5 Oy! Assyria, the rod of my anger, and that staff in their hand is my wrath! 6 I am sending him against a secular nation, and I am commanding him to fight against the people of my wrath, to capture spoil and to carry off plunder, and to make him a trampling place, like clay on streets. 7 But he does not think so, and his heart does not plan this. Because in his heart he wants to destroy and to cut off not a few nations. 8 Because he says, “Are not my commanders a gathering of kings? 9 Is not Calno like Carchemish was? Is not Hamath like Arpad was? Is not Samaria like Damascus was? 10 Just like my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idol and their images were greater than those from Jerusalem and Samaria– 11 should I not do to Jerusalem and its worthless idols what I have done to Samaria and her carved idols?”
kingdoms of the idol
The Assyrian Reich was a plan to conquer the nations by means of assimilation. The king planned to first overwhelm each nation with a display of superior war strength. Then, he would take any survivors of the war away from their homeland, effectively severing their connection to their religious life. He would replace the defeated king with one of his own commanders, and repopulate the land with exiles from other defeated lands. The silly idols of the defeated nation would be shown to be useless against his superior strength. This plan was amazingly successful, so Assyria was assured that Jerusalem could be taken with the same tactics.
Now, Isaiah steps back from his ranting against Judah for its unfaithfulness, and he asks them to take a good look at what this king of Assyria is doing. He says that Assyria has been able to do this, not because of his superior strength or wisdom, but because all the nations he has overcome were essentially unprotected secular nations. They had idols which they used for show, but they had no true spiritual power.
Then, Isaiah gets back on point. The people expect him to say that the king of Assyria is going to be set straight if he attacks Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is not the home of some silly statue claiming to be a god, but the creator God himself, Yahveh. But Isaiah refuses to give them that comfort. Instead, he has the Assyrian king saying “should I not do to Jerusalem and its worthless idols what I have done to Samaria and her carved idols?” The pagan king sees no difference.
Real godliness looks different that the kingdoms of the idol. If we struggle with the same sinful lifestyles of those around us who do not know Christ, if we look and act like a secular people, perhaps it is because we are. Jesus said that his followers would be different. They would be salt and light. They would taste and look different than the kingdoms of the idol.
LORD, give us a genuine authentic faith in Jesus Christ. We confess a deep-seated kinship with the kingdoms of the idol all around us. We stand condemned by the words of your prophet. Forgive us for wanting to be like the world you rescued us from. Make us into a people who are gladly and distinctly yours.