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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 10

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-4


Isaiah 10:1-4. Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, &c.

I. An indictment against wicked magistrates. II. A challenge. III. A sentence.
I. Magistrates and rulers are answerable to God. II. Their decisions will be revised. III. Will in many instances be reversed. IV. The consequences of their injustice will return back upon themselves [967]J. Lyth, D.D.: Homiletic Treasury, Part I. p. 16.

[967] See Outlines: OPPRESSION OF THE POOR, pp. 94, 95; and THE PLEADER AND THE JUDGE, pp. 95–97.

Verse 3


Isaiah 10:3. And what will ye do in the day of visitation, &c.

These questions were addressed to men who were living lives of ungodliness, and who were rich and strong in the results of their iniquity. To such men I put the same questions. Do not resent them; answer them, at least to yourselves. All the warnings of the Bible are warnings of true and intelligent friendship, all its threatenings “are but the hoarse voice of God’s love, crying, Do thyself no harm!” (H. E. I., 604, 605). Let self-love, which has been your governing motive all through life, move you to consider, before it is too late, what you will do in “the day of visitation.” It will not always be with you as it is to-day.

1. There will probably come to you a “day of visitation” in the shape of AFFLICTION. You have known little of it, but, if life be prolonged, it will certainly come to you (Job 5:7; H. E. I., 47). In how many forms it may come upon you! Broken health—blasted reputation—poverty—bereavement: these things may come upon you singly, or in various combinations, or all together. Men quite as strong as you have been overtaken and overthrown by them (H. E. I., 3991, 4403–4406, 4975–4989). What will you do in the day of visitation and desolation? To whom will you flee for help? To man? You will then find what worldly friendship is worth (H. E. I., 2106–2112, 2131–2137). To God? But will He then hear you? He does not necessarily listen to men merely because they are in trouble (Judges 10:14; Jeremiah 7:16; Proverbs 1:26-31). It is the penitent’s suppliant only that God will hear and answer, and your very pain and terror may incapacitate you for the exercise of genuine repentance; that consists, not in dread of the consequences of sin, but in disgust of sin itself. As your friend I counsel you (Job 22:21-28). It is a mean and miserable thing to have recourse to God only when in trouble (H. E. I., 3877–3879).

II. But if your lot be different from that of all other men, and no day of sorrow ever dawns upon you, there will come to you a “day of visitation” in the shape of DEATH. That is certain! What will you do then? To whom and to what will you flee for help? Friends, wealth—what will be their power or value then? And “to whom will you leave your glory?” For you will have to leave it (Psalms 49:16-17; Ecclesiastes 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:7). And when you have left it, what will become of you! Prepare for that which is at once so inevitable and so momentous (H. E. I., 1562–1566).

III. But that is not all. Beyond, there is a supreme “day of visitation,” the DAY OF JUDGMENT (H. E. I. 3054, 3055, 3061; P. D. 2100, 2103, 2106, 2107). You will be in that countless multitude which will stand before the “great white throne.” And you will not be overlooked or forgotten then; you will be judged according to the records in “the books” that will then be opened (Romans 14:12). Help—who can then render it to you? Your “glory”—it will have disappeared, or it may reappear as your shame. None of the things which secure for your consideration now will have a shadow of importance then. Do I speak to you as a foe or as a friend when I urge you to prepare for this inevitable meeting with God? (H. E. I., 3062–3066). The time to prepare is now. The way to prepare, you know; put into practice that which you have been taught. Then all these days of visitation will be transformed and stripped of their terrors. In the day of sorrow you will have a Friend who will know how to comfort you; in the day of death that Friend will be with you, upholding you in all that may be involved in that profound mystery; in the day of judgment that Friend will be the occupant of the throne, and He will speak to you, not words that will blast you for ever, but words that will fill you with eternal joy.

Verses 5-34


Isaiah 10:5-34. O Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, &c.

This prophecy may be used to illustrate the following truths of abiding interest.

