Isaiah 33

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 24, 1999


One of the major themes we’ve seen Isaiah dealing with is that of the coming Assyrian invasion. In 722 BC, the great Assyrian empire had conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It is now somewhere around 715 BC, and it’s only a matter of time before Jerusalem will find itself surrounded by the fierce army that has conquered the world. This is the last of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the destruction of Assyria.

:1 when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled

(Isa 33:1 NLT) Destruction is certain for you Assyrians, who have destroyed everything around you but have never felt destruction yourselves. You expect others to respect their promises to you, while you betray your promises to them. Now you, too, will be betrayed and destroyed!


A life of treachery comes back on you.

There are people who live their whole life looking how to get ahead by destroying others and betraying them. But what often happens is the moment they turn their back, someone will destroy or betray them. Even if it should not happen in this life, God will be sure to make things right.


Let God handle it.

In the middle of Revelation, John is talking about the anti-Christ when he writes,

(Rev 13:10 KJV) He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

The idea is this – Those people like the antichrist who will be trying to capture and kill believers, will one day be captured and killed themselves, by God. This is the "patience" of the saints because we wait and expect God to take care of the problem for us. Some have suggested that Isaiah 33 might even be a picture of things in our future, the end of the antichrist.

The point is, you don’t need to handle it. Let God handle it.

(Rom 12:19-21 NLT) Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord. {20} Instead, do what the Scriptures say: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you." {21} Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

:3 at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered.

(Isa 33:3 NLT) The enemy runs at the sound of your voice. When you stand up, the nations flee!

It’s kind of like a picture where a bunch of guys who don’t know each other are sitting around, challenging each other to a game of basketball. Finally a feisty little guy gets another guy to agree to one on one, until the other guy stands up and he’s absolutely HUGE! When the nations actually begin to get a clue as to how BIG God is, it can be terrifying!

:4 your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpillar

(Isa 33:4 NIV) Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts

locusts – When locusts swarm into an area, they eat everything in sight. What might have been a garden of Eden becomes like a desert. Nothing stops them. When the Assyrian army would fall, all their treasures will be cleaned out.

:6 stability … the fear of the LORD

(NIV) He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

fearyir'ah – fear, terror, fearing; fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety

There are positive and negative aspects to the "fear of the Lord".

The positive involves our reverential fear of God that comes from our eyes being opened to His great power, holiness, and glory. This is what happens when we worship, as we recognize how awesome our God is.

Joseph Stowell writes, "Our evangelical culture tends to take the awesome reality of a transcendent God who is worthy to be feared and downsize Him so He could fit into our "buddy system." The way we talk about Him, the way we pray, and, more strikingly, the way we live shows that we have somehow lost our sense of being appropriately awestruck in the presence of a holy and all-powerful God. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard a good sermon on the "fear of God." If God were to show up visibly, many of us think we’d run up to Him and high-five Him for the good things He has done."

-- Joseph M. Stowell in Moody (Nov./Dec. 1997). Christianity Today, Vol. 42, no. 2.

The negative aspect involves dread and terror.

Even we as believers ought to have a sense of this. We are His children and He will chastise us if He needs to. At the very beginning of the church, Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead for lying to the Holy Spirit –

(Acts 5:11 KJV) And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.


H. G. Wells was no friend of the church, but sometimes he served us well. Years ago in the New Yorker, he told a story about an Episcopalian clergyman. (He could have told it about a preacher from any denomination.) This Episcopalian bishop was the kind of man who always said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of voice, was, "Have you prayed about it?" If said in just the right way, it seemed to settle things. The bishop himself didn’t pray much; he had life wrapped up in a neat package. But one day life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overwhelmed. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take some of his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral, went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. Then he folded his hands before the altar (he could not help but think how childlike he was). Then he began to pray. He said, "O God—" and suddenly there was a voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, "Well, what is it?" Next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the bishop sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his face. What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they saw him face to face.

-- Haddon Robinson, "Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Us Guys," Preaching Today, Tape No. 80.

Unbelievers ought to have the greatest and fullest sense of the fear of God. There are plenty of examples of God’s judgment on sin with the destruction of the world with Noah’s flood, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality, to the promise of the destruction that will face the earth in the future. One of the most fearful topics in the Bible is the subject of hell, the place where unbelievers will live forever as a result of their rebellion against God. And who taught more about hell than any other Bible preacher? Jesus.


Charles Spurgeon writes, "In certain places on Alpine summits the way is peculiarly dangerous on account of the frequent falling of avalanches, and the traveler walks in dread of instant destruction. Samuel Rogers puts it this way: Then my guide lowering his voice addressed me: "Through this gap on and say nothing; lest a word, a breath, bring down the winter’s snow, enough to whelm an army."

Thus when alarmed by an awakened conscience people walk in fear from hour to hour, trembling lest a thought or word of sin should bring down on them the impending wrath of God. Happy is he who has traversed that awful gap of terror and now breathes freely because sin is pardoned and therefore every apprehension is removed.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)


The fear of the Lord brings stability.

Isaiah is saying that if you want a stable foundation in your life, if you want wisdom and knowledge, you need the "fear of the Lord".

It should be a motivation for purity:

2Co 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

It brings wisdom because it teaches us to pay attention to do the right thing, the thing that God wants us to do.

