9 December 2016

Isaiah 10:12-23

“A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” (v. 21)

Psalm: Psalm 69:1-21


The emphasis of this passage rests on the ultimate victory of God over all earthly powers that come against his purposes, and the enduring nature of God's own people even though they face trial and torment. But the passage is not without its complications to the modern reader. Assyria has acted with impunity with no regard to the welfare of human beings they conquered; they have demonstrated a confident brutality in their dealings and will now meet their match as the Lord restores order. The imagery is graphic and perhaps uncomfortable for those of us more familiar with the compassionate Christ than with the judging Jehovah!

The Assyrians marching triumphantly on Jerusalem are in effect jumping into the fire (verse 17), and the darkness of Assyrian tyranny will be destroyed by the "light of Israel".

But it is perhaps the remnant concept that is supposed to grasp our attention here. Although the people of the Lord have faced, will face and are facing incredible opposition and injury this passage asserts once more that they are not ultimately crushed. The naming of Isaiah's son Shear-jashub prefigured "a remnant will return". At times in the story of God's people that remnant has been hard-pressed and the experiences of the remnant have been difficult indeed; but the people have endured and the promise has remained alive with them.

The declaration "on that day" (v. 20) surely has a vista more expansive that the immediate unfolding events concerning Assyria. Perhaps the Lord also has in view that future time when the remnant will be brought home to God from east and west, and from north and south; that gathering of God's people returning to their Lord in the fullness of time. It will be the time when God's people will "no more lean on the one who struck them" (that is 'rely on making treaties with those who are really against them'), "but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel" (v. 20) - when our relationship with the Lord is all that we need to sustain us and secure us.

From the uncomfortable images of the brutality of God's judgement against Assyria flow the comforting promises of the blessings of the Lord gathering God's own people together: "A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God".

To Ponder

  • How far can you go with the idea of the Lord 'smiting' those who stand as barriers to God's own purposes and burdens to the people?
  • How is your understanding of God challenged by passages like this one?

Bible notes author

The Revd Mark Dunn-Wilson

The Revd Mark Dunn-Wilson is currently the superintendent minister of the Truro Circuit in central Cornwall where he has served for ten years and still going strong. Prior to Cornwall, Mark was a presbyter in the Liverpool District for 14 years.