Chapter 9 of Isaiah ends with more gloom and doom. It’s no wonder why the prophets of God were hated by ethnic Israel. Much as in our day when the faithful preachers of the Word are despised and those who declare “peace! peace!” where there is no peace are heralded and beloved by the world.
Isaiah 9:18 (HCSB) For wickedness burns like a fire that consumes thorns and briers and kindles the forest thickets so that they go up in a column of smoke.
Verse 17 reminded the Hebrews that YHWH’s hand was raised to strike. Verse 18 continues the thought – His hand is ready for judgment because the wickedness of His covenant people is out of control, like a Kaliphornia wild fire. And it does not consume only those – it had spread to other nations. When God’s covenant people disregard His will for them, everyone is affected and everyone suffers. Does not the last 50 years of our history in the USA resemble this?
Isaiah 9:19 (HCSB) The land is scorched by the wrath of the LORD of Hosts, and the people are like fuel for the fire. No one has compassion on his brother.
One would think the rampaging fires described would scorch the land, but we see here that these fires are symbolic of spiritual rebellion as the scorching is by the hand of God – that hand that was raised up to strike has landed a blow. The wickedness of the people is like fuel for the judgment – it is was has brought His hand down heavy on them. That same strong hand and arm that led them from slavery in Egypt. And those being punished do not have compassion for each other – for they are self-interested; this is the condition of natural man.
Isaiah 9:20 (HCSB) They carve ⌊meat⌋ on the right, but they are ⌊still⌋ hungry; they have eaten on the left, but they are ⌊still⌋ not satisfied. Each one eats the flesh of his own arm.
They have plenty but are not satisfied. The ancient preacher said the eye never tires of seeing something new, the ear never tires of hearing something new. He might have also said that the tongue never tires of tasting something new – for these who had plenty as the world sees it, were not satisfied. And so they ate their own flesh.
This is the same depravity of which Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-24 (HCSB) For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.
Isaiah 9:21 (HCSB) Manasseh is with Ephraim, and Ephraim with Manasseh; together, both are against Judah. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.
A few of the tribes rallied to strengthen each other; they came together to conquer the southern kingdom, Judah. This is not pleasing to YHWH and His is still raised to strike. Unity apart from the authority and compliance with the will of God is continued rebellion against Him. So in our day, when some religious leaders tell us we must develop a social conscience, see the gospel in a new light that the social rebels approve of. This is false unity, opposed to God and is not pleasing – for what has light to do with darkness?
Let each of us examine himself, to test everything in light of Scripture. Let us love one another in the truth of the Word in the power of the Spirit. For this is pleasing to God.