Consider these verses in Isaiah 33:
33:21 But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. 33:22 For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us. 33:23 Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.
We encounter in Isa 33:23 one of my favorite expressions in the Bible, “the lame take the prey,” about which I first learned in J.C. O’Hair’s 170 Bible Lessons. “The lame take the prey” is timeless across all ages. What does it mean? It means that God loves to use the defenseless, the weak, the despised, as means of victory to glorify His Son.
Isaiah 33 parallels 2 Kings 18-19. Do you remember that story? Sennacherib and his Assyrian army have captured Israel and now they’ve surrounded Judah. Sennacherib tells Hezekiah, essentially, that if you don’t want to be captured, then you need to give me all of your silver and gold. 2 Kings 18:15 tells us that “Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house… [and he] cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.”
Then he came back wanting more.
Sennacherib said, “Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?” (2 Chron. 32;15; 2 Kings 18:29-33).
Then Hezekiah went to the temple and offered up an EPIC prayer:
“O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only” (2 Kings 19:15-19).
Isaiah shows up with an answer from the Lord.
He says, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel…” Then, “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city… For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (2 Kings 19:20-34).
Then the Angel of the Lord wiped out 185,000 Assyrians.
In Isaiah 33, we find a couple of references to what the Angel of the Lord did in verses 3 and 7. In verse 3, we have, “At the noise of the tumult the people fled.” In verse 7, we have, “Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without.” When the Angel of the Lord massacred the army, they didn’t die in their sleep. The valiant ones, the mightiest of the mighty men, screamed in agony and the rest scattered.
Yet, Sennacherib himself was spared. He went home to Nineveh humiliated. But what happened to him was ironic justice. Sennacherib himself would be slain twenty years later while he was worshipping in the house of his gods eerily similar to the words of Nahum 1:14, “And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.” In Isa. 37:38, we learn that Sennacherib was actually murdered by his double-dealing sons who wanted his throne. “And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.” Perfect, ironic justice.
In Isa. 33, the Lord says of Assyria in vs 23, “Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.” The weak, the defenseless, the righteous, the faithful, THEY found their victory in the Lord, which is timeless across all ages.
How did the Israelites take down the well-defended great wall of Jericho? With the ark of God and the blowing of trumpets. How did Shamgar smite the 600 Philistines? With the ox goad. How did Gideon’s 300 defeat thousands of Midianites? With pitchers, lamps, and trumpets. How did David subdue and kill the mighty Goliath? With just a stone in his sling. THE LAME TAKE THE PREY.
When the Lord arrived on Earth, did He appear on a white horse full of power and glory? No, He showed up as a humble servant and rode into Jerusalem on a scrawny donkey. When He chose 12 disciples, did He pick the cream of the crop in Israel? No, He picked 12 “unlearned and ignorant men.” When Paul before his death passed the torch of his ministry, did he give it to someone like Titus who was practically fearless? No, he gave it to timid Timothy with his oft infirmities. Why? THE LAME TAKE THE PREY.
We find in I Cor. 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” God has only one way to save lost humanity. We learn in the first two chapters of I Corinthians that this way does not please the wisdom of this world. But I Corinthians 3:19 tells us that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, and that God taketh the wise in their own craftiness. “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (I Cor. 1:20). “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.” “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” Why? So “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (I Cor. 1:30). THE LAME TAKE THE PREY.
The Lord selected twelve unlettered, humble men to be His apostles. Then He chose a well-cultured, well-trained man to be an apostle to the gentiles. EVEN HE was determined not to make a show of his excellency of speech. 1 Cor. 2:1, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom…” 1 Cor. 2:4, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:” God uses the “base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” THE LAME TAKE THE PREY.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor. 1:26). How are Christians to overcome the world and win the victory for Christ among sinners? “Faith is the victory that overcometh the world.” (I John 5:4). “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. But we preach Christ crucified.” THE LAME TAKE THE PREY.
Consider today in the age of grace how we-all-everyone are hopelessly unable to save ourselves in our weak sinful condition, and we are preyed upon by the devil and his angels and all their policies of evil. Yet, when we couldn’t save ourselves, the Lord saved us by Calvary. He utterly conquered the devil, sin, and death for all of us, and as a result, we shall surely conquer everything in Him. THE LAME TAKE THE PREY.