God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, December 11, 2007
12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.
The word for “finished” here is a picture from sewing or weaving: the Lord has “snipped off” the end of the Assyrian thread he used for his work (I can picture my mother biting thread as she stitched up a hole or a button for me as a child, not even missing a beat in what she was saying). Now, because of the sins the Assyrians committed—their many atrocities—he will punish them.
Here God comforts all who are oppressed by invaders or ravaged by their own defenders in the terrible time of war. And this should also serve as a warning for leaders and commanders who turn a blind eye to such things. The greatest Christian military commander in literature commanded that “in our marches through the country, there be nothing taken but paid for, none of the [enemy] upbraided or abused by disdainful language; for when…cruelty play[s] for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.”1
13 For he says:
“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
14 As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as men gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp.’” (NIV)
This is the speech of the Assyrian King. Isaiah knows that this is what the enemy commander’s message was with everything that his army did. They were not only bringing God’s judgment down on Israel. They were glorifying themselves in doing it. They did things God had commanded should never be done, such as moving boundary stones (Deuteronomy 19:14, 27:17). Luther compares the Assyrian king to a gardener moving trees, perhaps thinking also of what’s coming in verse 18 (the Lord will burn down “the splendor of his forests”).
They reached in and took Israel almost as easily as the Axis troops marching into Czechoslovakia on October 15th, 1938. Nobody said anything. Not one flapped a wing or opened its mouth to chirp.
In the verses to come, the Lord sends his verdict crashing down on Assyria. But we should take what has been said so far to heart. It is not an easy thing to be a Christian with a conscience living within the borders of a world power. The world would probably read that and laugh—but a believer must act according to his abilities.
For the Christian, whether in the present or in the future—we must act according to our conscience, which God has given us as a guide. We thank him for such a guide, just as we thank him and praise him for the forgiveness he offers and which he won for us through the blood of his son, Jesus.
1 Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III Scene 6.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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