by Rev Hilda Warwick
Isaiah chapter 10
Here we are again and this is a passage not for the fainthearted.
This is a final reminder that the nation of Israel had chosen not to heed the warnings that God’s judgement was imminent, a warning, to those who act foolishly. Here the foolishness concerns the practice of social exploitation and the manipulation of the legal process .Such actions did not go unnoticed or unpunished and God sees that the powerful are exploiting the poor, the widows and orphans, to their own advantage.
The coming of a devastating storm, is the same word used for the Holocaust in the English language. This is no small measure .There will be no safe place to hide. The wealthy will be forced to run and hide, without their wealth. A drastic social reversal, where the wealthy will be the fugitives.
The purpose of the prophets is to encourage the people to view their lives from God’s perspective. So no matter what the situation, they insist that God is active, and therefore all situations, have to be evaluated, and considered in the light of His activity, otherwise they will be misunderstood. In a culture that makes little reference to God this passage challenges us to think again of God’s activity in our world. God was inviting the complete re- orientation of public life to include Him. Here the people were avoiding such a construct and the consequences were severe.
For the people of God, the only reality that makes sense, is the one that places God at the centre.
The rod in God’s hand is something both painful, but life giving. Hope would be found when the Assyria’s downfall is complete and God begins the work of restoration. This was to be a long time in the history of Israel and Isaiah invites faith on a large scale. He points to the end, where only then can hope be seen.
But even as Assyria is God’s chosen instrument of judgement, they too have acted beyond their remit and now things are turned around. Its boasting fails to recognise that God is still working on behalf of Israel.
But God still provides Israel with the sober reminder, that trust and faith in Him are both required and expected. The effect of Assyria’s intervention is to turn people back to God, but even then it was only a remnant that would be left.
The message of hope is hard to see, but in all the disasters, there is a stripping back leaving only a remnant, but it is from that small remaining group that newness springs forth and God continues the work He has begun.
We see in v.20 that change in perspective, where Israel now leans on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. To lean suggests a reorientation , a place of deep trust in God and a willingness to engage with the One who saves .Here we are reminded of the God of relationship and the invitation is to all , who accept His sacrifice.
Hope is there and we are invited to discover it, if we dig deep. However there is nothing easy or simply about this leaning. Trust will require something of us, but will be worth our investment.
A reminder that things falling apart do not mean that God has abandoned the situation, but is indeed at work significantly behind the scenes of hardship, working out greater purposes than we can sometimes see.
Prayer – Father, may our words and our ways, embrace the paths of justice. May we fight for the orphan, the widow and the stranger. Remind us that all are our neighbours and enable us to reflect Christ to those we meet.