God’s Response to the People’s Cry
What situation caused some of the people of Judah to cry out to God?
Scholars generally agree that this chapter is a record of a later reflection on the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 B.C. The first verse is a curse oracle against a “destroyer” (Assyria). This destroyer would “finish destroying” and then “be destroyed” (refer to comments on Isaiah 10:5-19 on page 14 and Isaiah 14:24-27 on page 19 of these notes).
In the midst of their distress, a few faithful people turned to God in prayer (33:2). Their prayer expressed the confidence that the Lord was capable of causing the destroyer to flee (33:3), leaving behind the spoils of war (33:4).
God’s deliverance would cause the people to highly regard the Lord who delivered them and filled Jerusalem with “justice and righteousness” (33:5-6).
Verses 7-9 record the lament of the people over the condition of their land (these verses look back to the crisis alluded to in verses 1 and 2). Those charged with the responsibility of protecting the nation through military measures (“brave men”) and political negotiation (“ambassadors of peace”) wept bitterly (33:7) at their inability to stop the destroyer.
Verse 10 contains the Lord’s response to the people’s entreaty that He arise and come to their aid and deal decisively with their enemies (33:11-12). The Assyrians, pregnant with evil plans against God’s people, would give birth to chaff and stubble (33:11), which the Lord would consume with fire (33:11-12). Their plans would be utterly frustrated by God.
Practical Consideration: Pressure squeezes out our theology.
When the Assyrians threatened Jerusalem, some of the people trusted in themselves and their own resources (see Isaiah 22:8-11 and comments on page 21 of these notes) while others turned to God in prayer. God spared the city because of the faith of those who prayed. Warren Wiersbe comments, “Never underestimate the power of a praying minority.” Pressure will squeeze out our theology. It will reveal the depth of our faith in God. It will reveal who we really are and what we really believe about God.
Isaiah 33:13-16 is recorded in the form known as the “Torah liturgy.” In this literary form, a question is asked regarding the Lord’s requirements of His people (33:14). The response records a list of God’s demands (33:15). The “Torah liturgy” ends with a promise of blessings to those who satisfy the demands of God (33:16). Isaiah 33:13-16 emphasizes the fact that God delivered His people that they might forsake their sin and follow Him. See also Psalms 15 and 24 and Micah 6:6-8 for other examples of the “Torah liturgy” form.
The Divine King in a Blissful Jerusalem
What future hope lay in store for Jerusalem?
The oracle contained in these verses looks forward to the day when a new ruler (ultimately the Lord Jesus Christ) will reign in Jerusalem (33:17, 22). Absent on that day will be those who count and weigh tribute money and spies who take inventory of Jerusalem’s fortifications (33:18). Absent on that day will be the sound of the foreign language of oppressors in the streets of Jerusalem (33:19). On that day Jerusalem will be a stable and undisturbed habitation (33:20) that will not be threatened by ships of war (33:21, 23). The residents of Jerusalem will enjoy health and the forgiveness of sin (33:24).