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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible Commentary

Isaiah 31

Verses 1-9

Shall we turn in our Bibles to Isaiah 31:1-9 .

Now as a backdrop to these scriptures in Isaiah 31:1-9 is the impending invasion of Assyria. Assyria is the world-conquering power at the moment. Assyria has destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Assyria has destroyed Syria; has conquered over Babylon. And now the Assyrian troops are moving in a massive invasion of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Having taken some of the cities of Judah already. And there is pressure against Hezekiah and the pressure groups are seeking to have him to make an alliance with Egypt and to go down to Egypt and seek the help of the Egyptians against this Assyrian invasion. And so Isaiah is saying, "No, your strength is in standing still and doing nothing. God is going to deliver you from the hand of the Assyrian. Don't trust in the arm of flesh; trust in the Lord." And so as a backdrop to this is this pressure group that is moving towards an alliance with Egypt to withstand this Assyrian invasion. So Isaiah says,

Woe unto them that go down to Egypt for help; who would trust on horses, and in chariots [for help], because they have many of them; and in the horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD! ( Isaiah 31:1 )

So he is pronouncing a woe upon them that would be seeking the help from men and not seeking the help of God. Now for some strange reason, it seems that we always turn to God as a last resort. It seems like the very natural thing for us to do in a crisis is to turn to the arm of flesh. To try to figure out how to work things up and turning to the arm of flesh, turning to our friends and all, trying to get support for our cause, instead of turning to the Lord and seeking the help of the Lord. So he pronounces woe on them who are ready to look to Egypt for help, to depend and trust in their chariots and in their horsemen, who do not look to the Lord for their help.

May that be a real lesson to us. May we learn to trust in the Lord. For, "It's better to put your trust in the Lord than your confidence in man. It's better to put your trust in the Lord than your confidence in princes" ( Psalms 118:8-9 ).

Yet he also is wise, he will bring evil, he will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity. Now the Egyptians are men, they're not God; their horses are flesh, they're not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helps shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall down, and they shall fail together ( Isaiah 31:2-3 ).

Don't trust in the arm of Egypt. They're only flesh. They're not God. They're only men. Their horses are flesh, not spirit. The greater strength, the greater help is in the Spirit of God, for God is able when He stretches out His hand to do the job completely.

For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof ( Isaiah 31:4 ).

Now, trust in the Lord; don't trust in the Egyptians. Put your trust in God. For God is going to come down. And like a crouching lion on his prey.

Now when a lion would grab one of the sheep out of the flock, it would crouch upon its prey and the shepherds would, all of them, come around and they would start yelling and making a lot of noise and all and they would try to scare the lion off. They would try to get the thing all frightened and scared off by just yelling, make a lot of noise and all. But the Lord said, "Like a lion that is on his prey, and though the multitude of shepherds make a lot of racket, he's not going to move. He's going to hang on to it." So the Lord is going to come down. And He's going to fight for Zion. God is going to defend the people. You don't have to depend upon the arm of flesh. We sing the song, "The arm of flesh will fail you. Ye dare not trust your own. Put on the royal armor."

Now here is an interesting little verse, verse Isaiah 31:5 . And as we have noticed in prophecy, so many times there is a dual fulfillment of prophecy, or so many times there'll just be... He'll be talking about a local situation, and this particular situation is the impending invasion of Assyria and don't go to Egypt. Trust in the Lord for your help. And he's talking about the local situation. But now we get this interesting little verse, verse Isaiah 31:5 . And this is typical of so many prophecies. Suddenly it will jump way on out and be speaking of a future event that is totally unrelated to the particular local scene.

Or it could be relating to the local scene and yet have a fulfillment in the future. And you'll notice this many places through the prophecies of the Old Testament, because these men wrote things that they did not understand. In the New Testament it said that these prophets really desired earnestly to look into these things but they were hid from their eyes. They didn't really understand. They only wrote as God inspired them. Not always understanding what they were saying.

Now when in the New Testament you have many times an exposition from a remote prophecy of the Old Testament. There is a psalm that talks about "He shall fall and let another take his bishopric," and it goes on. And Peter picked up this one little verse of this psalm and he says it was referring to Judas Iscariot. That he by transgression would fall and it would be necessary for another one to take his bishopric. So let's choose one to take the place of Judas Iscariot. And yet, if you would read the psalm, in just reading the psalm you wouldn't see where that related.

