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Isaiah 9:8-21 - Homiletics

Persistent impenitence brings repeated chastisements.

One would naturally expect that so weak a creature as man, when chastised by the Divine anger, would readily and at once " humble himself under the almighty hand of God," accept the chastisement as deserved, and entreat for mercy and forgiveness. But, weak as he is, man is unwilling to acknowledge his weakness, and, faulty as he is, dislikes nothing so much as acknowledging his faults. God's judgments he will net allow to be judgments, but attributes them to any cause but God; as, for instance,

God brought upon Israel four great chastisements, placing intervals between them, so that after each they might have repented and turned to him, had they so willed. But they would not. These chastisements were—

I. THE ASSYRIAN INVASION UNDER TIGLATH - PILESER . This was a comparatively "light affliction," as God's earlier judgments commonly are. It fell, not on the whole land, but only on a portion—"the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali;" and it resulted in the loss, not of national life or national independence, but only of a province or two not very highly valued. "Galilee of the Gentiles" was overrun and annexed by Assyria; but Ephraim and Manasseh, the great tribes which formed the heart of the nation, were untouched. Still, the invasion was a warning which a wise nation would have taken to heart. When dismemberment begins, it is apt to be continued; each fresh act of spoliation is easier than the last. And the aggressor is encouraged by his success, and tempted to repeat his aggression. But Israel was not wise. She consoled herself by "pride and stoutness of heart," making light of her losses, and boasting that she would easily repair them (verse 10). Her pride and impenitence provoked God to inflict a second chastisement.

II. THE COMBINED PHILISTINE AND SYRIAN ATTACK . Of this we know no more than what is told us in the present chapter. Attack was made "before" and "behind"—from the east and from the west. Jehovah "joined the enemies of Israel together" (verse 11), and caused them to make a combined, or at any rate a simultaneous, invasion. Both enemies were formidable, and Israel was unable to meet either with her full force. Consequently they were successful, and "devoured Israel with open mouth." Could not this second chastisement arouse the nation from its mistaken feeling of security, and bring it to cast itself down before God? Alas! no. The people "turned not to him that had smitten them, neither did they seek the Lord of hosts" (verse 13). The result was that a third chastisement fell.

III. THE INTERNAL ANARCHY AND DISTURBANCE . Hostility to the kindred tribe of Judah lay at the base of Israel's existence as a nation, and was cherished by statesmen as a patriotic feeling. But it was impossible to keep the feeling as closely confined as statesmen would have wished. Within Israel itself one tribe grew jealous of another; and, under the diminished strength of the central authority caused by the external troubles of the time, jealousy led on to open conflict, "no man sparing his brother" (verse 19). As Rome perished by her own strength, when faction became arrayed against faction in the forum and the field, so it seems to have been with Israel. Internal quarrel supervened upon foreign attack; and the weakened state, when a fresh assault from without came, necessarily succumbed to it. Repentance, even at this advanced hour, might have caused God to avert the danger and turn the current of Assyrian conquest in some other direction; but once more, there was no submission, no sign of any change of heart. And at last the dread fiat went forth for Samaria's final destruction. The fourth and last chastisement was—

IV. THE CONQUEST OF SAMARIA , AND CARRYING AWAY OF ISRAEL INTO CAPTIVITY , BY THE ASSYRIANS UNDER SHALMANESER AND SARGON . The same instrument, Assyria, was employed for the first chastisement and the last. Shalmaneser, the successor of Tiglath-Pileser, towards the middle of his short reign, having "found conspiracy in Hoshea"—who-had murdered Pekah and succeeded him—"came up throughout all the land of Israel, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years" ( 2 Kings 17:5 ). At the end of the three years the city fell, about the same time that Sargon, having murdered Shahnaneser at Nineveh, caused himself to be proclaimed supreme ruler of the Assyrian empire. Sargon, following a recognized Assyrian practice, deported the principal part of the population, and settled it partly in Upper Mesopotamia, partly in the cities of Media ( 2 Kings 17:6 ). The life of the nation thus came to an end. God had borne with it for two centuries and a half—tried it, tested it, sent it prophets and seers ( 2 Kings 17:13 ), chastened it, corrected it; but all in vain. Notwithstanding all that he could do and did, "they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, and rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, and left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger" ( 2 Kings 17:14-17 ). Nothing, therefore, remained but to "remove them out of his sight"—to sweep them away with the besom of destruction.

The fate of Israel is a warning, primarily, to nations; but also, secondarily, to individuals. God lays his chastisements on them too, for the purpose of bringing them to repentance. If they resist and are impenitent, he follows up blow with blow. If they remain obdurate, he breaks their pride and crushes them.

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