I. The power of empires and the policy of statesmen are all under the control of God. Free-will is one great fact of the universe; an all-controlling providence is another; and God knows how to harmonise both. In investing man with free-will, God did not abdicate the throne of the universe; He still rules, and whether they do it voluntarily or involuntarily, all men further His purposes.

1. This is a truth to be ever remembered by those who rule. Their desire should be to work along with God, and not merely in subordination to Him. This is the one secret of true prosperity and abiding power.

2. It is full of consolation for good men when rulers are yielding to a mad and wicked ambition (Psalms 76:10).

II. God exercises His control of empires and statesmen for the pro motion of the welfare of His people. Every great empire has some under lying policy that guides and controls all its actions; e.g., the underlying policy of Russia is said to be the ultimate acquisition of Constantinople. God’s “great policy” is the promotion of the welfare of His people. In raising up or casting down kingdoms He has this object always in view. This again is a profoundly practical truth.

1. The ruler who remembers it will at least abstain from every form of assault on the Church of God. He who undertakes to persecute the Church, undertakes to make war upon Him from whom he received his power, and who can instantly resume it (Acts 9:4 and Matthew 28:18).

2. Remembering it, God’s people will not be dismayed in times of calamity. They will look with assured confidence, not for the destruction of the Church, but of her persecutors; and they will not look in vain. When the “whole work” that God has in view shall be accomplished, the ungodly instrument by which it was effected shall be utterly broken (Isaiah 10:12-20). [All this belongs to a realm of truth, the importance and preciousness of which is not likely to be appreciated in these times of freedom from persecution, but by the martyrs in all ages it has been well understood].

III. In the view of God the welfare of His people is promoted precisely in pro portion as their holiness is promoted. We see from Isaiah 10:20-21, that while God intended by the Assyrian invasion to punish iniquity (Isaiah 10:6), His ultimate design was to bring His people back to Himself in penitence and faith. Here we have,

1. A correction of our views. We are apt to suppose that by the welfare of the Church is meant peace and outward prosperity. We are satisfied if her revenues and social influence are increasing. God often thinks it better to take these things away. The day of true welfare for Judah begins when the fierce armies of Assyria come up against her (H. E. I., 3666).

2. Light is cast upon God’s estimate of holiness. So precious is it in His sight, that He overrules even the policies of great empires for the promotion of it among His people. It is distinctly revealed that this is His aim in all the discipline of our personal life (Hebrews 12:10; H. E. I., 85–90, 2842, 2843). This should be to us, then,

3. An instruction. We should estimate holiness as God does. We should constantly “follow” it (Hebrews 12:14; H. E. I., 2845–2848). And besides humbly submitting to His chastisements (Lamentations 3:22), we should thankfully acquiesce in whatever calamities He is pleased to send upon His Church or on ourselves, even though they be relatively as terrible as an invasion by the Assyrians, remembering that His purpose therein is to bring us back to Himself, to make us like Himself, and so render us capable of a happiness that shall be perfect and eternal.


Isaiah 10:5-34. O Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, &c.

The Assyrian. I. His commission—subordinate, a mere rod in God’s hands—defined. II. His pride—he boasts of his schemes—his achievements—his strength and wisdom—of what he will do against God. III. His rebuke—just—keen—humiliating. IV. His punishment—irresistible—sudden—signal—effected by Divine power.

I. The mightiest nations are but instruments of the Divine will. II. Are employed to execute wrath upon the guilty. III. God appoints their special work. IV. Defines its limits. V. Controls their ambitious purposes. VI. Rewards them accordingly.—J. Lyth, D.D.: Homiletical Treasury, p. 16.

We know what the Assyrians were in the history of the world. They do not stand alone; they belong to a class of men who have appeared again and again, and are numerously represented in the world to-day—men of enormous force, of abounding energy, of vast ambition, of unscrupulous determination. Such men as Ghengis-Khan, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Cæsar, and Napoleon, are their conspicuous representatives, but their representatives only. They are to be found elsewhere than on thrones and at the head of armies. They have been represented in the Church by ambitious and unscrupulous popes, cardinals, and bishops not a few. They are represented among our nobles by domineering landlords; in commerce by great capitalists, who brook no competition, but will crush a rival at any cost. This chapter concerns men who live in England to-day, and it has for us more than an historic interest.

