God spoke in judgment through Isaiah against the powerful ruling class in Israel and Judah. They imagined that they were invincible when they oppressed the poor and the fatherless. The Lord revealed that they themselves would be prisoners soon, or even among the slain. He would use Sennacherib and the formidable military might of the Assyrian Empire as a rod of discipline against Israel and Judah.
Though God called Assyria “the rod of my anger,” Sennacherib and his armies would also be judged by God. The Lord raised them up for His purposes, yet they exalted themselves beyond limit. They considered the God of Jerusalem as nothing more than all the idols of the earth. One day God would finish His work of judgment against His own people. At that time there would be no safe place of hiding for the rod, Assyria, that tried to lift itself up against the Lord.
In Isaiah’s time, when Hezekiah was king of Judah, the march of the Assyrian army toward Israel and Judah was extremely frightening to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Nonetheless, the city was spared. Sennacherib himself recorded his own failure to capture the capital of Judah. He wrote on a clay prism words that were meant to terrify the enemies of Assyria who would dare to challenge his authority. After noting his many foreign conquests, he reported, “Hezekiah … I made a prisoner in Jerusalem … like a bird in a cage.” In reality, Sennacherib was never able to make Hezekiah his “prisoner.” This was the emperor’s way of putting the best face on his own failure to take Jerusalem. He had surrounded the city, but the city did not fall. The great ruler of the Assyrians had to be content, in the words of Isaiah 10, to “shake his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.”
Assyria’s time of power would come and go. Meanwhile, the Lord would preserve a remnant from Israel and Judah. Though many from God’s chosen nation would be no more, many others from the Gentiles would eventually be brought into the number of the elect. (Romans 9:27-28 citing Isaiah 10:22)
Numerous rulers throughout history have arrogantly exalted themselves against the Lord Jesus Christ, the descendant of Hezekiah, and against the heavenly Zion over which He reigns. They will have to answer to Him when He comes again. The Lord who reigns on high now will one day be the Judge of the living and the dead.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our Father, there is a way that is right and there is a way that is wrong. To abuse the weak is against Your Law. We dare not tempt You by despising the powerless. You can bring a very powerful empire against Your people to discipline us in our sin. When You have used that empire for Your purposes, You can correct their arrogant presumption. We should never trust in the strength of any nation or people. We must lean on You. You will make a full end of wickedness. You are the Creator. You will be the Judge. You have shown Your abilities so many times. There can be no question of Your strength. You are the Lord God of Hosts. You will be exalted forever.