Reading in the scriptures, the prophecy concerning, "he shall bring him out of Egypt." In the New Testament, Matthew said that that was referring to the flight of Joseph and Mary to Egypt. Now you read that in the Old Testament and it's hard to pick out. But yet, inspired by the Holy Spirit the commentaries of the New Testament help us to understand the prophecies of old. I believe that this is possibly one of those little prophecies that are just nuggets here; that they're just thrown in and had a future fulfillment.

For in 1917, when the Turks were holding the city of Jerusalem, General Allenby came with the British troops and they had set up their artillery around Jerusalem and were planning an artillery barrage to weaken the defenses of the Turks within the city before they made their assault against Jerusalem. Because there were many holy sites in the old city of Jerusalem, General Allenby wanted to be careful in the directing of the artillery that he would only direct it as much as possible against the Turkish positions. He did not want to just a wholesale destruction of the old city because you would lose priceless monuments, buildings and all of the past. So he ordered some planes to fly over Jerusalem to observe where the Turkish military locations were in order that they might direct their artillery against the Turkish defenses. When these planes came over, the Turkish captain who was in charge of the garrison ordered that Jerusalem be evacuated by the Turkish troops. He thought that Allenby was going to actually begin to bomb their positions in the city. And so they evacuated from Jerusalem and Allenby was able to go in and take the city of Jerusalem without firing any artillery rounds, without destroying any of the ancient sites, and the city was spared the artillery bombardment as the result of these airplane, the reconnaissance planes that he sent overhead.

Now in the light of that historic background from 1917, you read this particular verse in Isaiah and it stands out very interesting.

As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it ( Isaiah 31:5 ).

The city of Jerusalem was preserved from the destruction of the artillery bombardment of the British troops in 1917 because of these planes, the reconnaissance planes that struck actually terror and fear in the heart of the Turkish garrison leader. So it's interesting how that here in the midst of his prophecy concerning Assyria that he puts in this little nugget and that in 1917, whether or not it was intended to be a prophecy concerning that, yet it was so aptly fulfilled in 1917 when General Allenby took Jerusalem from the Turks.

Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted ( Isaiah 31:6 ).

Now the cry of the prophet to turn to God. "You've revolted against God, but He will defend. He will be your defense."

For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin ( Isaiah 31:7 ).

They had created their own little gods. They have turned to idolatry. The thing that God had forbidden they indulged in. So it speaks of the reformation of the people.

Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited. And he shall pass over to his stronghold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace is in Jerusalem ( Isaiah 31:8-9 ).

So here Isaiah is, of course, predicting that God is going to destroy these Assyrians and that they don't need to go down to Egypt or to depend upon the Egyptians for help. But that in reality, the Lord will destroy them. But not with the sword of man, but God Himself is going to destroy them.

Now it is important for understanding of the prophecy of Isaiah to really put it in its historic setting. And so as a background to this area, you should be reading Second Kings again beginning with chapter 17 probably, which begins with the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria. And then eighteen which begins with the reign of Hezekiah. And then the threats from the Assyrians, Sennacherib sending his threats against Hezekiah and so forth.

In the nineteenth chapter, verse 2 Kings 19:35 of Second Kings we read, "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians 185,000: and when the people in Jerusalem arose early in the morning, behold, they looked out and they were all dead corpses. And Sennacherib the king of Assyria departed, and he returned, and he dwelt in Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead" ( 2 Kings 19:35-37 ).

So here the prophecy of Isaiah before it happened. And, of course, then in Second Kings you can read of how this prophecy was fulfilled. The Assyrians fell, but not with the sword of a mighty man but with the sword of an angel of the Lord who in the one night destroyed 185,000.

Now brings up the subject of angels, which were created before man, which are a special class of creation. They are spiritual beings. They have the capacity of taking on a physical form. And in the Old Testament many times angels would take on physical forms. And we read where Abraham talked to the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon at the threshingfloor. The angel of the Lord appeared unto Samson's mother. And many times the angels appeared to people in the Old Testament.

Also in the New Testament. When Peter was in prison, about midnight an angel of the Lord woke him up and said, "Put your sandals on and follow me." And Peter tied his sandals on his feet and followed the angels as the doors of the prison opened of their own accord. And the angel led Peter out of the prison and then disappeared. Paul the apostle spoke to the people, "Be of good cheer," when they were on a boat and were expecting to be shipwrecked and were soon to be shipwrecked. "Be of good cheer, for last night an angel of the Lord stood by me and assured me that though the boat was going to be destroyed, there wouldn't be a loss of life" ( Acts 27:22-23 ).