I. The ambition of powerful men. Having power, they naturally and lawfully wish to use it. The astonishing and lamentable thing is the manner in which they delight to use it. God intends all the power that He gives to be used for the same purposes as He uses His own—for the upholding of weakness, the relief of the needy, the dispensing of blessing. But almost always those to whom God intrusts much power use it for self-aggrandisement. Their delight is to crush others (Isaiah 10:13-14; H. E. I. 243; P. D. 244). Instead of doing their best to resemble God, they do their utmost to resemble the devil. What a pitiable mistake! How much the ambitious man thus loses! What a horrible per version of means of blessing!

II. The godlessness of powerful men.

1. Mistaking the use to which their strength should be put, they also forget its source. They are so besotted as to think that it is theirs, something which they have originated; as if the jets of a fountain should boast of the water that leaps up through them, forgetful of the reservoir whence it comes (1 Corinthians 4:7). We see how foolish this is; let us not forget how common it is; let us be on our guard against an error so common and so absurd (Deuteronomy 8:10-18; Daniel 4:29-31. P. D. 2861).

2. Their godlessness appears, too, in their imagination that there is no limit to their power (Isaiah 10:8-11; chap. Isaiah 37:24). In their projects there is no dependence on Divine guidance and support, no submission to the Divine will (James 4:13-15).

III. The real position of powerful men. They imagine that they are autocrats: they really are merely instruments in the hand of God. God will be served by us, voluntarily or involuntarily. He knows how, without impairing the freedom of the will, to use powerful men for the accomplishment of His purposes; in much the same way as the miller deals with the stream that rushes past his mill—he does not try to destroy it, or to stop it, he merely turns it in among his wheels, and then unconsciously it uses its mighty force in doing his work (Isaiah 10:5-6; P. D., 2899). So it was with Pharaoh: though resolved not to serve Jehovah (Exodus 5:2), he did serve Him most effectually (Exodus 9:16). So, though we may not be able in all cases to trace it, we may be sure it is with all wicked men (Psalms 76:10). God absolutely controls the vast universe over which He rules: if we will not serve Him as sons, we must do it as slaves or as tools.

IV. The end of men who forget the source of their power, and use it in a godless spirit. They are but rods in God’s hand, and when He has accomplished by them what He intended to do, He breaks them, and casts them aside. In their folly they imagine that they can never be broken (Psalms 10:6); yet how easy is it for Him utterly to destroy them! Far-stretching and mighty they seem as a forest, yet how easily is a forest destroyed by fire (Isaiah 10:16-19). God’s judgments are as axes, by which even the monarchs of the forest are brought low (Isaiah 10:33-34). By Isaiah we are reminded of three historic instances in which all this has been verified: the Egyptians (Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 10:26); the Midianites (Isaiah 10:26); the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:17-18; Isaiah 10:32-34; Isaiah 37:36). If we needed any proof that God and His government of the world are still the same, surely we have it in the history of Napoleon I. Let the mighty nations of the earth lay these lessons to heart (P. D., 2787). Let all who are disposed to vaunt their wealth or power be mindful of them: the ruler or the merchant-prince of to-day may be a beggar to-morrow (1 Samuel 2:3-4; 1 Samuel 2:7-10; H. E. I., 4404, 4976; P. D., 149, 1617).

Verses 7-15


Isaiah 10:7-15. Howbeit He meaneth not so, &c.

“Man appoints, but God disappoints,” “Man proposes, but God disposes,” are proverbs which sum up a good deal of human experience. We are often reminded of their truth even when we are striving to be on the side of God, and to be co-workers with Him. There will be great differences between what we “mean” and “think,” and what He has determined in reference to the same actions [970] But more frequently we see this in the case of men who, like the Assyrians, are constructing their plans in direct opposition to God, fully bent on carrying out ambitious and rapacious schemes. All the while they are only agents in effecting Divine purposes; they do what they never “meant” to do.

