CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 31.
After shocking the kingdom of Judah (in the previous chapter) by revealing the secret plans the government has for aligning with Egypt, Isaiah then delivers the Lord’s rebuke to the people. The Lord calls them out for relying on their military power instead of seeking the counsel of the Lord (verse 1). He tells them straight out that Egypt and Assyria are going to war, and to stay put and “sit still” (chapter 30) and hold their peace instead of jumping into the middle of trouble.
The Lord tells the people that He is about to use wicked people to punish each other for doing wicked things, that all this will be the fallout of their own consequences and to stay out of it. He has already declared His ruling, and the judgment cannot be changed (because the people already have rejected the option of mercy by returning to the Lord) (verse 2).
The Lord tells the people not to be afraid of these ginormous armies, and not to think that these political powers are more powerful than they are. The Lord is King, and He reigns, and His people should know this and have confidence in His power instead of relying on the power of people and their positions (verse 3). The people are relying on politics to save them, but without knowing what the Lord knows, they are choosing poorly and based on incomplete and inaccurate information. He calls them to ask Him, to talk to Him, to counsel with Him as they decide how to respond to the turmoil around them.
Just as a hungry young lion will seize its prey from protective shepherds, so will these armies approach the kingdom of Judah (because Judah has already provoked it). However, there is still time for the people to turn to the Lord, and let Him be their shepherd, and let Him deliver them from the enemy (verse 4). But He can do nothing if they run away or fight back instead of letting Him do what He is there to do. If they will turn to Him, He will protect them (us) before the enemy even gets close (as we are protected by temple worship, keeping weaknesses strong and temptation at bay) just as a bird protects the area around its nest (verse 5). The people will be delivered by obedience just as they were delivered by obedience in Egypt when the destroying angels passed over and did not kill their first born sons (see this blog about Passover if you forgot the story).
Isaiah pleads with the people of Judah to turn to the Lord and prevent this great destruction (verse 6). It’s only been about twenty years since the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and scattered what was left of them. The people of Judah know they are next, and that it will be soon since they have just provoked the king of Assyria by refusing to pay taxes and trying to bribe Egypt into an alliance.
The Lord tells Isaiah that instead of turning to Him and doing what He says, the people will continue to do their own thing. When Assyria begins to attack, the people of Judah will gather up all their gold and silver (even stripping the temple of its gold and artifacts) to try and make up for the unpaid taxes (verse 7).
This last minute effort will not sway Assyria (see 2 Kings 18:15-16). Assyria will take their wealth, but continue on with their attack (see 2 Kings 18:17-35). However, the Lord promises that even in the last minute if they people will cry out to them, He will defend them (verse 8). Isaiah promised that the Lord would defend them in such a way that even the Assyrians would know it was the Lord who protected them (verse 9). This happened in 2 Kings 19:35, when the people did cry out as they were being killed, and overnight 185,000 of the Assyrian army died from a sudden plague that wiped out the army. This so scared the Assyrians, that they fled from Judah and left them alone, afraid of the “ensign” of Zion (2 Kings 19:36).