Isaiah 31:1-9 Reasons for Repentance and its Fruit


With the transition to chapter 31, Isaiah is approaching his climactic appeal. But in building to that climax, like a good preacher that he is, he reiterates his two main points: Egypt’s help is worthless and in any case unnecessary, for the Lord Himself will fight for Zion and overthrow the Assyrians. This latter point is then repeated in verses 8-9, after the appeal of verse 6, as if to underline the fact that while grace is promised before repentance, that the same grace can be fully experienced only when repentance has taken place.

The first reason for repentance is the threat of impending judgment. The Woe of verse 1 is the last pronounced on Judah in this part of the book, and may well have been sounded later than the others when Sennacherib was on his final approach to Jerusalem. By then the futility of looking to Egypt for help had become fully apparent and it was clear to all that disaster was imminent. It was no time for mincing words or pulling punches, and Isaiah certainly doesn’t do so by the hard-hitting verses 1-3. It’s clear in verse 3 that it is an unequal contest; human beings cannot fight against God and win. As verses 4-5 immediately makes clear, another possibility still exists; unless there is a radical change on Judah’s part, the Lord will fully implement His threat and nothing that people can do will stop Him. We have to know that God cannot be manipulated before we are ready to throw ourselves upon God’s mercy.

The second reason for repentance is the promise of salvation or more precisely, of a Savior – a true, effective one instead of the false, worthless one that Egypt had proved to be. That Savior is of course the Lord, pictured as a lion in verse 4 and as birds hovering in verse 5 and the two are complementary. As Savior the Lord is both strong and determined (like the lion) and solicitous and protective (like the birds). The logic of verses 1-5 as a whole seems to be as follows: Woe to those who go down to Egypt (vv. 1-3), for the Lord, and He alone, is Jerusalem’s true Savior. What the pictures of verses 4-5 amount to, is a promise that the Lord Himself will fight for and protect Jerusalem. That promise still stood when Sennacherib’s envoys were finally at the gates, and Hezekiah then had, at last, the wisdom and humility to claim it.

Repentance is radical. It is not just giving up this or that sin, but a complete turnabout in our stance towards God, and it goes right to the root of our sinfulness. As for the prodigal son, it is a recognition that we are rebels, and a return to the One we have so deeply offended (v. 6). Its consequences too, are radical: all other gods have to go (v.7) in order to clear the way for the full enjoyment of God’s blessing (vv. 8-9). For Isaiah, idolatry was the ultimate outward sign of rebellion against God. Idolatry had taken hold before the alliance with Egypt was conceived. It was, we may say, the cancer which lay at the root of all the nation’s ills, for it showed that the Lord no longer had His people’s undivided loyalty. Its natural, therefore, that in calling for radical repentance, Isaiah should again point to the casting away of idols as the evidence that will confirm it.

The final two verses (vv. 8-9) put the seal on this call to repentance by reiterating God’s promise to deal decisively with the Assyrians. But now a new element is added: the Assyrians shall be destroyed by a sword…not of man or of mortals (v. 8). That is, the people of Jerusalem will not even have to fight. The Lord will intervene miraculously, and they will receive His promised salvation as a gift. Such is His grace to those who repent.

In view of all this, the expression ‘in that day’ in verse 7 must be allowed to point beyond the events of 701BC (wonderful as they were) to something more distant and more perfect, as it so often does elsewhere in the book. There was no perfect repentance or perfect salvation in 701BC. But God’s gracious goodness to His people when they cried out to Him then was a foretaste of something far greater and more glorious which He has in store for all who turn to Him for salvation.

Isaiah 31:1-9 Reflection Questions:

What lessons do we learn from the timing of verses 1-5?

What is your “Egypt” in your life?

What “other gods” do you need to clear away?

What is in the way of giving God your undivided loyalty?

