The Cause of Consequences

I may have said this before, but consequences are kind of important. We may not like the painful experience, but without it, chaos reigns . . . well, chaotically. So, we need those consequences because inconsequential chaos is bad boys and girls. The only question is will we survive it and will they do what they are intended to do?  You see, consequences have a cause. They are intended to correct and give hope. But sometimes hope is seen dimly through the cracks of collapsing consequences. Can hope thrive here? Well, maybe thrive is the wrong word. Can hope stubbornly cling here? I hope so.

Isaiah 10:20-23 is all about a hope squeezed through consequences. Verses 5-19 have dealt with the use of Assyria as a tool to cut off Israel and prune Judah. The tool will be visited by Yahweh in punishment, but that is much later. It will happen in those days, in the days of Assyrian invasion and dominance (733-721 B.C.) that there will be remnant of Israel – of the house of Jacob. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to see this as dealing with anything other than the northern kingdom. The Vision of Isaiah has said over and over again that Israel will be destroyed. The line has been crossed and there is no delaying this one. But some will escape. This remnant will never again lean on the one who struck them, which could refer to either Aram (Rezin defeated Israel in 736 B.C. and supported Pekah’s coup d’état, who then became Rezin’s puppet) or Assyria after the campaign of 733 which put Hoshea on the throne as Assyria’s puppet king. Either one of these would adequately fit “the one who struck them.” The word “lean on” is used in Isaiah 30:12 for a negative leaning on oppression and guile. The word is often used in a negative sense; a fickle leaning on God without any conviction (Micah 3:11). That is why they will now faithfully lean on Yahweh, the Sacred of Israel.

One source claims that verse 21 is an exultant cry of the people “YES! A remnant will return . . .” Almost a bragging session which Isaiah has to correct in verse 22. Maybe. But if so, there is no indicator. It seems like a guess to me. It could just as easily be Isaiah emphasizing that a remnant will return. The word “return” can refer to a physical return such as the return after captivity in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. But the word can also mean to repent; a return of heart. This seems to fit the context better. Those who escape death will return to Hero God. The consequences were severe, but there is a sliver of hope here. Verse 22 reminds them that it is a sliver. The remnant at this point is nothing to boast about. They used to be as numerous as the sand of the sea. But now. Well, now they are a small remnant.

The destruction is already cut or decided. It may seem hard and painful, but it is an overflowing river of righteousness. How many years did God plead with his people to stop calling evil good and good evil? How many years did he tell them to seek justice for the vulnerable? Corruption and oppression danced while the orphan and the widow were buried in the dust. No, this is a righteous flow of consequence. A complete annihilation has been dialed up. Adonai, Yahweh of Armies will make it happen in their midst. Well, that doesn’t seem hopeful at all. Yes, destruction is coming. The once proud and numerously populated nation of Israel will be reduced to a remnant. Will they also be so few that children can count them like the trees of Assyria (verse 19)? Where is the hope. Oh, it’s there. It is small and dusty. You may have to squint to see it, but it’s there. A remnant will return. The name of Isaiah’s son – Shear-jashub – will ring true. And this “remnant will return” is finally going to get it. They are going to understand the cause of the consequences and return to a mighty God. They will stop calling evil good and good evil. They will take care of the orphan and the widow. They may be few, but they will be strong trees.

The consequences of life may seem too difficult at times. It may feel as if the darkness is all engulfing without a sliver of hope. Look closer. Hope breathes here. The word “remnant” became a technical term for the core people who are truly leaning on God. Lean on God! Truly lean on the Master! Try it. I’m convinced that no matter how dark; no matter how painful; you will see a sliver of light. And the more you lean on him the more that light will grow. And before you know it, it will radiate in you and through you. Oh, it may take years. It may take some consequences to convince you to return to leaning. Be the remnant that returns to lean on God then. Don’t be so stubborn that you don’t survive the consequences. The sad thing here is that many more people were killed by the consequences. See the cause and lean in.