) instead of God it will only bring disaster
What is our ultimate source of trust? Prov. 16:25 – our own wisdom might seem right to us; Ps. 118:8; not too far to get down to Egypt from Jerusalem; final result of not trusting in God = both Judah and Egypt will fall
2) (:4-5) If we do trust in God and follow Him with faithful heart, it brings forth God’s protective care for you as His child
Zech 2:8; God is jealous for His own people; you don’t have to fear anything if you follow God; rod and staff in Psalm 23; turn away from the Lord and you declare open hunting season against yourself
3) (:6-7) When God’s Day finally comes there will be a certain judgment against sin
Eccles 12:13-14; God will bring every deed to judgment; we will have to give an account so let’s follow God now; God knows the future as well as we know the past; so God gives a warning to His people; Shuv – return, repent – Isaiah’s first name (10:21) = a remnant will return – all who are left after the tribulation period (Zech 13:9 – two thirds of nation will die in Tribulation period); Israel was very deep in sin; you are in a world of hurt and you don’t even realize it; if you keep going in this path it will be all over; Subject of idolatry applies to us still today: Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5)
We need to repent because one day God will do away with the enemies (demons under the direction of Satan) that afflict us.