[970] P., D., 2899, 2906.

See the whole article PROVIDENCE in the H. E. I., and the other references given under this heading in the “Index of Arrangement.”

I. Man’s purposes are often godless. In the sense,

1. Of being formed independently of God (Isaiah 10:11; Isaiah 10:13-14). Men forget that God is inseparably connected with us and all our movements (Psalms 139:1-12; they never ask whether God will approve of their plans, nor what will happen should He frown upon them; they assume that they have only to plan and execute, forgetting the lessons of experience. Their conduct is as foolish as it is irreligious; irrational because it is atheistic (James 4:13-15).

2. Of being formed in defiance of God. Men harden themselves against the appeals and warnings of conscience and Scripture, and deliberately engage in enterprises upon which they know they cannot ask God’s blessing, upon which they know must rest God’s curse. Amid all their dark designs there is the torturing thought, which they would fain banish, but which clings to them still, that there is a Sovereign Lord whose counsel shall stand.

II. God knows how to use man’s godless purposes for the furtherance of His glorious designs. This is done,

1. Sometimes by making an evil purpose the very means of continuing and spreading His good work. How often is this seen in the history of persecutions! (See Acts 18:1-2. The Pilgrim Fathers. Tyndale’s Bible. Martyrdoms, &c.). The means which men take for putting out the light are used by God for spreading it.

2. Sometimes by allowing the evil purpose to work on up to the point when its success appears certain, and then bringing about a totally different result. The device of Joseph’s brethren only needed time to effect God’s purpose. Haman; enemies of Daniel. There is no stage of a wicked design safe from the chance of utter confusion, and even its last act that was intended to be a triumph may turn out a tragedy.

3. Sometimes the evil purpose is allowed to do all that was intended, and yet God effects through it His highest designs, even when human wisdom would declare that the case was hopeless. The crowning example of this is to be found in the suffering and death of our Lord Himself. Every step of that malignant crime, which was thought to be a step towards the utter destruction of the Saviour’s mission, was but helping on the triumph intended in the counsels of Eternal Love (John 12:32).


1. The folly of leaving God out of our plans. To plan without Him is presumptuous arrogance (Isaiah 10:15). It is to invite defeat, our knowledge being so limited and so certain to leave out some disturbing influence that will frustrate all our anticipations. A godless plan always means defeat in proportion to its apparent successes. The choice that really lies before us is to work with God as His children, or for Him as His slaves, His tools, His instruments. Our choice will be left perfectly free; but if we choose to reject His paternal guidance, we shall find that all that we have secured for ourselves is merely the contemptible honour of figuring in our small way as reprobates (Exodus 9:16).

2. The dignity of human life generally, as being comprehended in the supreme plans of God (Genesis 45:8) [973]

3. How to regard the disappointments of life. When things turn out differently than we “meant” or “thought,” it is useless to fret and fume against them. Instructed by God’s Word, let us humbly and reverently acquiesce in our disappointments as forming part of a plan of God, conceived in paternal love, which is unfolding moment by moment: each event, whether bright or dark, having its mission from Him, and clothed with the grandeur of an unerring counsel. If our purpose has been a righteous or beneficent one, though it may seem for a time to have been utterly set aside, yet in the end we shall find that God has used it to further results more important and glorious than it entered into our mind to ask or think [976]William Manning.

[973] See Outline: EVERY MAN’S LIFE A PLAN OF GOD, chap. Isaiah 45:5.

[976] P. D., 863, 865, 867, 868, 2101, 3239.
“God’s help is always sure,
His methods seldom guessed;
Delay will make our pleasure pure,
Surprise will give it zest;
His wisdom is sublime,
His heart profoundly kind;
God never is before His time,
And never is behind.”

Verse 20


Isaiah 10:20. And it shall come to pass, &c.


