The Unforgivable Sin (Isaiah 21-23)

Isaiah 21-23

but you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago" (Isa 22:11b, HCSB). "The Lord of Heaven's Armies has revealed this to me: "Till the day you die, you will never be forgiven for this sin." That is the judgment of the Lord, the Lord of Heaven's Armies" (Isa 22:14, NLT).
  1. Babylon has fallen (21:1-10): Don't trust Babylon.
  2. The uncertain world goes on (21:11-12): Live with faith in the tension of uncertainty.
  3. There are no human solutions (21:13-17): Learn to trust God.
  4. God does not forgive disregarding him (22:1-25): Never forget to look to your Maker.
  5. Consumerism, capitalism and covetousness (23:1-18): Don't be seduced.
Why bother with God when you're got walls, water and weapons? The One who made all things has a plan, and the person who does not take him into account is being very foolish (Isa 22:11; 37:26; 40:21, 28; 41:21-29). "To not look or consider or have regard" are the negative counterparts of Isa 22:8-9. The Lord was not in their consideration or purview. Why bother with faith when you have walls, water and weapons? Why look to God when you can look to your own resources?

Responding to a call to repentance with revelry. Not only had Judah offended the Sovereign by depending on her defenses instead of on him (Isa 22:8-11), but she also responded to his call for repentance (Isa 22:12) with parties (Isa 22:13), whose intended purpose was to put out of mind the terrible events which might soon engulf them. Instead of allowing the dire situation to prompt them to look at possible causes, they only let their grim situation unhinge their moral restraints. To the Lord's eyes this is the final mark of apostasy (Isa 22:14).

Two responses to a crisis. Instead of a deep grief over a long series of offenses against a holy God, God's people in Jerusalem responds with an outburst of hilarity and self-indulgence, slaughtering livestock in excess (valuable and expensive), eating and drinking "for tomorrow we die" (Isa 22:13). This expresses the ultimate rationale for a life of acquisition and indulgence. If there is nothing beyond the grave it is foolish to live in any other way. Paul understood this (1 Cor 15:32). In modern terms it may be how a person responds to the horrific tragedy of 9/11. Those who are alive could consider their ways and turn to God in repentance and faith (Lam 3:40-42). Or they could respond in a reckless abandon of indifference and indulgence. Which course one would choose would say volumes about the true nature of our commitments.

The unforgivable sin. This depicts a people who are the fulfillment of Isa 6:9-10, who are a contrast to Isaiah, for he acknowledged his sinful condition and experienced gracious cleansing (Isa 6:5-7). The result is that their sin cannot, and will not, be covered or atoned for (Isa 22:14). A people who will not recognize their sin will never exercise faith in God's provision which makes a right relationship to him possible (Isa 27:9; 2 Ch 7:14; Rom 5:1-2). God is not short-tempered and arbitrary. He is Almighty. Failure to pay reverent and serious attention to him can only be considered foolish.

The World in the Shadows (J. Alec Motyer, 1993, 2011)
  1. The Desert by the Sea (Babylon): the fall of the gods (21:1-10). The Babylonian principle; imperialism a false trail.
    • The vision received (1-2).
    • The end envisaged (3-5). Reaction: horror (3-4); pleasure (5).
    • The end accomplished (6-9).
    • The message reported (10).
  2. Silence (Edom): the prolongation of time (21:11-12).
  3. Desert Evening (Arabian tribes): needs but no solutions (21:13-17).
  4. The Valley of Vision (Jerusalem): the unforgivable sin (22:1-25).
    • Questionable joy (1-2a).
    • Coming calamity (2b-4).
    • Explanation: a day the Lord has instigated (5-7).
    • Past choices (8-11).
    • Culpable joy (12-14).
    • Illustration: A case study; an interim fulfilment; a tale of two men (15-25).
      • The Lord's opposition to Shebna (15-19).
      • The Lord's plan for Eliakim (20-23a).
      • Warning (23b-25).
  5. Tyre: pride and holiness(23:1-18).
    • Lament for Tyre (1-14).
    • The future for Tyre (15-18).
Judgment on Babylon and her allies (Isaiah 21-22) (John Oswalt, 1986, 2003).
  1. Babylon (21:1-10). The desert by the sea.
  2. Dumah (21:11-12).
  3. Arabia (21:13-17).
  4. Jerusalem (22:1-25).
    • The valley of vision (1-14).
    • Shebna the steward (15-25). A picture of two men.
Judgment on Tyre (23:1-18).