3/30/2015

Human Schemes and God's Plans (Isaiah 28-35)

Isaiah 28-35; 28:16; 30:18; 31:1; 33:17

"So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic'" (Isa 28:16, NIV). "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you..." (Isa 30:18a). "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord" (Isa 31:1, NIV; Ps 20:7). "Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar" (Isa 33:17, NIV).

Whom will you trust and rely on? Isa 26:4 says, "Trust in Lord Forever." The key issue in Isaiah 28-35 (and one of the key themes of the entire book of Isaiah) is whether Judah--in particular its leaders--will rely on Egypt or on the Lord in the face of the growing threat posed by the ever-increasing power of Assyria. This is immediately before the account of Sennacherib's invasion of Judah in Isaiah 36-37. This invasion was a punitive action taken by Sennacherib in response to a revolt led by Hezekiah (Isa 37:9ff). He had refused to pay any further tribute to Assyria and had annexed the Philistine cities as far south as Gaza which, like Judah, had been part of the Assyrian empire (2 Ki 18:7-8). Chs. 28-35 show how strongly and consistently Isaiah had opposed the foolish counsel of those at court who counseled Hezekiah to rely on Egypt, as the crisis deepened leading up to the events recorded in ch. 36-37. Isaiah 30-31, which stand more or less centrally within the unit (chs. 28-35), are wholly taken up with this issue, as pointedly and succinctly pointed out in Isa 31:1.


The Lord speaks into history (chs. 28-33), moving events toward final judgment and salvation (chs. 34-35). God is the powerful ally of his people, above all earthly powers. Therefore, to trust in him is a wise policy for real life in the here and now. In Isaiah 28-35, Isaiah warns his people and Assyria--in six woes and laments with assurances--against the folly of self-trust, promising God's abundant blessings to those who trust him.
  1. The first woe: the word of God and the purposes of God (28:1-29). Refusing rest and reliance on God.
  2. The second woe: is anything too hard for the Lord? (29:1-14) Hiding plans from God as though he is stupid.
  3. The third woe: spiritual transformation (29:15-24).
  4. The fourth woe: faithlessness and faithfulness (30:1-33).
  5. The fifth woe: all things new (31:1-32:20).
  6. The sixth woe: home at last (33:1-35:10).
The overall structure of chapters 28-35 can also be summarized as follows:
  1. 28-29. The crisis: foolish leaders and false counsel. Refusing to rest and to rely on God (Isa 28:16).
  2. 30-31. False solution: dependence on Egypt. God longs to be gracious to you (Isa 30:18).
  3. 32-33. True solution: the reign of the Lord as king in the midst of his people.
  4. 34. The "desert" which will result from trusting the nations.
  5. 35. The "garden" which will result from trusting God.
References:
  1. We Reject God's Sure Foundation by Our Faulty Reliance on Man (Isaiah 28). My daily bread from Dec 2010.
  2. Empty Ritualism, Clandestine Politics (Isaiah 29:13,15). My daily bread, Dec 2010.
  3. Outline of Isaiah 28, 29, 30, 31 —Warnings to Jerusalem. In Isaiah 28-39, Jerusalem is issued with a series of warnings,especially that their trust in Egypt as an ally is misplaced, and they should be trusting in God. These warnings are followed by encouragement, in the form of poems about the Messiah, "the King in his beauty" (Isa 33:17). Next Isaiah warns all nations that they are accountable to God.
  4. Outline of Isaiah 32, 33, 34, 35 —The King in His Beauty. In the nearer future Judah will undergo great suffering and loss. But there is a time in the more distant future when a king will reign in a new Jerusalem that will never pass away. Those who dwell in this kingdom will be forgiven of their iniquity forever.
  5. Isaiah: The Salvation of the Lord. 13 sermons and an overview of Isaiah: The Salvation of the Lord (by Ray Stedman, 1965): I often think of what occurred years ago to one of England's Bible teachers. As he hurried down to catch a train after one of the services at which he had been speaking, a man ran along the platform after him and caught him just as he was about to board the train. And the man said, "Oh, sir! I was in your meeting tonight and I heard you tell about a way by which man can find peace with God. I need help. I want to find my way to God. You help me." The teacher said, "I'm sorry. I haven't time. I've got to catch this train. But I will tell you what to do. Take this Bible and go to the nearest lamppost. Turn to Isaiah 53:6. Stoop down low and go in at the first 'all' and stand up straight and come out at the last 'all.'" Then he boarded the train and off he went.
    The man stood there for a minute, puzzled. He didn't know what to make of it. Then he said, "I'll do what he said." He took the Bible that the teacher had given him and went over to the nearest lamppost. "Now what was it he said?" he thought. "Oh, yes, find Isaiah 53:6." He found it."'All we like sheep have gone astray.' What did he say to do now? 'Stoop down low and go in at the first 'all'. Stand up straight and come out at the last 'all'. 'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.'" "Oh," he said, "I see what he meant. I'm to admit that's the case with me. Stoop down low and go in at the first 'all'. Acknowledge that I've gone astray, that I've turned to my own way. Well, then what? Well, I'm to stand up straight and come out at the last 'all'. 'But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.' He bore it."
    In a moment the man saw it. The next night at the meeting he came up, handed the Bible to the teacher, and said, "Here is your Bible, and I want you to know that I stooped down and went in at the first 'all' and I stood up straight and came out at the last 'all'."
    Well, that is Isaiah's message. It is the message of the Bible -- the message of the word of God. Let's stand up straight and come out at the last 'all'.
  6. The Defeat of the Forces of Evil and the Deliverance of the People of God (Isaiah 27:1-13).
  7. The Deliverance of Judah's King (Isaiah 38:1-22).