Skip to comments.His Hand is Stretched Out Still
Posted on 06/10/2018 12:38:58 PM PDT by pcottraux
His Hand is Stretched Out Still By Philip Cottraux
Isaiah is a reflection of the entire Bible itself. The Bible is 66 books. Isaiah is 66 chapters. The Bible is divided into Old and New Testaments. In the 39 books of the Old Testament we tend to view God as angry and vengeful, destroying Sodom and Gomorra with fire and brimstone, killing the firstborn of Egypt during the tenth plague or having all the men, women, and children of Jericho slaughtered by Joshuas army. Likewise, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah focus primarily on dire warnings of Gods judgment; but the latter 27 chapter reflect the New Testament, a sharp change in tone that focuses on His desire to restore His people.
This has led some to question what seems like an inherent contradiction in the Bibles depiction of Gods character. For more on this topic, you can read a previous blog I wrote, The God of the Old and New Testaments, here.
As I stated previously, the reality is much more complicated. Studying the Old Testament closer reveals some of the most beautiful examples of mercy in the entire Bible. Meanwhile, the New Testament has some of the most horrifying judgment imaginable, especially in Revelation. And in reality, we see that Gods nature hasnt changed much at all.
But for this blog, I want to focus primarily on how this relates to Isaiah. In chapters 5-10, theres a particular phrase repeated several times that caught my attention.
In chapter 5, God promised that the Assyrians will utterly destroy Judah if they dont turn back to Him. He compared the Jews to a vineyard that was once beautiful but has now become overgrown with brush that now needs to be burned to stubble to be purified. Verse 25 is especially terrifying: Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. But watch how the verse ends: For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Even in the midst of the most extreme graphic warnings, a brief reminder that Gods hand of mercy is still outstretched shows us that His first desire is always to spare His people.
The phrase is repeated four more times in Isaiah, a perfect sequence throughout chapters 9-10 that indicates this may be an ancient poem or song to get the message across. Only this time, his attention is not on Judah, but the Northern kingdom of Israel. And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, (Isaiah 9:9). Ephraim had become the largest tribe of the North, and was often synonymous with Israel as a whole. Samaria, its largest city, was the capital. They never saw a righteous king, and were far more steeped in idol worship than Judah. The Lord promised that they would be the first to suffer the brutal wrath of the Assyrians. Verse 12: and they (Assyria) shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
The phrase turned away in Hebrew is shuv, which actually carries a connotation of repentance. In other words, God would not repent of His anger when He wreaked havoc on the people. This implies finality. He wouldnt turn back from it. It would be too late. But until that moment, His hand was stretched out still.
Five verses later, the stanza continues. Verse 16: For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed. The leaders of Israel were failing the people by not encouraging worship of the One True God. And as a result, the Lord would have no mercy on even the most helpless of Israel: even the orphans and widows would not be spared. Therefore the LORD shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still (verse 17). Nevertheless, the verse ends with that same reminder that it wasnt too late.
We tend to think of sin as a harmless activity that we can just repent of before anyone knows about it. What people dont know wont hurt them, and its just between us and God, right? But Isaiah has something different to say. Verse 18: For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke. The prophet likens sin to a forest fire. It starts with a small spark then rapidly burns out of control, fueled by the underbrush. It devours everything in its path and leaves once beautiful forests into apocalyptic wastelands.
Sin breeds the desire for more sin. It creates cravings that can never be satisfied. Just look at drug addicts wasted on the street or alcoholics whose families have been destroyed by the bottle. It all started with that first high or glass of wine. Isaiah uses a horrifying image to drive the point home: Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: (verse 19). Imagine a line of people being thrown one by one into a giant flame just to keep it ablaze. Imagine their screams of agony as the fire engulfs them forever. Thats what sin will do not just to you, but to your family and friends. Once you allow hell to take over a small part of your life, it will immediately rise up into an inferno that wont rest until its devoured everyone you hold dear. Isaiah predicted civil war as a result. Manasseh and Ephraim (the two largest tribes of Israel) would turn on one another as the wrath of God consumed everyone. Verse 21: Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. There was still time to escape this nightmare.