Hebrews 2:1-4 A Warning Against Drifting Away


One of the ancient symbols for the Church is a ship. The idea originated in the Gospel accounts, which tell how Jesus compelled His disciples to board a ship and sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14:22-33; John 6:16-21). That night, when they were some distance from shore, a perilous storm arose so that they tossed like a cork on the waves – until Jesus came walking across the water in the night. This is a most fitting picture of the Church sailing the contrary seas of this world. And it’s a particularly appropriate symbol of the church to which the book of Hebrews was written, for all agree it was under stormy siege. This tiny house-church was probably somewhere in Italy, possibly in or around Rome – then we can imagine the huge waves that were poised above their little boat in the imminent Neronian persecution. Some in the church were also in danger of being blown away from their moorings and drifting away from the truth of Christ and back into “the Dead Sea of Judaism.”

So now, with the superiority of Christ ringing in their ears, the writer explicitly sounds his warning to the harried church in 2:1-4. The vivid warning here uses nautical, sailing language, suggesting the image of a ship whose anchor has broken loose from the ocean floor and is dangerously drifting away. I have experienced this firsthand while fishing off the Southern California coast near Dana Point. My boat was having engine troubles and while trying to repair we ran the battery dead. We decided to fish where we were for a while before calling for help. However before we knew it the tide, wind and waves brought us very close to the rocky coast. Such dangerous drifting is not intentional but comes rather from inattention and carelessness – which was precisely the problem with the pressured little church. They had become carless about their moorings in Christ. At first, in calm waters, it wasn’t noticeable. But as the storms of opposition rose, some of them were drifting farther and farther away from Christ toward the shoals of shipwreck in their old world of Judaism.

Drifting is the besetting sin of our day today, and as the metaphor suggests, it’s not so much intentional as from unconcern. Christians neglect their anchor – Christ – and begin to quietly drift away. What brings drifting? For one thing, there is the tide of years. You have to live for some length to observe this, but the longer you live, the more you will see it. Many who were at one time professing, fine Christians drifted away from their earlier, better selves. They kept up appearances, but the years have carried them far away from their devotion.

There is also the tide of familiarity with the truth. It is natural for us to come to regard the familiar as commonplace. The initial venture into the mysteries of Christ will leave us exhilarated, but with the repeated journeys, some become bored tourists. Granted, some find joy in their familiarity with the mysteries of Christ. But familiarity has both danger and reward. It depends on us.

There is the danger of busyness too. In today’s world, the multiplicity of our cares and duties can overwhelm us. A snowflake is a tiny thing, but when the air is full of them, they can bury us. Just so, the thousand cares of each day can insulate us from the stupendous Excellencies of Christ, causing us to begin a deadly drift.

The drifting that comes through the combination of years, familiarity, and busyness often bares its existence when the storm of opposition comes. The anchor has long been loosed, and when the winds come, an eternal soul is suddenly on the rocks and shipwrecked. No wonder, then, that the warning is a powerfully phrased command that should be read with an exclamation point!

What to do? The answer brings us full circle in the warning to where it begins; we must pay the “greatest attention” to what we have heard. Two things are in view here. First, all our attention must be focused on the supremacy of Christ: prophetic, cosmic, Levitical, and angelic. We need to work at this – meditating on Him, asking questions, memorizing Scripture, and worshiping. Second, paying closest attention to what we have heard means living in revelation of God’s Word – and it always has. We all should be familiar with (and memorized) the great verses from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, they are crucial words and truths from which we must not drift!

Hebrews 2:1-4 Reflection Questions:

Have you ever found yourself drifting farther and farther away from Christ? Are you there now?

How is your prayer life, Bible studies, Church attendance and involvement going?

Are you putting God first in your life?

Isaiah 30:19-33 Grace in Action


The grace that the Lord will show towards His people when they repent is depicted here under three images: the Lord the teacher (vv. 19-22), the Lord the healer (vv. 23-26), and the Lord the warrior (vv. 27-33).

