Isaiah 31-35 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel!

From Isaiah 31-35

23 Isaiah kneeling thumbThe people of Jerusalem were under threat from Assyria because they had sinned against the LORD and have turned to idols. Isaiah calls them to repentance. He says if they repent the LORD will protect them like a lion. In the gospel we see a repentant sinner asking for mercy and going home justified before God.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The people in Judah were in a sorry state. They had sinned and the LORD had brought in Assyria to punish them. They were under threat and needed to repent. Unfortunately they turned to the wrong places for help.

Dockery, D.S. et al., 1992. Holman Bible Handbook, Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Dockery, D.S. et al., 1992. Holman Bible Handbook, Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

31 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! (Isa 31:1)

Isaiah laments the fate of those who go to Egypt and rely on their strength to save them from their enemies. The worst thing the people of God could do is to return to those they had previously been in slavery too.

Who do you put your trust in when you are under threat?

Isaiah instead points them to the LORD. The one who rescued them from slavery in Egypt. The one who they need to consult and turn to again.

And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. (Isa 31:2)

Isaiah describes the LORD, his wisdom, power, justice and integrity.

‘The house of the evildoers’. The LORD judges those who do evil. Presumably these are the Jews who have turned away from him. ‘The helpers’ are those who support them. Egypt offers them support and leads them astray into idolatry.

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together. (Isa 31:3)

Isaiah calls down judgment on Judah’s helper. Their helpers in Egypt will likewise die. The LORD is greater than Judah. Greater than Egypt their helper. Greater than Assyria their justice.

Still the LORD stands over and protects his people.

23 lion

For thus the Lord said to me, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey, and when a band of shepherds is called out against him he is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise, so the Lord of hosts will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill.  Like birds hovering, so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem; he will protect and deliver it; he will spare and rescue it.” (Isa 31:4-5)

Isaiah offers a glimmer of hope. He says the LORD will protect and rescue Jerusalem.

The LORD protects his people. A undeterred and powerful lion who protects his young.

But there is a condition. Something Judah must do.

23 golden idol

Turn to him from whom people have deeply revolted, O children of Israel.  For in that day everyone shall cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which your hands have sinfully made for you.  “And the Assyrian shall fall by a sword, not of man; and a sword, not of man, shall devour him; and he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be put to forced labor.  His rock shall pass away in terror, and his officers desert the standard in panic,” declares the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and whose furnace is in Jerusalem. (Isa 31:6–9)

The people of Jerusalem have to repent and give up their idols. If they repent of their sins and return to the LORD he will forgive them and protect them. Assyria would fall by the sword.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

“The greatest human strength is powerless against God. The Egyptians were ‘men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit’ (v3). Had all the chariots of Egypt come forth, and all their footmen and all their horsemen, they would not have saved Judah, since God had declared that here there was “no work for Egypt” (Isa 19:15), and that Judah, if she trusted in Egypt, “should be ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory” (Isa 20:5).

God can strike an army with blindness, as he did that of Benhadad (2 Ki 6:18) on one occasion; or with panic fear, as he did that of the same monarch on another (2 Kings 7:6); or he can cause quarrel to break out among the constituent parts of an army, and make the soldiers slay one another (2 Chr 20:23); or he can send out a destroying angel, and kill a hundred and eighty thousand men in a night (2 Ki 19:35).

Again, the God of battles determines the issue of battles. “It is nothing to him to help, whether with many or with them that have no power” (2 Chr 14:11). He can cast down and bring to nought the mightiest human protector; he can save, if he wills to save, by his own angelic army, without the intervention of any human aid at all.” (Spence-Jones, H.D.M. ed., 1910. Isaiah, London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)

Story of Jesus

Dependence on God for help with spiritual and physical needs arises out of an awareness of human helplessness. The people of Jerusalem had sinned and needed to repent. In the gospel we see how God regards those who turn to him in repentance.

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18.9-14)

I suspect there are times when the LORD has sent trouble our way because we have sinned. In those times do not turn to others for help. Recognise you have sinned, repent and turn to the LORD for help.

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