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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 10:26-34

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, December 14, 2007

The first Christian martyr, Stephen, turned to the pages of the Old Testament to call the people to repentance when he was put on trial, recalling the stories of Abraham (Acts 7:2), Joseph (Acts 7:9), Moses (Acts 7:20), Joshua (Acts 7:45), David (Acts 7:46), Solomon (Acts 7:47), and even quoting from Isaiah 66:1-2 to remind the Sanhedrin that the God they rejected is the one who made everything.

Isaiah does something similar in these closing verses of chapter 10. But Isaiah’s point is the way that God has protected and defended his people from their enemies. The Lord is both the strength of his people and their shield (Psalm 28:7).

26 The LORD Almighty will lash them with a whip,
as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb;
and he will raise his staff over the waters,
as he did in Egypt.
27 In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders,
their yoke from your neck;
the yoke will be broken
because you have grown so fat.

First Isaiah recalls an incident from the time of the Judges, when two Midianite enemies led by Oreb and Zeeb slaughtered one another when Gideon deceived them with broken jars and blown trumpets (Judges 7:20-21, 7:25). There is also a reference to the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) which is a favorite memory (especially in the Psalms) recalling God’s strength and protection (Psalm 74:13, 78:13, 106:9 [quoted in Nahum 1:4]; Psalm 114:5, 136:13).

With a clever image in the final phrase of verse 27, Isaiah pictures an enslaved Israel “so fat” (i.e. prosperous) that the bonds of slavery are shattered. It is the blessing of the Lord that breaks the bonds of slavery, the blessings of his mercy and his forgiveness. Jeremiah would later record the Lord’s promise: “I will break the yoke off their necks and tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them” (Jeremiah 30:8).

28 They enter Aiath;
they pass through Migron;
they store supplies at Micmash.
29 They go over the pass, and say,
“We will camp overnight at Geba.”
Ramah trembles;
Gibeah of Saul flees.

Now Isaiah describes the Assyrian column moving down through Israel from the north. King Saul had once used a famous pomegranate tree at Migron as his headquarters during the Philistine wars (1 Samuel 14:2). Micmash was about seven miles from Jerusalem; Ramah (which had been Samuel’s home, 1 Samuel 1:1, 7:17) was five miles away, and Gibeah, King Saul’s old home (and a Philistine outpost, 1 Samuel 10:5) just three miles away.

30 Cry out, O Daughter of Gallim!
Listen, O Laishah!
Poor Anathoth!
31 Madmenah is in flight;
the people of Gebim take cover.
32 This day they will halt at Nob;
they will shake their fist
at the mount of the Daughter of Zion,
at the hill of Jerusalem.

Gallim was the town where Paltiel lived. Paltiel was the man to whom Saul gave his daughter Michal (David’s fiancée). Laishah seems to have also been known as Leshem (Joshua 19:47; Luther holds this view), captured by the tribe of Dan after they failed to drive out the Philistines (and consequently, one of the primary reasons for the later Philistine wars and Israel’s demand for a king). In the New Testament, Leshem or Laishah is called Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27; Acts 16:12, 20:6). This city was also called Paneas after the god Pan and is still today known as Banias. It is one of the most pagan locations mentioned in the Bible. Anathoth was a city of the Levites in the territory of Benjamin (Joshua 21:18; 1 Chronicles 6:60). It was the home town of Abiezer, one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:27; 1 Chronicles 11:28).

Nob is known for being the place where Goliath’s sword and armor were kept until David needed them—and then Saul murdered the priests of Nob (1 Samuel 22:17). Perhaps some of these references to places that were known for their role in the Philistine wars under Saul also paint a little of the background for the references to Jesse and his son coming soon in chapter 11.

33 See, the Lord, the LORD Almighty,
will lop off the boughs with great power.
The lofty trees will be felled,
the tall ones will be brought low.
34 He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax;
Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One. (NIV)

Lebanon was known for its huge cedar trees. Writers in the Bible talk about Lebanon when they want to talk about things that are very big. Here the Assyrian king is no different than a Lebanese pine tree: the Lord’s ax cuts one as well as the other.

And the Lord has cut down the whole overgrown tangle and the murky woods of our sins. His ax has left none of our guilt standing; even the roots are pulled up and tossed into the bonfire. It is all replaced by a single, solitary tree, upon which Jesus was nailed in our place.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.