The prophet had said (Isa. 10:12) that the Lord would perform his whole work upon Mount Zion and upon Jerusalem, by Sennacherib’s invading the land. Now here we are told what that work should be, a twofold work:—
I. The conversion of some, to whom this providence should be sanctified and yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness, though for the present it was not joyous, but grievous; these are but a remnant (Isa. 10:22), the remnant of Israel (Isa. 10:20), the remnant of Jacob (Isa. 10:21), but a very few in comparison with the vast numbers of the people of Israel, who were as the sand of the sea. Note, Converting work is wrought but on a remnant, who are distinguished from the rest and set apart for God. When we see how populous Israel is, how numerous the members of the visible church are, as the sand of the sea, and yet consider that of these a remnant only shall be saved, that of the many that are called there are but few chosen, we shall surely strive to enter in at the strait gate and fear lest we seem to come short. This remnant of Israel are said to be such as had escaped of the house of Jacob, such as escaped the corruptions of the house of Jacob, and kept their integrity in times of common apostasy; and that was a fair escape. And therefore they escape the desolations of that house, and shall be preserved in safety in times of common calamity; and that also will be a fair and narrow escape. Their lives shall be given them for a prey, Jer. 45:5. The righteous scarcely are saved. Now, 1. This remnant shall come off from all confidence in an arm of flesh, this providence shall cure them of that: “They shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, shall never depend upon the Assyrians, as they have done, for help against their other enemies, finding that they are themselves their worst enemies.” Ictus piscator sapit—sufferings teach caution. “They have now learned by dear-bought experience the folly of leaning upon that staff as a stay to them which may perhaps prove a staff to beat them.” It is part of the covenant of a returning people (Hos. 14:3), Assyria shall not save us. Note, By our afflictions we may learn not to make creatures our confidence. 2. They shall come home to God, to the mighty God (one of the names given to the Messiah, Isa. 9:6), to the Holy One of Israel: “The remnant shall return (that was signified by the name of the prophet’s son, Shear-jashub, Isa. 7:3), even the remnant of Jacob. They shall return, after the raising of the siege of Jerusalem, not only to the quiet possession of their houses and lands, but to God and to their duty; they shall repent, and pray, and seek his face, and reform their lives.” The remnant that escape are a returning remnant: they shall return to God, and shall stay upon him. Note, Those only may with comfort stay upon God that return to him; then may we have a humble confidence in God when we make conscience of our duty to him. They shall stay upon the Holy One of Israel, in truth, and not in pretence and profession only. This promise of the conversion and salvation of a remnant of Israel is applied by the apostle (Rom. 9:27) to the remnant of the Jews which at the first preaching of the gospel received and entertained it, and sufficiently proves that it was no new thing for God to abandon to ruin a great many of the seed of Abraham in full force and virtue; for so it was now. The number of the children of Israel was as the sand of the sea (according to the promise, Gen. 22:17), and yet only a remnant shall be saved.
II. The consumption of others: The Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, Isa. 10:23. This is not meant (as that Isa. 10:18) of the consumption of the Assyrian army, but of the consumption of the estates and families of many of the Jews by the Assyrian army. This is taken notice of to magnify the power and goodness of God in the escape of the distinguished remnant, and to let us know what shall become of those that will not return to God; they shall be wasted away by this consumption, this general decay in the midst of the land. Observe, 1. It is a consumption of God’s own making; he is the author of it. The Lord God of hosts, whom none can resist, shall make this consumption. 2. It is decreed. It is not the product of a sudden resolve, but was before ordained. It is determined, not only that there shall be such a consumption, but it is cut out (so the word is); it is particularly appointed how far it shall extend and how long it shall continue, who shall be consumed by it and who not. 3. It is an overflowing consumption, that shall overspread the land, and, like a mighty torrent or inundation, bear down all before it. 4. Though it overflows, it is not at random, but in righteousness, which signifies both wisdom and equity. God will justly bring this consumption upon a provoking people, but he will wisely and graciously set bounds to it. Hitherto it shall come, and no further.