Isaiah 10-12: The remnant will return.
Updated: Dec 5, 2021
When we last spoke, Isaiah had just foretold the wasting away of a world power that had terrorized the region for years, steadily advancing and then suddenly collapsing. Had his listeners been able to look ahead as he had, and seen 185,000 Assyrian soldiers lying dead in their tents (Isaiah 37:36), would they have become a part of Shear Jashub?
In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return. Isaiah 10:20-22
“A remnant will return.” Although the northern kingdom was relying on their former enemy Aram rather than looking to God for protection, and although the leaders of Judah had turned their backs on God despite Isaiah’s warnings, God would remain true to His word. The remnant would be few, but those few had learned from their mistakes: there’s no use turning to others or to your own resources for deliverance; the only turn worth taking is a turn toward Almighty God.
By now we know what a remnant is and who it was and who it wasn’t, but for those standing there the question must have been, “A remnant of what? From what? For what?” Once again, Isaiah had the answer, and it wasn’t good.
Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. The Lord, the Lord Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land. (verses 22-23)
“But,” Isaiah says to the people in Jerusalem, “don’t be afraid.” (verses 24-25)
Remember, this is prophecy, and Assyria hadn’t gotten there yet. So in foretelling their deliverance, Isaiah was foretelling their trouble. Could they hear it in his words? “Hang on! There’s trouble coming.” There may have been some who could hear the promise on the other side of the warning, but they would have to go through the trouble to get there.
“I’m mad at you,” the LORD tells them honestly, “but we’re almost at the end of it.” He then reminds them of the enemies He’s destroyed for them in the past—the Midianites bewildered by Gideon’s trumpets (Judges 7), the Egyptians consumed by the un-parting of the sea (Exodus 14:28). In that same way, it would be His power that would break the yokes off their backs, and His promises to King David that guaranteed their preservation. (verses 26-27)
If the people had seen past the portent of invasion to their rescue and beyond, they would have seen their final deliverance and a descendant of David forever on the throne. But alas, they didn’t. They couldn’t. It wasn’t theirs to see—yet. But it was theirs to listen: “Don't be afraid."
Isaiah was able to give them a snapshot of that coming day, and he framed it in a song. It was a song about the Assyrians advancing through their cities, coming closer and closer to Jerusalem while all God’s people flee away. And then—suddenly—the haughty are humbled, stopped just short of their destination, and can only shake their fists at God’s people, saved, just barely, once again (verses 28-34).
Isaiah’s vision is extended to a time when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD— it’s the millennial kingdom revealed, the hope of Israel restored.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1
A branch? That sounds familiar. Back in chapter 4, Isaiah told us about a branch, a sprout really, something vibrant springing up from something dead. Here he identifies the sprout’s source as the stump of Jesse. Hmm… Usually, when Christ’s lineage is discussed, David is the focal point, but this time the focus is on his father, Jesse. Why? I don’t know. But it does give me a different perspective. When I think of David, I think of a shepherd who became a king. When I think of Jesse, I think of a shepherd who, as far as I know, remained a shepherd. And Jesus, really, is both.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
We call this the “seven-fold Spirit of God.” Though it’s impossible to quantify God, God uses the number seven throughout Scripture to mean “all there is.” There isn’t anything God is that Jesus isn’t. Wise and understanding, he uses what he knows to help those He loves. As a counselor, he teaches them to do the same, and with his strength, he empowers them to do it. He does it all because he knows whose he is, and he delights in that above all else.
The Spirit in all its fullness rested on Jesus even during His first assignment on earth, but most, especially the learned, didn’t recognize it. Wisdom from heaven didn’t look like they expected. To them, understanding looked like compromise, counseling looked like consorting, and might under restraint looked like weakness. The religious might have known the law but they didn’t know God.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
This man Jesus seemed to see things no one else could see. Sometimes it seemed he wasn’t even paying attention, his body in one place, his head in another. And we know that was so. While on earth, Jesus said he did only what the Father did, and said only what the Spirit said (John 5:19, John 8:38, John 14:10). He saw things from a heavenly perspective and knew what was just and what was not. He could make accurate judgments, even speak them out, but there was only so much he could do. Then. But Isaiah sees ahead to the time when the Righteous Judge will have the authority to deal.
...but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
In the millennial kingdom, the King will be unchallenged in His authority. With His word, He will enforce justice and destroy the wicked. What He says will be a powerful force, effecting change, and righteousness and faithfulness will be His motivation and result.
Here are some other characteristics of His kingdom that Isaiah thought were important for us to know:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
It’s tempting to skip through these verses because we think we’ve heard them before. A common paraphrase used in songs is this: “the lion will lie down with the lamb,” and is used to refer to the coming King and the Lamb of God appearing together, working as one. And although that’s true—they will and they are—I don’t think that’s what this is saying. First of all, it’s not just the lion and the lamb that are mentioned, and when the lion and the lamb are mentioned, it’s not in relation to each other. Take a look.
A wolf and a lamb, a leopard and a goat, a calf and a lion and a fatling, whatever that is, are together. As things now stand, you couldn’t put all these little fellas together without creating a tornado of fur and claws. Why? Because the wolf and the leopard and the lion are hungry and the lamb and the goat and the fatling taste good. But in the Millennial Kingdom, the carnivores, as well as the omnivores, will all become herbivores, and all will chill together, eating salad. At the same time, the most defenseless child and the most mischievous will play around the nest of what once were the deadliest snakes, and no one will get hurt. The reason? There will be no danger or destruction when the earth is filled with the knowledge of the LORD. All that once caused want or fear will be gone.
So why don’t the Scriptures just say that? Why the menagerie of examples? Because Isaiah draws a picture to make a point: The coming kingdom will look just like the garden of Eden. But bigger.
As an animal lover and a student of nature, I’m thrilled that the righteous work of Messiah on earth goes far beyond redeeming mankind. He will bring justice to all of creation—vegetable, animal, mineral, man. All will be reconciled; all will be restored.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
A few verses back, the Messiah was identified as springing up from the root of Jesse, as a descendent of David’s dad. Here, the Messiah is identified as the Root of Jesse, the source of Jesse himself. Can He be both? He can. The circle of life was set in motion long before Mufasa met Elton John. With no beginning and no end, the circle of life is rooted in Jesus and revealed in Jesus. There is nothing that doesn’t have His mark on it, nothing that was created for anything but His glory. He is all that and more.
In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people…
Reclaimed a second time? When Isaiah spoke this to Judah, they hadn’t even been dispersed! Ephraim had been carried away to Assyria, but Judah’s captors, the Babylonians, weren’t even on the radar yet. Judah’s exile was still a hundred years away. Seventy years after that, when the world's power shifted again, King Cyrus would let the tribe of Judah go home, but Ephraim would still be scattered. And is still scattered to this day. The second gathering—the reclaiming of the “ten lost tribes”—may have begun in 1948, when Jews began to return to Israel, but the majority are still scattered throughout the earth. So we’re not there yet.
But in that day, the “outcasts” of Israel and the “dispersed” of Judah, will be gathered from the four corners of the earth. All eyes on them, the LORD will bring them together—Ephraim and Judah reunited at last. And, gadzooks, they will get along! The nations that warred against them will be restrained, and all the forces, national and natural, that had ever stood between them and the Promised Land will be destroyed. The remnant will return (verses 12-16).
And looking on? People from every tribe and tongue, rallied around the LORD, watching. Nations of unbelievers, there to observe what a victorious kingdom looks like under the glorious reign of a righteous King.
And blinders off, those who are His will see it, too.
And in that day they will say:
“I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.