(Psa 111:10 KJV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Jonathan Edwards – "Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of life." -- The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), 1:XX

It brings a sense of safety and stability. My sense of stability comes from knowing that I’m doing the right thing.

:7 the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.

(Isa 33:7 NLT) But now your ambassadors weep in bitter disappointment, for Assyria has refused their petition for peace.

:8 he hath broken the covenant

Hezekiah had paid huge sums of money to the king of Assyria to keep the Assyrian armies away (2Ki. 18:14), but the Assyrians kept coming anyway (2Ki. 18:17).

:9 Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down …

Lebanon, etc – all places to the north, places that were known for their great fertile lands and fruitfulness. But they were all devastated by the Assyrian army’s advance.

:10 now will I lift up myself.

It’s time He stands up. He’s done waiting.

:11 ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour

Ye – Talking to the Assyrians. When a person is against the Lord, even the best that their life can bring forth becomes fuel against them.

:12 And the people shall be as the burnings of lime

lime – this might be talking about lime itself, which is highly corrosive and can eat away animal tissue. It might also be talking about how lime is often produced, but burning limestone in a furnace until all but the lime is left. Most is burned up, only a small part remains.

:14 Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?

hypocriteschaneph – hypocritical, godless, profane, hypocrite, irreligious

When the people in Jerusalem who are not following after the Lord see what God does to the Assyrian army, they will be terrified at the reality of just how powerful God really is.


Tragedies often wake people up.

I think last week’s 7.1 earthquake may have shook a few folks up. Especially in light of the earthquakes that have occurred this year in Turkey (7.4, killing 17,000), Greece, Western Columbia (6.0, killing 1,171), Mexico (7.5), and Taiwan (7.8, killing 2,300). Those earthquakes weren’t much different in magnitude, yet thousands died in each of them. Our earthquake last week spared us only because it was a little bit far away. But it was close enough to get some of us thinking.


Dr. George Sweeting, a past President of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, tells of the day he noticed an unusual combination of bumper stickers on the car of a man who was visiting the school. The coincidental message conveyed by the two stickers prompted Dr. Sweeting to suggest to the unsuspecting visitor that he might want to remove one of them. One read: JESUS IS COMING! and the other: ESCAPE TO WISCONSIN.

-- Dr. George Sweeting, President of Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."

Jesus is coming. But Wisconsin isn’t the place to escape to. It’s Jesus you need to run to.

:15 He that walketh righteously,

What follows is a definition of righteousness, a definition of what kind of behavior that can survive God’s fire.

:15 he that despiseth the gain of oppressions,

(NIVUS) who rejects gain from extortion

:15 that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes,

A person who shakes their hands so it’s obvious that their hand is empty and they aren’t carrying bribes. Going the extra mile to stay above reproach.

:15 that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood,

Perhaps it’s talking about refusing to take part in plots to murder people. Perhaps it’s talking about not wanting to get caught up in hearing the latest gory news details, maybe even the idea of getting into the latest Rambo flick.

What kind of life can survive the fire of God?

A righteous life. A life that starts with knowing Jesus. But also a life that is growing to be more and more like Jesus.

:17 they shall behold the land that is very far off.

They will see the land stretched out to its fullest borders, not just the land around Jerusalem as it was in Hezekiah’s day.

:18 Thine heart shall meditate terror.

(Isa 33:18 NLT) You will think back to this time of terror when the Assyrian officers outside your walls counted your towers and estimated how much plunder they would get from your fallen city.

:19 Thou shalt not see a fierce people,

The Assyrians would never make it into the city of Jerusalem.

:20 solemnities … a tabernacle that shall not be taken down

solemnitiesmow`ed – appointed place; sacred season, set feast. Jerusalem was the city where the men of Israel were to gather three times a year for the special Jewish feasts.

tabernacle – a tent. The picture is of a tent that is never going to be torn down.

:21 the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers

(Isa 33:21 NLT) The LORD will be our Mighty One. He will be like a wide river of protection that no enemy can cross.

:23 Thy tacklings are loosed

(Isa 33:23 NLT) The enemies' sails hang loose on broken masts with useless tackle. Their treasure will be divided by the people of God. Even the lame will win their share!

The enemy’s army is compared to a sailing ship, but one that can’t even keep the sail up. All their riches will be divided up, even the lame person coming to get a portion.

:24 the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity

iniquity`avon – perversity, depravity, iniquity, guilt or punishment of iniquity


You can be forgiven.

This is our greatest need. To be forgiven by God. But God is a just God and He doesn’t just let people off the hook when there is a debt to be paid. With our sin, the price of the debt is death. That is why God sent His only Son to earth, to die on the cross and pay the debt for our sin. And all you need to do to be forgiven is to admit to God that you need forgiveness, admit that Jesus has paid for your sin, and ask God for forgiveness.

(1 John 1:9 NLT) But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.

:22 he will save us.


God will come through.

It may be that you are feeling like those faithful believers who were trapped in Jerusalem by the Assyrian army. God will come through.

Take hope –

(Isa 33:2 KJV) O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.

(Isa 33:10 KJV) Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.

(Isa 33:17 KJV) Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.

(Isa 33:22 KJV) For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.

Some scholars have suggested that Psalm 126 was written by King Hezekiah after Jerusalem was delivered from the Assyrians:

(Psa 126 KJV) A Song of degrees. When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. {2} Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. {3} The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. {4} Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. {5} They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. {6} He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Wait on Him.