Friday, August 2, 2013

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Good and the Bad of God's Swearing

          Here is a Scripture that wonderfully encouraged me this morning:

24 The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, 25 that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.”
26 This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. 27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14)

          Let me go through this phrase-by-phrase to show what encouragement is here for all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The LORD of hosts has sworn:” (vs 24)

          That is it, end of story, nothing more to say. This is not powerful and unchangeable just become someone has “sworn” instead of promised, claimed, suggested, or boasted. This is not true just because God swore it instead of declared it, or announced it. This is true because “the LORD of hosts” is the one who swore what he would do. The whole message of God’s word is clear, including the united testimony of creation and the cherubim, that the LORD of hosts is sitting on the throne of heaven, the throne of the whole of spiritual reality, the throne of the whole universe, and no one can stand against him, or cause even one thought or suggestion of his word to fail.

 “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” (vs 24).

          This is some of the beautiful rhyming parallelism of the Hebrew language. This phrase rhymes in thought with the declaration, “The LORD of hosts has sworn.” Also, within this declaration, the two thoughts also rhyme with each other. Whatever God has planned will be in reality all that it was on the divine blueprint. Whatever God has purposed to do will stand in real time, space, matter, and everything spiritual, exactly as God sees it in his divine mind.

          This is the hope of the child of God, that things will be the way our Father has purposed and planned, not the way the enemies of God have declared. Even when God’s enemies have every earthly appearance of success, God’s plans and purposes will still prevail. When God purposed and planned to deliver Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, it did not matter how much the Pharaoh increased the workload of the Israelites, or how much the Egyptian magicians could mimic the signs and wonders performed by Moses, or how big the Egyptian army was when they gathered Israel against the shores of the Red Sea, the end of the matter was exactly what God said, that the Egyptian army was destroyed, and the people of God were delivered.

          The same is true when all God’s enemies rose up against his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and thought they could destroy him through crucifixion. Why not get rid of him in the most painful, humiliating way possible? And yet, even at Jesus’ death, the curtain to the Most Holy Place of the temple was torn in two, signifying that the man who had just died, had successfully completed the work God gave him to do. The way to God was now open, not through a hopeless lifetime of keeping every nuance and facet of the law, with all its rules, and offerings, and sacrifices, but now through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through faith in his name.

          However, the signs that accompanied Jesus’ death, proving that God was at work in the redemption of his people, were shadowed in the even greater glory that came three days later when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. The message was clear: God had purposed to give his Son a kingdom of brothers. God had planned that his Son would be the “firstborn over many brothers”,[1] and so he could not gather together a brotherhood of believers without also including his Son who had died to make such a gathering possible.

          God raised his Son from the dead, showing everyone, for all time, for all of eternity, that God will do what he planned, and complete what he purposed. He had declared seven hundred years earlier that his Son would see his offspring”[2] and “see and be satisfied”,[3] so he made it so. The same God who said, “Let there be light, and there was light”[4] called Jesus out of the grave, and it was so. It was so then, and it will be true of every other thing God has planned and purposed.

“that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.” (vs 26)

          This statement applied specifically to the mighty Assyrian army at the time, but is a fill-in-the-blank promise that applies to all God’s enemies. On one side of this rhyming parallelism is the declaration of what God will do, that he will break his enemies and trample them underfoot. On the other side of the parallel thoughts is the effect God’s work will have, which is that the yoke of oppression the Assyrians had place on God’s people would depart from Israel, and the Assyrian’s burden of slavery and captivity would be lifted from their shoulders.

          This tells the people of God that their deliverance does not rest in them, but on God. This is why God emphasized that we must call on him. We do not need to perform for him, or impress him, or join our forces to his. God has done too many things through the weakness of his people for us to think that he needs our help. The reality is that he waits for us to call on him, in fact, works in us to give us the will and the expression of calling on him,[5] and then comes to our rescue because we called. God declares that, When he calls to me, I will answer him”.[6]This was true three thousand years ago, stands true today, and will be proven true to the very end.

“This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.” (vs 26)

          When God speaks a plan or purpose, it applies to everything. It is not isolated in the way that a nation has momentary success against other nations, but falls into decline and disappears from history. It is not restricted to success against some enemies but not others. When God has purposes, they cover everything. They include every enemy that needs to be defeated in the earthly and spiritual realms. They include every event, every moment of time, every nuance of location, and any numbers of beings that could be included. God’s purposes cover the whole earth, and everything that is on, around, over or under the earth.

          At the same time, God’s hand is stretched out over all the nations. His hand will protect Israel because this was the nation that he promised to Abraham. His hand will destroy every enemy of Israel, because his hand is stretched out over all the nations. None is excluded. It does not matter whether this is a physical nation with a specific location, or a particular people group intent on taking over the whole world. God has promised that even the antichrist and all his emissaries will be destroyed. The red dragon and his minions will be cast into the lake of fire. No one who comes against the LORD will stand.

“For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (vs 27)

          Now the contrast is complete. When it is the LORD of hosts who has purposed something, there is no one who can annul it, defeat it, erase it, overpower it, or anything else that would describe even the red dragon’s attempt to destroy God’s people and his creation. When it is the LORD of hosts who stretches out his hand to do something for his people, or against his enemies, there is no one, not even Satan himself, who can turn it back.

          This has become very special for me in the understanding of how God set out to create a people in his own image and likeness. Satan thought he could defeat God by leading the first man into sin.[7] God immediately promised that there would be an “offspring” of a woman who would come and crush the serpent’s head while experiencing the bruising of his heel.[8] This spoke of the way Jesus would come and crush Satan’s dominion over humanity, but through his own suffering and death.

          One thing that fascinates me in this is that God promised that the offspring would be of the woman. It could not be of a man, because then the son would inherit the sin nature. Instead, God would fulfill his plans by first promising this sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,”[9] and then fulfilling that by sending his own Son into the world through a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit.[10] To consider how many centuries of time had passed, how many other prophecies were added to the mix, how there was no conflict in any of the prophecies, and no failure in any of their fulfillments, verified time and again that no one has ever been able to annul even one nuance of a purpose God has made, or turn back one thing that God stretched out his hand to do.

          I love the way this narrative concludes: What will one answer the messengers of the nation? ‘The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.’”[11] Now that is hope! If the LORD of hosts has founded Zion, founded his kingdom, who can shake his people off their foundation? If the LORD of hosts, he who is enthroned over the cherubim, is the refuge, how could we not find safety in him no matter how afflicted we feel?

          What God announced to the Assyrians was fulfilled in their defeat. They are gone; God’s people remain. There will be antichrists, and enemies galore. There will be all kinds of world events that show that the creation is “groaning together in the pains of childbirth”[12] waiting “with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.[13]What God did to so many enemies as recorded throughout Scripture will continue to be fulfilled against all his enemies until death, hell and the grave, along with the red dragon and his followers, will all be cast into the lake of fire as the final fulfillment of their defeat, and all God’s children will be fully transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as God had planned and purposed before the beginning of time.

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Romans 8:29
[2] Isaiah 53:10
[3] Isaiah 53:11
[4] Genesis 1:3
[5] Philippians 2:12-13
[6] Psalm 91:15
[7] Genesis 3
[8] Genesis 3:15
[9] Isaiah 7:14
[10] Matthew 1:20
[11] Isaiah 14:32
[12] Romans 8:22
[13] Romans 8:19

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