Isaiah 31

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

31:1.  “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!”


Egypt continues to represent the world of business, the might and power of which is portrayed by Egypt’s horsemen, horses, and chariots.  To the men of Isaiah’s day Egypt may have seemed invincible, as does the great business machine that bestrides today’s world like a colossus, but the one as much as the other is as a ball of thistledown compared to the omnipotent Jehovah revered by every true believer.  And as the men of that day esteemed Him lightly, and placed their trust in Egypt, so does today’s world accord Him only token acknowledgement, while reposing complete confidence in Mammon.


31:2.  “Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.”


God is not only omnipotent: He is also omniscient, knowing just exactly how to deal with every circumstance of life, including in the present instance, Israel’s rebellion in forsaking Him, and seeking help from Egypt instead.  He is no less capable of administering correction when we duplicate Israel’s folly, and turn to the world for aid, or seek to employ its methods to solve our problems, instead of casting ourselves upon Him.  Israel’s failure to trust Him aroused His anger so that He would frustrate their plans, and punish them and those whose aid they had enlisted.


The principle announced in the command “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers ...” is age-abiding, but it is doubtful whether it has ever been more blatantly violated than in this day of libertinism.


31:3.  “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.  When the Lord shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen (helped) shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.”


This Divine disparagement of the Egyptians and their horses was designed to teach Israel the folly of trusting in anyone or anything except God; and the principle still applies: we should never forget that He is the Creator of all things, so that it is folly to attribute to a person or other creature a power greater than that of the Creator.  Note for example what the Psalmist has written, “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man,” Psalm 108:12.


31:4.  “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 is careful to remind the people that he is God’s spokesman, what he says being not his own personal word to them, but God’s, so that they are responsible to obey, or suffer chastisement.  Every one who ministers God’s Word today should do so in the same spirit, being scrupulously careful neither to add to nor subtract from what is written in Scripture.  It is regrettable that a great deal of today’s preaching is marred by carelessness in this respect.


The lion here is Jehovah; and the multitude of shepherds, the Assyrians.


He Who came once as the Lamb of God to put away sin by His death at Calvary, is He Who will come again as the mighty Lion of Judah to execute judgment.  He is a wise man who by faith presents that Lamb to God as the only Offering that can expiate sin, for to die without having made that presentation is to meet that same Jesus, not as the Lamb, but as the devouring Lion Who will banish every unbeliever first into Hell, and then into the eternal torment of the dreadful lake of fire.


Zion, the citadel of the temple, is a synonym for Jerusalem, the earthly city of God.  It means parched place, and reminds us that during this present era it may seem to be indeed a parched place, but in the Millennium it will be lustered with Divine glory, and will be the center of earthly worship and government.


During the reign of the Beast however, it will be so much the object of his malign hatred that he will attempt to destroy it, but will be frustrated in his evil purpose by the Lord returning in power and glory to establish His millennial kingdom and administer His rule from Zion.


31:5.  “As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.”


The flying birds are those which hover protectively over their young; and as they do, so also will the Lord watch over Jerusalem, the evidence of that care being the existence of the city to the present, in spite of many attempts to destroy it.  That same watchful care guarantees that in spite of every attempt to destroy her, the Church will be preserved until her rapture to heaven before the Great Tribulation begins.  The “passing over” here is from the same root as Passover.


The lion portrays the power of God; the hovering bird, His tender love.


31:6.  “Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.”


This command is as applicable to the Gentiles of this present era as it was to ancient Israel.  The one as much as the other has rebelled against Him, and can be saved only by repentant confession of sin, and return to an obedient walk.


31:7.  “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.”


“... that day” is the Great Tribulation, see Isaiah 2:19-21, “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”


31:8.  “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.”


This was fulfilled when God slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers while they slept, see 37:36.


31:9.  “And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.”


The few surviving Assyrians would flee in panic-stricken terror, awed just by the sight of Israel’s flag or banner.


Fire is one of the symbols of God as being inherently holy, see Deuteronomy 4:24, “... the Lord thy God is a consuming fire,” and Hebrews 12:29, “For our God is a consuming fire.”  A furnace, on the other hand, is frequently associated with judgment in Scripture. Zion, the citadel of the temple, is a synonym for Jerusalem, the earthly city of God.

[Isaiah 32]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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