It would way too easy to picture the Lord as the “waiting God” and see Him as purely passive up to the point where repentance is manifested. But the complementary picture which Isaiah now presents, of the Lord as the teacher, shows that this is not so. He disciplines His people (v. 20a), reveals Himself to them in their suffering (v. 20b), and gently shows them the way out of it (v. 21). That is, as teacher He actually encourages and makes possible the response for which He waits. His grace is at work before repentance as well as after it. Of course, the Lord had always been Israel’s teacher, but her people, and especially her leaders, had been too blind – willfully so – to recognize Him as such. Verses 20 and 21 of the passage indicate how this situation will be finally reversed. In the midst of the adversity and affliction which He will bring upon them, the Lord will reveal Himself afresh to them as their teacher, and this time they will recognize Him as such and be willing to be taught by Him. The ‘voice behind you’ of verse 21 points to the new, delightful intimacy which will then exist between God and His people and the casting away of idols, in verse 22, is the natural consequence of this. For idols speak of divided loyalties, and there can be no place for that among those who have returned wholeheartedly to the Lord as their teacher. His very first commandment is ‘You shall have no other gods besides me.’

Isaiah then goes on to speak of the restored fruitfulness of their land (vv. 23-26), and it is in this context that he speaks of the Lord as the healer, who binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted (v. 26b). What is envisioned here is a complete reversal of the situation presented in the opening chapter of the book. There the Lord’s discipline had left Judah devastated, and her land devoured by aliens. Metaphorically she is described as bruised and bleeding, with her wounds unbandaged. Here, in chapter 30, the wounds are bound up and the land restored. Abundant, God-given rain ensures bumper crops and prosperous herds, and working animals that are strong because of their rich fair (vv. 23-24) through God’s grace. But there is something greater, of which the immediate recovery would be but a foretaste. For Isaiah goes on, in verses 25 and 26a, to speak of a transformed cosmos in which streams will flow on the tops of mountains and the sun will be seven times brighter! Clearly, at this point Isaiah leaves the plane of history and fires our imagination with images of paradise – a world too beautiful for words to describe or finite minds to grasp. The same long-range perspective is implied by the ominous reference in verse 25 to the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall. Something far more terrible that Sennacherib’s invasion must befall the world before the new, perfect age of God’s blessing can come – a truth which Isaiah constantly holds before us. The world must be purged of its evil by God’s judgment before, finally and forever, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

The third picture, of the Lord as the warrior (vv. 27-33), has the same double focus that we have seen in the previous image. In the foreground stands the coming overthrow of Assyria (v. 31). But in the background stands the final, universal judgment, when the Lord’s wrath will fall on the nations (v. 28). The unit contains a mixture of metaphors but by far the dominant one is that of the warrior. Much of the imagery of water and fire in the present passage is drawn from the exodus background, and the general context here, as there, is the gracious action of God for His people. During their history, the Lord has from time to time had to fight against them in order to discipline them, but finally He will show them His grace again by fighting for them and overthrowing their enemies. The coming defeat of the Assyrians will be a foretaste of that final victory. And just as the Lord’s victory at the Red Sea was celebrated in song, so will His final victory be (v. 29). But is it proper to celebrate something as terrible as what is described here? The unhesitating reply of Isaiah and of the Bible as a whole is, ‘Yes!” The singing, joyful hearts which God’s people will have are, for God’s judgment will be seen to be the absolutely just and right thing that it is. The Lord’s action as warrior is the final expression of His grace to those who have cried out to Him for salvation (v.19). There can be no salvation, however, without judgment, and in the end the choice is ours. The Lord is the warrior, and we must all finally meet Him as either deliverer or destroyer.

Isaiah 30:19-33 Reflection Questions:

How has the Lord been a teacher to you? Did you listen to Him right away or did it take awhile?

Looking back in hind sight do you see how God’s grace has been active in your life?

How have you seen God as a healer in your life?

How do you see God as a warrior?

What idol or idols do you need to get rid of now?

