In order to understand this prophecy, we must refer to the history of the period. Wicked King Ahaz had died, and his son Hezekiah had succeeded him on the throne of Judah. He was a great and righteous man. His first business, as we read in the Second Book of Chronicles, was to repair the house of God and cleanse it from idolatry (726 BC). Then he celebrated a holy and joyful Passover feast – to which he invited not only his own people of Judah, but also the neighboring Israelites from the Northern Kingdom. He trusted in Jehovah, and rebelled against the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:5-7); and for a time, no difficulty ensued, as the Assyrians were busily engaged elsewhere. But at length, in 713 BC, the Assyrian king found himself at leisure to avenge Hezekiah’s rebellion from 13 years earlier. Hezekiah, in a moment of weakness, sent him a humble apology and a large sum of money – actually emptying the treasures of the Lord’s house, as well as those of the palace, in order to pay it (2 Kings 18:13-16). However, about four years later (709 BC), Hezekiah felt that the time was right for him to shake off the Assyrian yoke once again (2 Kings 18:17-19:37). But this time, King Sargon wasted not a moment. He sent his son Sennacherib and his army on the march to Judah right away (2 Chr. 32:1). Perceiving that war could no longer be avoided, Hezekiah proceeded to make the best preparations for defense that he could (2 Chr. 32:2-8). As the danger increased, his faith became stronger; and while he ordered the walls and towers of Jerusalem to be repaired, he encouraged his people, saying to them, “With the king of Assyria is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles!”
However, it seems that not all of the people shared Hezekiah’s happy confidence. They wanted an arm of flesh to lean on; and, strange to say, they foolishly looked to Egypt for help. Perhaps they thought that the Egyptian military could back them up against the powerful Assyrian monarch (2 Kings 18:19-21). Alas! When people do not put their trust in God, there is no weak or foolish thing which they will not trust to. And so it was to warn the Jews of their sin and folly in looking to Egypt, that Isaiah delivered the message in this chapter. When people fail to seek the Lord’s guidance, they grievously sin. He has most graciously promised to guide everyone who seeks Him; and when we refuse this offered guidance, we are guilty of rebellion and ingratitude. But when we look to God, we shall be kept in peace among all the perplexities and dangers and troubles of life; and we shall realize the happy assurance that He is our God forever and ever, and that He will be our Guide – even unto death! (Ps. 48:14) Isaiah reminded his people wherein their true wisdom would consist. He said, “Their strength is to sit still” – that is, to wait in quiet dependence upon God; not hurrying about from one scheme to another, or from one human friend and adviser to another; but calmly resting upon the Lord alone.
In verses 12-17, the Lord warns those who despise His Word, and who trust in oppression and perverseness, of the ruin that is coming upon them. God plainly reveals the plan of salvation (verse 15); but sadly, many today still say “no” to it, and choose a plan of their own. “In returning and rest shall ye be saved” – in returning to God, resting upon Christ, and repenting and believing. No ceremonies are to be observed; no human creature’s assistance is to be sought; no good works are to be done as preparation for salvation. Simply repent and believe, and return and rest – at once and immediately. And when we are saved, the next sentence in the verse teaches us how to be strong and consistent Christians: “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength!” The secret of a holy life is a quiet and assured confidence in Jesus’ finished work, and in our own forgiveness through Him! The more we realize our God’s forgiving love, the greater will be our strength to resist sin, and the greater will be our desire to yield to Him a happy and unreserved obedience.
Even in the midst of rebuke and warning, the Lord’s voice of love and mercy for His people still breaks forth. Although they were planning to get help from Egypt against their Assyrian enemies, the Lord was preparing a wonderful deliverance for them in quite another manner. And – little as they deserved any good from His hand – He assured them (verses 18-19) that He would be very gracious to them; and that whenever they would cry, He would answer them. God hates sin; but even at this moment, He is waiting to be gracious to sinners.
Verses 19-26 contain a prophecy which was probably meant to describe the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem after the Lord had destroyed the Assyrian army of Sennacherib, as He promised that He would do. But the description is so worded that it is impossible to not see here a much greater reference to the great and glorious spiritual blessings of the Gospel! And in the last few verses (27-33), Isaiah returns to the more immediate subject of his prophecy. Danger was threatening from the Assyrians, and the alarmed Israelites were seeking help from Egypt. But the Lord tells His people that if they would only wait for Him, He was preparing to destroy the Assyrian army – not by human help or ordinary means; but by His own voice, and His own arm! We can easily imagine the joy of Hezekiah and the Jews upon finding themselves so mercifully and so unexpectedly delivered. And similarly, on the Great Last Day, the destruction of all the wicked will be the subject of joy and triumph to the Lord’s people!
Lord, forgive us for the times when we have searched for help from the Egypts of this world, instead of in the strength and finished work of Jesus, our Savior! Amen.
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