Widows and orphans were assigned special protection in the Torah (Deuteronomy 10:18). But Isaiah starts chapter 10 with a scathing accusation that the leadership of Israel has neglected taking care of the neediest among them. In the final stanza of the poem, woe is pronounced. Verses 1-2: Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
The Bible says repeatedly how important it is to take care of those less fortunate among us. In fact, Christ explicitly stated that how we treat the least among us is how we treat Him. Matthew 25:40: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Idolatry was bad enough. But in the Lords eyes, this was the final straw. His presence would leave forever. And who were they without Him? The mightiest and most arrogant leaders of Israel would quickly find out how powerless they truly were once the Spirit left. Verse 4: Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. And yet still, for one last time, God gave this offer of escape: For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
As anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Bible is well aware, Israel ultimately did not heed the prophet. Five times, God warned them of the terror that was coming and that His outstretched hand could save them. And five times, they ignored Him. The Assyrian invasion began in 722 as the most brutal conquerors in the world swept across the Northern kingdom, collapsing the once proud cities like dominoes. The horrors of the invasion and subsequent exile are chronicled in II Chronicles 32 and II Kings 17. Israel would never be restored to its former glory. But they couldnt say they werent warned.
And neither can any of us today. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27). Death is pronounced on each and every one of us. And once weve entered eternity, theres no turning back. It will be either heaven or hell. Hell will be much worse than even the Assyrian invasion. Remember the vivid image earlier of people being thrown one by one into an inferno? Mere childs play compared to the Day of Judgment. Matthew 13:49-50: So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. The unquenchable fire will burn forever. What agony! If you dont have Jesus as your Savior, that is your eternal destination when you take your final breath. John 14:6: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. But the good news is that just like in Isaiah 5-10, if youre still alive and reading this, it isnt too late.
Youre not promised tomorrow. But His hand is stretched out still.
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My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge:
Ive been reading theough the OT prophets and in the past had always seen God presented in that negative, judgmental light.
But reading it recently, when you do it carefully, you see God as being loving and merciful, warning time and again of coming judgment for sin, calling people to repent so as to bless them, delaying judgment as long as possible and even as the people on occasion DID repent and change their ways temporarily.
He did not judge until there reached a point at which nothing else was an option, and even then, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
Seeing that mercy throught the OT has helped me tremendously in overcoming the twisted view of God that I had had over the years of being harsh, demanding, intolerant, and ready to judge and damn for the least little offense.
You are exactly right, and that’s a prison that I’m hoping to free people from in my writings. Of course, you can also see more examples in the link to a past blog I wrote on the topic, “The God of the Old and New Testaments.” The reality of God is very complicated and not simple black-and-white; it isn’t “Old Testament God = Bad” and “New Testament God = Good.”
Likewise, all the judgment in the Old Testament combined pales in comparison to the book of Revelation.
The thing people fail to consdier is exactly what God was judging them for.
The Israelites had adopted the practice of the heathen nations surrounding them of sacrificing the children to false gods by burning them alive.
What kind of God would He be if He DIDNT punish them?
That side of the story (the human sacrifice and cannibalism of children) is inconvenient for people who want to criticize God as cruel and unjust in the Old Testament. To talk to some who dispute the Bible, the Old Testament peoples were all just happy and innocent, going on picnics and flying kites, when mean ol’ angry God just slaughtered them all for no reason.
And why wouldn’t God destroy the northern kingdom after they had adopted false gods and vile heathen practices? The way those Assyrians are described makes Al Qaeda look like a bunch of sissy moderates. God gave the Assyrians a free hand.
After all, many years before He commanded Joshua and the children of Israel to spare none—not even women and children—as they invaded Canaan, where child sacrifice and allegiance to false gods was practiced daily. They were to be wiped out without mercy.
But the Israelis refused to obey and the world suffers for it to this day, especially the nation of Israel.
Yeah, I’ve seen that.
Among other things, after conquering a city, they were known for:
1. "Child fires"...burning all the children of that city alive in a mass inferno while forcing the parents to watch.