1. What is said of their former error. When it is said that they “shall no more stay upon him that smote them,” it surely implies that they had done this before: this was their error. They had stayed upon another—upon Assyria as a refuge and defence against the confederacy that threatened Ahaz (chap. Isaiah 7:1-12, Isaiah 8:4-9), just as at other times they relied upon Egypt as a defence against Assyria,—and they were to be delivered from this tendency to trust in human help, and were to be taught to “stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” Three things are here implied and expressed.

1. They had exercised an improper dependence. To this we are all naturally prone. We need help, and are apt to seek it in some creature rather than in the Creator. The evil of this course is, that thus we are kept away from God (H. E. I., 169–177).

2. Their dependence had been disappointed. That on which they stayed, not only failed them, it injured them (2 Chronicles 28:20; Jeremiah 17:5-6). Creature confidence brings a curse upon us in two ways.

(1) By disappointments (Proverbs 23:5; Psalms 62:9; Psalms 146:3-4; Isaiah 2:22).

(2) By Divine rebukes (Jeremiah 2:17-19; Jonah 4:6-7).

3. Their folly was to be corrected by their sovereign. They were to be taught wisdom by the things they suffered. But, alas! men often harden themselves against even such instruction (Isaiah 9:13; Jeremiah 5:3; Amos 4:6-11). Here we see the depravity of human nature in rendering inefficacious all these Divine chastisements. When this is the case, there is a danger of one of two things: either that God in anger will throw down the rod (Hosea 4:17), or that He will fulfil His own threatenings (Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:23-24; Leviticus 26:27-28; H.E.I., 145–147). God has a merciful design in all your crosses, trials, and afflictions (H.E.I., 56–74). When this is accepted, and afflictions thus sanctified, the penitent sufferer will put his trust in God only. Thus the prodigal was starved back. “He began to be in want”—and it was a blessed want that led him to think of his father’s house, and resolved him to return. You have no reason to complain when your earthly props are taken away, if thus you are induced to take fresh hold of God.

II. What is said of their renewed experience. “But shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” Glance at three views of it. I. It is an enlightened confidence. Confidence is the offspring both of ignorance and wisdom; ignorance leads some persons to entrust precious deposits to strangers or to villains, but the wise man seeks first to know those in whom he is asked to trust. It is foolish to trust without inquiry, and to refuse to trust the trustworthy. The Christian stays himself upon God, because he has ascertained what His character is (Psalms 9:10; 2 Timothy 1:12).

2. Their confidence is very extensive. It covers all times (Psalms 62:8; Isaiah 26:4); all events that can awaken our anxiety; every condition in which we can be found; all that appertains to life and godliness, not only grace, but glory; not only our journey’s end, but also the way. Thus it should be with us, but it is not always so. Strange to say, while we readily trust God for eternal life, we often find it difficult to trust Him for what we need in this life. How foolish is this (Romans 8:32; Psalms 84:11)!

3. It is a blessed confidence (Proverbs 29:25; Psalms 125:1; Isaiah 26:3; Jeremiah 17:7-8; H.E.I., 1191–1934; P.D., 1157, 1160).

III. The reality of their change. “They shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” That is the important thing (Psalms 51:6). This confidence is distinguishable, 1, from mere pretensions. There are those who profess to know God, but in works deny Him. It seems strange that persons should act the hypocrite here, for what do they gain (Job 20:5; Job 27:8)?

2. From imaginary confidence. Persons may not endeavour to deceive others, yet they may deceive themselves (Proverbs 30:12). How unreal may be the confidence that seems most assured. (Comp. Mark 14:27-31, with Mark 14:50.) Therefore—

“Beware of Peter’s word,
Nor confidently say,
I never will deny Thee, Lord,
But grant, I never may.”

William Jay: Sunday Evening Sermons and Thursday Evening Lectures, pp. 290–296.

Verses 20-23


Isaiah 10:20-23. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, &c.

