God, Our Faithful Defender

Isaiah 31:1-9

The world spends a lot of money on preparing to kill people and blow things up; even have family training or deploying for the purpose of carrying out their mission. No matter how you look at it, it’s a priority for many governments. World total – over $2T. Eritrea, African state, neighbor of Ethiopia and Sudan – 20%; Saudi Arabia – 12%; Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Oman – 10%. USA 800B; closest competitor China 400B. USA $2300/per person; China $400. This the sort of thing that comes with earthly civil government whether good or bad. Samuel, for example:

1 Sam. 8:10-17So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “Here are the policies of the king who will rule over you: He will conscript your sons and put them in his chariot forces and in his cavalry; they will run in front of his chariot. He will appoint for himself leaders of thousands and leaders of fifties, as well as those who plow his ground, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war and his chariot equipment. He will take your daughters to be ointment makers, cooks, and bakers. He will take your best fields and vineyards and give them to his own servants. He will demand a tenth of your seed and of the produce of your vineyards and give it to his administrators and his servants. He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best cattle and your donkeys, and assign them for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will be his servants.”

God didn’t have a problem with what the king would do; after all, God was the one who established civil government. The problem was that “Just as they have done from the day that I brought them up from Egypt until this very day, they have rejected me and have served other gods.”1 Sam. 8:8It was a confidence issue – people choosing to put confidence in what could be seen and counted. What God wanted from his people was for them to be in the habit of right walking (by faith and not sight), experiencing real protection (the kind He would provide), remembering the covenant and promises he had made centuries before.

A. right walking – by faith not sightv.1-3

look to the Holy One of Israel, seek the Lord (1)

Judah was trusting in Egypt for their safety but when God is directing the outcome of the battle, horses & chariots even in large numbers will not suffice.

On August 27, 1776, British General Howe trapped 8,000 American troops on Brooklyn Heights. Desperate, Washington ferried his army all night across the East River. Morning came yet half his troops were still in danger.

Major Ben Tallmadge, Washington’s Chief of Intelligence, wrote:

As the dawn of the next day approached, those of us who remained in the trenches became very anxious for our own safety, and when the dawn appeared there were several regiments still on duty. At this time a very dense fog began to rise off the river, and it seemed to settle in a peculiar manner over both encampments. I recollect this peculiar providential occurrence perfectly well, and so very dense was the atmosphere that I could scarcely discern a man at six yards distance…We tarried until the sun had risen, but the fog remained as dense as ever.”

The fog allowed the entire army to be evacuated. Never again did the British have such a chance to trap the American army.

If we are looking to the Holy One of Israel, not strength of human resources, seeking the Lord for his direction, we will never be disappointed.

God is wise and keeps his word (2)

God means what he says, says what he means. Will keep his promises of both blessing and cursing. Don’t misunderstand; just because doesn’t appear like God is moving, he without fail will protect his own and bring disaster on both sinners and accomplices.

God can be trusted even though unseen (3)

even though men can be seen, they cannot see the end from the beginning; their plans always come up short. God knows what he’s talking about, the outcome he has planned is right. Justice will be done, God’s will indeed will be done on earth as in heaven. Sinners as well as those they encourage to sin will perish while the righteous have nothing to fear as their Heavenly Father brings them safely home.

B. real protectionv.4-5

lion standing guard over what is his (4)

wouldn’t depend on flashlight with dead batteries, car with no engine, refrigerator in place with no electricity. We only trust in them when they have power, can do what is needed. Same with one on whom we depend for protection. No use depending on God if he doesn’t have the power to defend against what would cause us harm.

God through prophet Isaiah describes himself as lion who will not be frightened away. Not only has the power, will use it to defend them from their enemies, to fight for his people in battle against those who would hurt them.

Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”C S Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Moses asked God to show him his glory; God refused, for good reason. Moses would not have survived a full revelation of God’s glory. Instead God said he would make all his goodness to pass before Moses (Ex. 33:19). God is powerfully dangerous to those who oppose him, who disrespect him and his laws. But he is good and whoever trusts in him can count on his goodness.

hovering over to protect (5)

God also describes himself as birds hovering over their young to protect from danger. Not a simple defensive action only, in his hovering/defending he delivers. To truly and fully deliver requires defeat of enemies; is accomplished in God’s “passing over” Jerusalem as he preserves it.

Just as passing over in Egypt had two objects: striking the Egyptians, not allowing the destroyer to strike the Hebrew children (Ex. 12:23) in Isaiah’s dayGod would deal with the Assyrians, later with the Babylonians. God is committed to defeating enemies of his people, the church until end of time and final judgment.

C. remember the covenantv.6-9

God not only promises, he pleads with his children to begin again to do what is right.

return to the one who loves you (6)

it is Yahweh speaking, the covenant God of Israel, urging his children to return; same Yahweh showing his goodness who declared his name to Moses and said:“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness”.

repent of your idolatry (7)

genuine return to covenant God means abandoning idols – those things that had been object of trust and confidence other than true God. Requires turning from less obvious sinful behavior as well, not just “in your face” rebellion.

rejoice in God’s protection (8)

God is glorified when his enemies are defeated; when God’s people are delivered from danger and it’s obviously God who did it. It was God who took up the sword against the Assyrians, sending his designated warrior to kill 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. It is this sort of power displayed on behalf of God’s people that caused Paul to ask the question: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

When God is glorified in the defeat of his enemies and protection of his people, his children rejoice. Their rejoicing in God and his works of providence brings him even greater glory – not nearly all he deserves, but closer!

remember His promise (9)

sure, you can remember promises made through Moses at time of exodus from Egypt; they were real and important. But, don’t forget earlier covenant promise made to Abraham:

Gen. 15:17furnace/smoking oven Abraham instructed to take “a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon”. Cut the animals “in two and placed each half opposite the other”. After sun went down, God promised Abraham his offspring would experience 400 years of hardship in a foreign land. But,… God would not forget, would judge that nation and deliver his people. Then, to show he was serious, that was a binding covenant, God himself passed between pieces in form of “a smoking oven and a burning torch”. The smoking oven or furnace was present at that covenant-making ceremony with Abraham, it was present in Jerusalem of Isaiah’s day.

God did not forget his covenant promise – committed to keeping it and delivering his people in Isaiah’s day, also in our day and in future. God doesn’t fail, his promises don’t fail; his promises of the new covenant are just as certain as those of the old covenant. Just as surely as the Lion of the tribe of Judah is King and has ascended to his throne with all authority, so surely can we rest in his promise of protection and deliverance. For that we should rejoice, give thanks, and sing, and triumph!

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