What is the secret of America’s great success? America’s freedom and prosperity didn’t happen by chance. We are a nation blessed by God. We have been blessed beyond any nation in history but now we have forgotten God. Psalm 9:17 "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." We continue to fill the cup of God’s wrath with our corruption. God is saddened when a man seems content to live in the filth of his own corruption. A man should tremble at the wrath he stirs in the heart of God when he attempts to destroy the hearts of others, especially the young and innocent, with his corruption. As a nation we have awakened the wrath of God by exporting our corruption to other nations. We use to export steel, textiles and technology. Now we export pornography, abortion and homosexual rights.
We have banned the Bible, prayer and the Ten Commandments from our schools and institutions. We have banned the very mention of God’s name. Do we expect God to slump his shoulders and walk away? What is God’s reaction to America’s rejection of him? Because he is the same yesterday, today and forever and he never changes, we can learn how God will react to America today by looking historically at how he reacted to countries of the past that committed such sins.
What do Israel and America have in common? They are the only two nations in history that were founded upon God from their very inception. America was called to be a light to the nations just as ancient Israel was. God’s plan for countries that he has chosen to be light and salt is that if we continue to follow him we will be blessed but if we turn our backs on him and forget him we shall be removed.
Dr. Luke recorded these words of Jesus; “…to whom much is given, of him shall much be required." (Luke 12:48) We were established on the foundations of the very word of God and he blessed us for our efforts, for our obedience. We became the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth. We were blessed with resources, we were blessed with ingenuity and innovations and a standard of living that other nations could only dream of.
Israel experienced similar blessings over 2500 years ago. Israel was chosen of God to be that “city upon a hill”, that nation that would be the flag ship for all other nations, pointing them toward God. But Israel was influenced by the pagan practices of neighboring nations. They lost their hunger for God and they began to yearn for frivolous things that would temporarily satisfy the lusts of their hearts. They began to live for the moment rather than for eternity.
God allowed Israel to suffer an attack from Assyria from the north. This was a wakeup call. But rather than respond to this warning from the Almighty, Israel continued in her waywardness. When God spoke against the sons of Jacob and his judgment fell on Israel they said, “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” (Isaiah 9:10)
God removed the umbrella of protection from Israel. He meant this attack form Assyria to be a warning. It was a wake-up call. He was pleading with his chosen: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) But they were a rebellious people, they had “eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear.” (Ezekiel 12:2)
The attack of the Assyrians didn’t move them to repent, rather, it revealed their arrogance. “We will replace the damaged bricks with dressed stone. We will replace the fallen sycamores with tall and noble cedars,” they said. The first stage of judgment was completed and it resulted in no conversion. Therefore, God will try again to awaken the hardened, sleeping hearts of the Israelites. What is more serious than to lift one’s fist to the face of God and refuse his call to repentance? God could not ignore this blatant rebellion.
When God smites he means to humble us and turn us back to him. When the reaction is pride instead of humility we are setting ourselves up for a greater smiting. Matthew Henry says of this verse: (Isaiah 9:10) “The people turn not to Him who smites them, therefore he continues to smite: for when God judges, he will overcome; and the proudest, stoutest sinner shall either bend or break.”
Messianic Rabbi Jonathon Cahn identifies 8 harbingers in this verse. (The Harbinger, Jonathon Cahn) A harbinger is anything that foreshadows a future event. Cahn makes a convincing comparison between God’s treatment of Israel and God’s treatment of America.
The first harbinger was “the bricks have fallen.” This bricks were weak, sun dried and easy to destroy. There was damage but it was limited.
The second harbinger; “but we will rebuild.” God is encouraging repentance but they are defying this and choose instead to display their arrogance. They will apply human effort to undo the judgment of God.
The third harbinger: “we will rebuild stronger.” “If you destroy our bricks we will replace them with strong and ornate stone. If you destroy our sycamore trees, trees of little value, we will replant great cedars. We will make what you destroyed greater than it was before,” they said.
The fourth harbinger: “the hewn stone”. “The bricks have been destroyed but we will rebuild with hewn stone.” The weak bricks made of clay will be replaced by stone hewn and cut from the mountain. They shook their fist in the face of God and said, “You destroyed us in our weakness, we will come back stronger than ever.”
The fifth harbinger: The spirit of defiance. God recognizes this attitude and he is trying to purge them of this sin.
The sixth harbinger: “The sycamore has been cut down.” This tree was a type of fig mulberry tree. They were common, they were weak. The Assyrians cut them down when they attacked.
The seventh harbinger: The strong Cedar tree. “We will replace the weak sycamore with the strong cedar. You sent the Assyrians to attack us. You thought it would weaken us and turn us to repentance. Instead, the weak will be made strong and we will do this by our own effort with no help from God.”
The eight harbinger: The leaders of the nation say that they will rebuild. “We will be stronger yet.” They failed to humble themselves in the eyes of God and because of their arrogant reaction, “his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.” (Isaiah 9:21)
Cahn compares this first judgment of God on the Israelites with America’s 9/11 experience. What was 9/11? It cast our country into shock. Seven years later our economy came crashing down. Was this God sending a warning across the bow?
The Rabbi draws our attention to the next chapter in Isaiah: “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath!” (Isaiah10:5) God is using the Assyrians to warn the Israelis of judgment yet to come. He then says that after he is finished with this ‘rod’ he will “…punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.” (Isaiah 10:12)
As God allowed the Assyrians to wake up the Israelis, has he not allowed the terrorist of 9/11 to wake up America? Are we going to humble ourselves and repent or are we going to be arrogant and ignore his judgment?
The Harbinger, Jonathon Cahn
The Harbinger, Issues in Education, Bob and Geri Boyd
Matthew Henry’s Commentary – Isaiah Chapter 9
Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.
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