The Repentant Remnant of IsraelOn that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in all the earth.
Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: O my people, who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. The Lord of hosts will wield a whip against them, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb; his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. On that day his burden will be removed from your shoulder, and his yoke will be destroyed from your neck.
He has gone up from Rimmon, -- Isaiah 10:20-27
When Israel tried to make a deal with Assyria, seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately it turned out to be pretty much a disaster. It didn't take Assyria long to overcome the city of Jerusalem and haul off the upper classes, leaving the poor, the not-really-literate, and the lower-class workers to wonder how to rebuild when their leadership had been removed. They would have time to figure something out because the captivity lasted for some years.
What the passage seems to make clear is that God is in charge of the whole thing. Israel disobeyed and refused to repent so therefore they had to bear punishment for that. God's anger was not, however, going to last forever. From the destruction of Israel and exile of its children, God promised that God's anger would turn to those who were the instruments of that very destruction and captivity. The captives would be freed, but, as the prophetic name of Isaiah's older son (Shear-Jashub) foretold, only "a remnant will return."
Sometimes when I think of captivity I think of my own life, being in places that sometimes I really don't want to be, doing things I really don't want to do and being at the beck and call of people who have their own agendas and determination to use me to their benefit, not to mention the semi-captivity of chronic disease and a medication regime. But then I think of those who truly are in captivity -- prisoners, soldiers sent off to fight in foreign lands and sometimes without knowing precisely why they are there, victims of slavery in various forms, children who are homeless and wondering why they are always hungry and cold. Makes my little "captivity" seem pretty paltry, but then, I have to deal with mine while trying to help them with theirs. Still, one day I have a feeling that my captivity will end, hopefully before but certainly after I shuffle off this mortal coil.
In the meantime, I have a job to do making the best of my situation and being aware that others are suffering. I have a feeling I don't have to look very far.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, December 22, 2012.