The Surgeon

“I recommend surgery.” Nobody wants to hear these words. I mean, it’s not like surgery is fun. And recovery is no picnic either. It can be threatening and scary to face surgery. Ah, but that alternative thing. The on-going and worsening pain; the whole “if it is not dealt with now, it will only get worse” thing; the looming possibility of even more invasive surgery down the road. So, sometimes we endure pain in the moment to have a less painful long term. Oh, and it’s not like the surgeon enjoys inflicting pain. We accept this in good faith, don’t we? A good surgeon only does necessary operations; not for his own personal gain, but for the patient’s well-being.

In a sense, Isaiah 10:24-27 is God’s message of comfort during surgery. This message is from Adonai, Yahweh of Armies. Well, that seems significant. He is addressing his people who sit, remain, dwell in Zion. Zion who will survive the onslaught of Assyrian aggression. Israel will be destroyed, and Judah will be invaded, but Jerusalem will remain. So, this is a message of comfort in the midst of a very difficult time. Yahweh tells them not to fear the Assyrian who is whacking them upside the head with a rod; who lifts up his staff menacingly. Verse 24 ends with “the way of Egypt.” Many translators assume that “way” here means “manner, conduct,” and it can have that meaning. The message would then be that Assyria is abusing them in much the same manner that Egypt did all those years ago. But the word can mean “path, way.” In Isaiah 9:1 the phrase “by way of the sea” refers to a location – possibly the sea of Galilee. Way of Egypt may also refer to a location. In 733 B.C. Tiglath-Pileser had himself a campaign that reached as far as the Brook of Egypt. After this campaign he left a garrison on the Egyptian border and restricted trade. This Assyrian presence along the border was a constant threat to Judah. But don’t fear Zion dwellers.

Verse 25 literally reads: “For in a trifle little while indignation is complete and my anger their destruction.” Break it down! God’s indignation will burn but a short time. Oh, sure, while you are experiencing it, it seems forever. But it is merely a trifle. His anger will result in their destruction. This most likely refers to Israel. Jerusalem will not be an unaffected bystander during this anger however. With the analogy of the flooding waters, Isaiah told them that it will reach up to their necks. And sure enough in the days of Hezekiah Assyria would begin a siege of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem was never taken by the Assyrians. They did not need to fear.

You see, even though Assyria was a tool of God’s wrath, Yahweh of Armies would awaken a whip against him; a whip like the wound of Midian at the rock of Oreb. This references Judges 7 and the story of Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites. We don’t know exactly where the rock of Oreb was, but it was most likely near the Jordan river. What we do know is that Gideon was seriously outnumbered. The Midianites and the Amalekites were as numerous as locusts. And with 300 men and the power of God, Gideon defeated them. And he pursued the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and killed them – Oreb at the rock of Oreb and Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb (I’m thinking these place names were given after the event). Most likely the point in Isaiah is that the victory was clearly due to the hand of Yahweh. It was just as miraculous as the dividing of the Reed Sea during the Exodus. The staff held up over the sea had nothing to do with the power of Moses. Nah, it was the power of Yahweh. Clearly. And he will lift the staff up in the way of Egypt. This is most likely means that the presence of Assyria at the border will be removed. We don’t know exactly when this took place but we do know that Tiglath-Pileser and his successors were unable to maintain a presence at this border. The burden will be turned aside and the yoke will be broken and removed from their neck. It is Yahweh who shattered this threat. The last part of verse 7 may read “out of the Face of Oil” and may be a place name. If so, it goes with the next section. This seems to make more sense to me.

The oracle then is about necessary surgery. The infection had become so bad in Israel that it had to be completely destroyed or removed, you know surgically. Judah was also sick. Even though Ahaz was following God’s advice concerning Assyria, he was not a godly king. So, surgery was needed here as well. The scalpel for this surgery would be Assyria. But don’t fear. This surgery will only last a trifle little while. Then the healing can begin. Do we face moments like this today. Whatever you are going through, don’t despair. The dawn will break. God is a good surgeon. He only does what is necessary for healing. Trust.