Hebrews 1:4-14 Christ’s Superiority to Angels


What are angels? What does God’s Word tell us? Angels are mentioned over 100 times in the Old Testament and more than 160 times in the New Testament. They exist in vast numbers. On one occasion they are described as assembling in great numbers (see Rev. 5:11). In most cases they are invisible, as was the experience of Balaam when the Lord had to open his eyes so he could see the angel blocking his way (Num. 22:31). Or consider Elisha’s servant who had his eyes opened so he could see that he was protected by encircling chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:17). Ordinarily when angels are visible, they have a human-like appearance and are often mistaken for men (see Gen. 18:2; 19:1-2; Mark 16:5). Sometimes they have shined with glorious light (Matt. 28:3; Luke 2:9). Other times they have appeared as fabulous winged creatures – seraphim and cherubim (Exodus 25:20; Isaiah 6:2). The Hebrew word for angel is malak and the Greek angelos. Both mean “messenger,” designating their essential functions as divine message-bearers. As God’s messengers they can wield immense power – for example, staying entire armies (2 Kings 19:35) or delivering captives (Acts 12:7-11).

Regarding angels’ specific function, there are at least four: First, angels continuously worship and praise the God they serve. Second, angels communicate God’s message to man. Third, angels minister to believers. Fourth angels will be God’s agents in the final earthly judgments and Second Coming. But despite all their cosmic excellencies, their significance dwindles in the presence of Christ. Thus, we come to the grand theme of Hebrews 1:4-14, Christ’s superiority to angels. Why does the writer expound it here? Because some of the Jewish believers to whom he was writing were in danger of compromising Jesus’ superiority and lapsing into Judaism. They were tempted to compromise. If they would simply agree that Jesus was an angel, perhaps even the greatest of angels, but not God, they would be accepted into the synagogue and escape the awful pressure. It takes only a little thought to identify with this temptation, because the supremacy of Christ brings tension in everyday life. But the writer of Hebrews is determined that his friends not fall to this.

Christ’s superiority is first adduced because He has a superior name (vv. 4-5). Jesus had the name “Son” from all eternity, and it is the name He will always keep, as the perfect tense of the phrase “the name He has inherited” indicates. No angel ever had the title “Son”.

The next point in the author’s argument for Christ’s superiority over angels is that He is worshiped by angels (v. 6). Here he turns to the final lines of the Song of Moses (Deut. 32:43). The Jews considered these final lines to be messianic. Its obvious application is to the angelic worship that had its first occurrence on earth at the incarnation when all God’s angels worshiped Christ in Luke 2:13-14a).

Next the writer demonstrates the superiority of Christ to angels by contrasting their status: the angels are servants, but the Son is sovereign. Psalm 104:4 is quoted regarding the angels’ being servants: “Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds and his ministers a flame if fire’” (v. 7).

For the fourth proof of Christ’s superiority, the writer quotes Psalm 102:25-27, which contains a broken man’s rising awareness and celebration of God’s transcending existence (which of course, describes Christ’s existence by virtue of His creatorship: “through whom also He created the world,” 1:2). Psalm 102 reads as it is recorded here in verses 10-12 of our text.

The clinching argument for Christ’s superiority over angels is vocation: Christ rules; angels serve. That Christ rules supreme is proven by a passage quoted more often in the New Testament than any other (14 times). Jesus even quoted it Himself and applied it to Himself at His trial (Mark 12:36). It is Psalm 110:1 which is quoted here in verse 13. Christ’s absolute rulership is dramatically seen here in that it was the custom for a defeated king to prostrate himself and kiss his conqueror’s feet and for the victor to put his feet on the captive’s neck so that the captive became his footstool. One day every knee will bow before Christ, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. And all the angels will be in that number, both good and evil, for the Son is infinitely their superior. In contrast to Christ’s superior ruling vocation, the angels’ vocation is that of serving (v. 14). This does not mean their serving is a disgraceful vocation. Far from it! It is a sublime privilege. The point here is, however, that it is inferior to the Son’s vocation of ruling the universe.