And so the Old Testament speaks of the angels and said, "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all of thy ways. To bear thee up, lest at any time you dash your foot against the stone" ( Psalms 91:11-12 ).

So some way God has placed angels and given them the responsibility of watching over you as a child of God. In Hebrews we read concerning the angels, "Are they not all of them ministering spirits who have been sent for to minister to those who are the heirs of salvation?" ( Hebrews 1:14 ) Satan at one time was an angel of God. He rebelled against the authority of God. There are indications that when Satan rebelled, that a third of the angels in heaven rebelled with him. In Revelation chapter 13 or chapter 12, he saw the dragon, and with his tail he drew a third part of the stars of heaven. The stars of heaven is an appellation for angels many times. So there is the concept that Satan drew a third part of the angels in his rebellion against God.

They are spirit beings. They remain to us today much of a mystery. But many otherwise unaccountable phenomena can be explained by the presence or power of angels. Things that we cannot understand. Interesting type of phenomena. I think that much of the psychic phenomena is in the realm of spiritism and is in the realm of angels, not necessarily the angels of God but those that have fallen with Satan from God. Now when the angels fell, because they rebelled against the authority of God and followed Satan, God prepared a place where they are ultimately to be incarcerated.

There is also a place of temporary incarceration known as the abusso in Greek, translated many times "the pit" or "the bottomless pit." But their place of final incarceration is Gehenna, which Jesus described as being outer darkness. Probably out in space beyond the light of the farthest galaxy. And Jesus declares that in the day when He comes back to the earth to judge the earth, He will say to certain of those who are upon the earth, those who have received the mark of the beast, those who have worshipped the false messiah, He will say unto them, "Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity." Into Gehenna that was prepared for Satan and his angels. And so Gehenna, even though it was prepared by God for Satan and his angels, those who have chosen to follow Satan will also be consigned to that same place of judgment.

And so, "The angel of the Lord," the Bible says, "encamps about the righteous" ( Psalms 34:7 ). "His ear is open to their cry" ( Psalms 34:15 ). And yet, we are not to pray to angels. Let no man deceive you concerning a false sense of humility by praying to angels. We are not to worship angels. When John tried to bow down to the angel that was giving him the revelation, he said, "Stand up, I'm a man just like you are. I'm in the same class as you are. I'm just a servant of God. Don't worship me, worship God."

Most of the time at the appearance of the angels to men, the effect upon men was that of fear. And so they were always saying, "Fear not." Two of the extraordinary angels seem to be Gabriel and Michael. Michael is called that strong prince. Gabriel it seems was in charge of the arrangements for the birth of Christ. Gabriel appeared to John the Baptist's father Zacharias. He also appeared to Mary to announce to Mary the fact that she was to be the mother of the Christ child. He appeared 600 years earlier to Daniel. Gave unto Daniel the prophecy by which the day that the Messiah would come was prophesied.

So they are interesting beings. They surround the throne of God. There is one class of angels known as the cherubim who surround the throne of God, cease not day or night saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." It will be very interesting and fascinating for us to discover the facets of these angels when we get to heaven. Our knowledge of them at the present time is very limited. But yet the Bible speaks of them and even tells us to be careful to entertain strangers. You never know but what you might be entertaining an angel without knowing it.

So the Assyrians were destroyed by one angel. A hundred and eighty-five thousand of them. So they are very powerful beings in ratio to man. Who can withstand a spirit being? An angel of the Lord. Brings up an interesting thought. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter pulled out his sword and began to swing away, cutting off the ear of Malchus the servant of the high priest, and Jesus picked up the ear and put it back on and said to Peter, "Put your sword away, Peter." He said, "Don't you realize that if I wanted to at this moment I could call for ten thousand angels to deliver Me out of their hands? I don't need your help, Peter."

So oftentimes we think God needs our help, don't we? Now let's help out the Lord. The Lord says, "Hey, Peter, I don't need your help. I could call for ten thousand angels to deliver Me." Now if one angel smote 185,000 Assyrians in one night, can you imagine what a legion, ten thousand angels, could do? Now that's why when God speaks of this coming situation with Russia and you think, "Oh, how could Israel ever withstand Russia and all," you don't have to worry about Israel, because God is going to set His forces and His power to work against the invaders. And it's just... it will be a time of great awakening as people awake to the realization of God. "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 31". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.