2. What few children were spared would be sold as sex slaves.
3. Skinning their victims alive and hanging the skins as decorations outside the city walls of Ninevah.
4. Head pyramids: mass beheadings of a conquered people and piling their heads in large pyramids around the city.
5. Adorning the city with strings of severed arms and legs of their victims.
Oddly enough, the most feared aspect of the Assyrians wasn't any of this; it was their practice of forcing a people out of their own homeland and occupying their cities with themselves. Robbing a population of its cultural heritage was considered more barbaric than anything else.
The Israelites suffered all of the above as a consequence of years of idolatry.
Judah *almost* suffered the same fate--but because of the prayers and fastings of repentance led by Hezekiah and Isaiah, Jerusalem was spared at the last minute. This is verified by the Taylor Prism, an ancient clay tablet where the Assyrians bragged about their great military accomplishments. Sennacherib boasts mightily of his huge victories, naming Hezekiah and Jerusalem; then the prism suddenly stops and says no more.
Thank God for His mercy. but the attempt to use "but his hand is stretched out still" as "a brief reminder that Gods hand of mercy is still outstretched" is erroneous. For the contextual meaning is that despite the judgments that have already come, the Lord's hand is still stretched out in judgments, which is why they are consequently described.
The word for "but" is not in the Hebrew, and that the Lord's hand is still stretched out only has to do with more judgment.
Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament acknowledge this also on Is. 5:25: This judgment, which was closer at hand, would consist in the fact that Jehovah would stretch out His hand in His wrath over His people (or, as it is expressed elsewhere, would swing His hand... But for all this (Beth, = notwithstanding, in spite of, as in Job_1:22) the wrath of Jehovah, as the prophet foresaw, would not turn away, as it was accustomed to do when He was satisfied; and His hand would still remain stretched out over Judah, ready to strike again.
For all this - Notwithstanding all this calamity, his judgments are not at an end. He will punish the nation more severely still. In what way he would do it, the prophet proceeds in the remainder of the chapter to specify;
Also Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:
For all this, etc. This burden of the prophets strains, with dirge-like monotony, is repeated at Isa_9:12, Isa_9:17, Isa_9:21; Isa_10:4. With all the past calamities, still heavier judgments are impending; which he specifies in the rest of the chapter (Lev_26:14, etc.).
but his hand is stretched out still; to inflict yet sorer judgments. The Targum is "by all this they turn not from their sins, that his fury may turn from them; but their rebellion grows stronger, and his stroke is again to take vengeance on them;'' which expresses their impenitence and hardness of heart, under the judgments of God, which caused him to take more severe methods with them.
This is not the first time you posted error as a blog post here.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: I Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensembles: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world (age) come...
We have the script of what will be again.
Well, fortunately you're here to set me straight, oh great purveyor of wisdom!
If you cannot take correction then do not presents yourself as a purveyor of truth and corrector of error.
I was aware from one commentary that a different interpretation of “His hand is stretched out still” existed. However, it wasn’t mentioned in every one I consulted so I pressed forward with my point.
All scripture is divinely inspired, but not every commentary is perfect. That doesn’t mean we can’t work harder to fact-check our sources before putting stuff out there first.
The commentaries were superfluous, and only confirm what is obvious, which you turned into making the hand of judgment into an offer of mercy, which simply nowhere contextually seen.
Instead, we have a description of judgments for "He hath stretched forth his hand against them," followed by the warning that there are yet more judgment to come, for "his hand is stretched out still."
Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them , and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still . (Isa 5:25)
Likewise the only description in other verses of His hand stretch out till is that of judgment:
The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts. Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. (Isa 9:12-14)
Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke. (Isa 9:17-18)
Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. (Isa 9:21)
Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. (Isa 10:4-5)
That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? (Isa 14:25-27)
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together. (Isa 31:3)
Likewise if you do a word search of stretch out hand (H3027 H5186) you will abundant other examples of this being in executing judgment.
I appreciate you wanting to show that God can yet offers mercy amid judgment, and thank God there are texts that show this, but "His hand is stretched out still" is not one of them.
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