We can hardly understand such language as this, because in our national life and personal history we have never been subject to those strange mutations which befell the kingdom of Israel. We can hardly understand what it means where a whole nation is torn up by the roots, and carried away into a foreign land; and where, by and by, in the capricious mood of some despot, a portion of them are allowed to go back again,—a mere fragment. For in the carrying away of a million people, how many perish! And when a few are gathered together, and they turn to go back, how much is this remnant to be pitied! Wandering from place to place in the promised land, crossing the Jordan, finding a heap where once there was a flourishing city, drawing near to the home of their ancestry and finding it in the hands of foreigners, themselves regarded as intruders and outcasts, what a harrowing experience theirs must be!
It was under such circumstances as these that the prophets did their chief work. It was one of their principal functions to encourage a nation plunged into profound despondency. In this chapter, the prophet, with words of cheer, and with an inexpressible richness of imagery, comforts the poor, despoiled band of people, and makes them feel that the hand of power shall not for ever be so strong against them.
Looked at in its interior spirit, as God meant that it should be viewed, is it not calculated to encourage and comfort people who are in desolateness and distress? Think what is meant by “a remnant.” It does not mean simply a few; neither does it mean merely the last things; though it includes both these ideas. There are “remnants” in the tailor’s shop, in the carpenter’s shop, in the household after a meal, in the harvest field—the waste and refuse that is left after the main and best parts have been taken away and used. So, in all the phases of society there is a remnant constantly coming up; it is the portion which is left after the better or more favoured have been culled out and used; the unsuccessful men, and the men who have broken down; and it is in respect to the remnants of society that I am going to speak this morning.

Consider God’s great tenderness towards the remnant of His people.… Did you ever think of the remnants of society—how numerous they are, and how much they are to be pitied? We are observant of the prosperous and successful, but who cares for the remnants of society? God does!
Let us look at some of these remnants. I. Those who are broken in health, and are utterly turned away by that reason from all that they sought. How many they are! How full of sorrow is their lot! By accident or disease suddenly rendered useless! Like a ship cast upon the land, where the sun beats upon it, and the heat shrinks and cracks it, and opens the seams wider and wider, till by and by it drops to pieces. So it is their pitiful lot to be able to do nothing but wait for the end. II. Those who have misapplied their powers, and consequently have failed. How many give themselves to professions for which they are utterly unfit! Every day men are ruined because they do not know what they are, nor what they are set to do, and are not willing to do the things which they could do, but are aspiring to do the things which they are not fitted for. III. Men who were adapted to their work, but who were overtaxed, and who had not the en durance which their circumstances required. Hundreds of men, under the intense strain of modern society, break down; and then all is gone so far as they are concerned. IV. A great many more break down from a secret mismanagement of themselves. They live in neglect or violation of the simplest and most fundamental laws of health, or they indulge in vices that are destructive. V. Those who have violated the laws of society, and have been detected, convicted, and branded with shame. It is scarcely possible for such men, however earnestly and honestly they may desire it, to be anything else than mere “remnants” in society.

1. In regard to all those who are in this great struggling mass—the remnants of society—I have to say: Take pity on them; have compassion on them; do something to rescue, to strengthen, to cheer some of them.
2. To all who are cast down and suffering, I say, There is a God who is sorry for you. If men disown you, God thinks of you, and will succour you. Beware, then, of desperation. Do not throw yourselves away. Though all else should be against you, God is for you. There is immortality—seek for that. There is a bright and blessed manhood just beyond. If you have failed for this life, do not fail for the other too. There is very much that may yet be done, even in the afternoon and twilight of men’s lives, if they are hopeful and active. Do not give yourselves over to complaining and mourning Be patient. However low you may have got, you have not got as low as Christ was when He died a death of shame and contumely for us. Shall the servant be greater than his Lord? Be patient. It cannot be long before God’s angel shall come, and then your troubles shall be over. Pluck up your courage. Wait. And if need be, suffer, and suffer patiently to the end. Let everything go but this: “God loves me; heaven waits for me;” and in that hope stand. Though the world perish around you, stand, comforted and cheered by the confidence that God cares for you as the remnants of His Israel (H. E. I., 958–961, 2310, 2311, 4015–4018).—Henry Ward Beecher: Christian World Pulpit (vol. iii. p. 43).

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/isaiah-10.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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