But there is something more here for the harried church – a double encouragement. First, this supreme Son is their God. Christ’s cosmic superiority, prophetic superiority, priestly superiority, and angelic superiority were all at the believers’ service in a world that was falling apart. Second, in respect to Christ’s angelic superiority, all angels had been sent by Him as “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” The force of the original Greek is that the angels are perpetually being sent out to help God’s people – one after another!

The message to the harried, trembling church of the writer’s day, and to the Church universal, is this: Our superior Christ has assigned His angels to minister to us. And if He wills, He can deliver us anytime and anywhere He wishes. Christ is superior to everything. He is adequate in our hour of need. We must believe it and trust Him with all we are and have.

Hebrews 1:4-14 Reflection Questions:

Have you ever had a personal encounter with an angel?

Have you ever been tempted to compromise on your faith in Jesus?

What part of this study has encouraged you the most?

Isaiah 30:1-18 A False Solution – Dependence on Egypt


Chapters 30 and 31 must be read together if their message is to be grasped properly. They both begin by denouncing the alliance with Egypt in the most explicit terms. In the latter parts of both chapters, however, different but complementary emphases are developed. Chapter 30 focuses on the grace which the Lord longs to show to His people, while chapter 31 centers on the repentance that needs to be forthcoming before that grace can be extended. Chapter 30, then, revolves around the contrasting notions of rebellion and grace. The first keynote is struck in verses 1 and 9 obstinate children, rebellious people) and the second in verse 18 (Yet the Lord longs to be gracious…).

Rebellious Children (30:1-17): While there were political overtones of rebellion do to the Assyrian control of the region in Isaiah’s day, the primary reference here is to the rebellion against God. This is clear from the word children (literally ‘sons’), which points at once to the special relationship between the Lord and those who are addressed here, and it becomes even clearer from the way in which their rebelliousness is subsequently described. And as far as going down to Egypt was concerned, either to seek protection or to acquire horses, the issues of obedience and disobedience were particularly clear, for the Lord had declared His mind on the matter long ago, and had now confirmed it in no uncertain terms through the preaching of Isaiah. It was forbidden. The Lord had demonstrated His superiority over Egypt and its gods at the exodus and had been known to Israel ever since as “the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt”. Theologically speaking, to go down to Egypt for help was to commit apostasy. But it was also just a plain bad defense policy in terms of contemporary political realities. But it is not the way of rebels to listen to reason. The series of short oracles which comprises verses 1-17 reveals the determination and speed with which the nation’s leaders pressed ahead with their plans despite Isaiah’s earnest requests.

Gracious Lord (30:18): Now, however, comes the turning-point of the chapter and with it the profound irony which lies at the heart of its message. The Lord longs to be gracious, and His eagerness to be so is expressed by the fact the He rises to do it. He stands on tiptoe, so to speak, ready to extend His mercy to the rebels. But since He is also a God of justice He can bless only those who wait for Him. Sadly, the leaders of Judah refuse to do this and insist on rushing headlong to disaster. Therefore, since they will not wait for Him, He must wait for them. The picture is like that of the loving father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. And just as the father’s grace to the returned prodigal is extravagant in the parable, so is the Lord’s grace to the rebels of Judah here as soon as they cry out to Him (v. 19), and it is with this that the balance of the chapter is taken up. Thus verse 18 points forwards as well as backwards. It is the pivot on which the whole chapter turns, and gives us a profound insight into the heart of God: He is the God who waits!

How thankful we should be for this! God is patient with His people still, no less than with rebel Judah of old or the prodigal in Jesus’ parable. But such grace gives us no license to become lax. Note carefully the words of the apostle in Romans 2:4 “Do you presume upon the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” To be given time to repent is a great mercy which should be grasped with profound gratitude.

Isaiah 30:1-18 Reflection Questions:

Do you or have you taken God’s great mercy and grace for granted?

What lesson can you get from this study that really impacts your understanding of God’s character?

Does this study bring you to a closer relationship with God? How?