In verses 1-23 God has made it clear what future holds for Babylon: short of repentance and turning to God in faith, they will travel quickly down rosy path to destruction. We know they didn’t repent, history shows Neo-Babylonian empire survived as world power for less than 2 centuries. In text this morning, God brings Assyria into the picture but not by narrowing focus. Instead God gets out the wide-angle lens and a pointer, identifying two empires and the particular roles he had appointed for them in the big picture.
God’s declaration about Assyria is really part of the the oracle against Babylon beginning in 13:1. God again demonstrates his immanence, God being present within his creation yet distinct from it, speaking words of warning to his enemies, words of comfort and encouragement to his children. At the same time, God’s transcendence is clear: only a God above all and subject to no authority but his own can declare with absolute certainty the rise and fall of empires.
You probably remember classic portrayal of one who thought he was God: Rameses II, played by Yul Brynner, Cecil B DeMille’sTen Commandments, famous line “So let it be written, so let it be done.” Time after time Ramses’ purposes frustrated by the God who one day would hold him accountable for his treatment of God’s people. The Holy One of Israel had no such limitations as Rameses, not under authority of superior God; more mind-blowing, God’s declarations, his purposes encompass us and our future along with saints of ancient days.
The Great God of Creation, Holy One of Israel leaves no doubt about who is in charge, who is governing Creation and all creatures. The Lord has sworn, he has purposed and he will act; understanding those truths gives great comfort and reassurance for the present, great hope for the future. True for Isaiah and his contemporaries, just as true for us in 21st century.
A. The Lord has sworn
In common usage, “swear” usually means mama’s gonna wash your mouth out with soap! Only when referring to courtroom and legal proceedings or other formal situations do we give word its primary meaning – to make a solemn vow, calling on a higher authority as witness and to guarantee fuilfillment of what has been promised. What makes this more than solemn promise: the higher authority; one making vow binds himself to keep the vow, asking that authority to hold him to it. The expectation: dire consequences for failure to follow through.
To swear in the Old Testament was to give one’s sacred unbreakable word in testimony that the one swearing would faithfully perform some promised deed. (TWOT)
The last person you’d think would need to swear, take an oath of any kind, is God. Think about it, who is he going to swear by? Who will stand as witness to God, who will require God to keep the vow he has made? Why is that even necessary?
…we see God swearing by himself (Gen 22:16), by his holiness (Ps 89:35), by his right hand (Isa 62:8), and by his great name (Jer 44:26)Ibid.
“The Lord of hosts has sworn” –2 ends in view: God’s people would know that his purpose is unchanging, and so his promises also; God’s people would receive great encouragement. SeeHeb. 6:17-18After Abraham/Isaac went up Mt. Moriah to sacrifice, Yahweh swore by himself that he would indeed keep promise made to Abraham. Repeated the promise, confirmed or guaranteed with an oath to make clear to Abraham and descendants: nothing in God’s purpose had changed or would change. Guarantee is God himself; as surely as God is supreme and unchanging, he will keep his covenant.
Prior to Isaac’s birth, God covenanted with Abram: you will have offspring, numerous as stars of heaven. Then instructed Abram: bring heifer, goat, ram, plus dove and young pigeon. Cut animals in half, after sunset smoking oven with burning torch passed between pieces. (Gen. 15:9-10,17) What in world was significance of that?? God, represented by blazing torch, affirming symbolically: may same happen to me as to these sacrifices if I fail to keep my covenant. An obvious impossibility, God’s swearing by himself carried equal or greater weight of authority.
Source of great encouragement to God’s people: promises God had made not subject to circumstances, tough times doesn’t mean God has given up or is powerless to act. The hardship of smoking oven, life in the furnace, would be accompanied by the burning torch of God’s presence. Words of gloom for Israel’s future also included words of promise for their deliverance. Once again God solemnly vowed to keep promises he had made to them; they just needed to focus on God, his character, his covenant, not be overwhelmed and discouraged by current portion in life.
B. The Lord has purposed
thought (1)/intended/planned/purposed (3)/purpose (1)
God is not like us: does not learn from experience, acquire new information, react to situation and devise new plan.
“…he does not will first one thing and then another, but he wills all that he wills simultaneously, in one act, and eternally. He does not repeat his act of will over and over again or will different things at different times, and he neither starts to will what he did not will previously nor ceases to will what he willed before. A will which acts in this way is mutable, and nothing that is mutable is eternal. But our God is eternal.” (Mal. 3:6) Augustine, Confessions, XII, 15.
God planned his plan and is working his plan, plan A, has no need for any other. Plan is not result of trial and error, thinking through several different possibilities to find the right or best one. God thought his purpose, his plan; it was perfect, complete, comprehensive from beginning to end. Just as God’s plan has beginning and end, so does human history: human history began with 6 days of creation, will end on the day when the glory of God’s mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and of his justice in the damnation of the wicked is displayed.
Not single detail of plan has been missed – everything God has purposed has come to pass according to his timeline. Just as certain are the things still remaining on the timeline, in their appointed order, at their appointed time. Some events were revealed, foretold – God’s use of Assyria and Babylon as his agents; restoration of remnant to land of Judah; birth of a Son to a virgin; suffering of God’s Servant. God intended for his people to have absolute confidence in his purpose, his commitment and ability to carry out his purpose, his unwavering intention to do so.
C. The Lord will act
Purpose of God not merely design for a machine, wound up and set in motion, left to carry out its job according to design. God’s purpose includes his actions through means he has appointed that will impact the lives and work for the good of his people. God had plan to act both in immediate and long term – Assyria, then Babylon, in fact, ALL the nations, even all generations (remember call to worship,Psa. 33:11–The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.)
God’s people would not have long to wait before seeing God in action; he would further confirm his plan against Babylon by acting against Assyria. God carrying out his purpose with respect to Assyria and Babylon was ongoing confirmation that he would complete his plan for mankind, that promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob were still good. Record of God’s actions, kept promises, whether passed from generation to generation by word of mouth or written text, strengthens faith of true believers.
Faith for the Christian not a leap in the dark, has basis in God’s character and is reinforced by God’s track record. Each act of God to keep a promise is further tangible proof of God’s faithfulness, encourages the believer to continue trusting in promises yet to be received. Underscores God’s ability and intention to keep his promises, that no power exists that can thwart his purpose or force God to change his plan. Verse 27: The Lord of hosts has a plan, who can frustrate? Obviously,….no one.
Here’s where we come in: big promise to Abraham – the Seed (Gal. 3:16), blessing of Christ himself and benefits of his mediatorial work – in you all nations will be blessed. God swore by himself that he would keep that promise; just as certain to those who by faith are children of Abraham as to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. The promise was given to Abraham and to Christ – if we are in Christ, then promise of blessing and benefits applies to us.
When we consider the cross and empty grave, some of promise has been kept, some is yet to come. Our salvation has begun, but not yet complete: still dealing with sin, sickness, death, minds and bodies that wear out and give up. We anticipate in hope the day of resurrection, new glorious bodies like that of the Lord Jesus, complete and final freedom from sin and sorrow and death. Empty cross AND empty grave are both tangible confirmation God will be faithful to the rest of the promise. The Father was satisfied with his Son’s sacrifice, nothing is left for us to do that we might earn eternal life. The Son had victory over death, removing its terror and giving hope of eternal life.
These are great and precious promises secured for those who believe by a great and precious Savior. May we boast only in Christ; may we grow in faith and love and courage and dependence on God who is able to supply all our need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)