Sun (11/1/15): Mocking Isaiah's Words (Isaiah 28).

  • Thank God who helped us study 28 chapters of Isaiah by this Sunday.
  • Pray for me as I leave on Nov 4 for Manila and to attend my mother's 98th birthday in Malaysia.


Our One Security: God's Sure Foundation (Isaiah 28)

I. Two Crowns (1-6): Pronouncement Against Ephraim. What are you proud of?

In 28:1-6 there is a play on "crown" or "wreath." This is the circlet of flowers or vines worn on the had of champions or revelers in Greek and Roman cultures. The drunken partygoers in Samaria wear these wreaths on their heads as they try to forget the terror facing them. Isaiah sees a day when all these wreaths, both the real and the symbolic, will be thrown to the ground and trampled. The "pride" of the northern kingdom is going to be snatched up like a ripe "fig" (Isa 28:4).

In contrast there is another "wreath," the Lord himself (Isa 28:5). He will be the source of beauty and glory for those who have abandoned their own pride in glad submission to him. He will give "justice" to the judges and "strength" to the soldiers (Isa 28:6). The mention of "crown" in Isa 28:5 puts the issue in clear light: Who is the King, the drunken political leaders or "the Lord Almighty"?

II. Two Words (7-13): Continuing Pronouncement Against Ephraim. What are you hearing?

28:1-4 spoke of the political leaders and the nobility, whereas 28:7-8 show that the priests and prophets are no better off. They too are besotted with the attempt to please and satisfy themselves. Alcohol abuse is a problem for them, but it is also a symptom of their deeper problem, an unwillingness to surrender their needs and desires to the Lord (Mal 2:1-9).

So instead of giving clear guidance and teaching in that desperate hour, they are staggering, reeling and befuddled in a stupor (Isa 28:7). The tables (Isa 28:8) used either for judgment or for partying are covered with vomit.

Isa 28:9-10 express the mockery of these religious leaders toward Isaiah. "Who does he think he is, treating us like little children?" Alcohol and refusing to face reality causes one to become childish, while unable to recognize what is truly going on. They denounce the repetitive simplicity of Isaiah's teaching, clearly wanting something more nuanced and ambiguous as befits their supposedly sophisticated understanding.

Isaiah responds in Isa 28:11-13 by saying that since this is what they think they are getting, then it will be exactly what they will get, only from lips other than his. Since they refuse God's invitation to rest in him by abandoning their petty pride and demeaning pleasures, they will learn his truth through "foreign lips and strange tongues" (Isa 28:11), the Assyrians who will teach them that what Isaiah said is true. Their demands as conquerors will really be repetitively simple. If they will not learn the easy way of faith, then they must learn the hard way of experience.

III. Two Covenants (14-22): A Message to the Leaders in Jerusalem

The focus shifts to the leaders in Jerusalem. "Therefore" (Isa 28:14) calls them to pay attention and learn from Ephraim, the northern leaders who are facing imminent judgment. If Judah continues in her present ways, she too will face the same fate. Isa 28:15a may not be an actual quote from the Judean leaders but Isaiah's sarcastic restatement of their words, for they have made a lie their refuge.

Isaiah's serious and unflattering epithet to the leaders is to call them "scoffers" (Isa 28:14). They not only reject the truth, but also make light of it. Like the northern leaders, these Judean scoffers have laughed at the foolishness of trust God and made their covenants "with death" (Isa 28:15, 18), which is probably an alliance with Egypt whom they think will guarantee life for them and their nation when Assyria, the "overwhelming scourge" (Isa 28:15b) comes. They ally themselves with the "lie" (Isa 28:15b) that human power is better and more reliable than simply trusting God (Isa 28:12).

Isa 28:16-19 is God's response to the "covenant of death" (Isa 28:15a, 18a). God asserts that He alone is trustworthy (Isa 28:16). God is the "tested stone" (Isa 28:16) in contrast to the "lie" on which the leaders have built their "refuge" (Isa 28:17b). God's measurements are the "justice" and "righteousness" of God (Isa 28:17a), which can stand whatever shocks might come to it. Anyone who builds on it "will never be stricken with panic" (Isa 28:16b). They can be calm and deliberate by experiencing the place of quiet rest and repose (Isa 28:12). When any other trust is measured against God's "sure foundation," its faultiness becomes apparent at once, as with the "covenant with death" (Isa 28:18).

IV. Two Methods (23-29): Illustration from the World of Agriculture. Can you trust God's ways with you?

Isaiah concludes with two graphic illustrations. Scoffers and drunkards, literal and allegorical, have refused to listen to God's word. Isaiah has been saying that there are simple cause and effect principles that rule the spiritual world, which if they are flouted will result in disaster (28:23-29).

The least educated peasant farmer, just a serf, knows that there are some things you do and some things you don't. "Listen and hear my voice" (Isa 28:23) has overtones of wisdom literature. The comparison of one activity with another, royal counsel with farming, is characteristic of wisdom literature.

A time of rough plowing before planting new life (28:23-26). A farmer knows that there are certain appropriate ways to do things. He does not keep on plowing forever (Isa 28:24), as though that were an end in itself. When he plants he does not mix up all the different seeds together (Isa 28:25). Each has to be grown separately. Though just a peasant serf, he is smart enough to know that the upheaval of plowing is only temporary and that plowing changes to planting. Therefore God knows that endless upheaval and disruption in our lives would be fruitless. Yes, God does break up the rock-hard soil of our hearts. Yes his work of plowing does get rough with us. But not continually and only in order to plant new life there. God always has a life-enriching purpose. Yield to him.

Each crop requires its own unique special treatment and refinement. When he threshes, he uses appropriate tools according to the size of the grain involved (Isa 28:27-28). To use a heavy threshing sledge or a stone roller on the tiny "caraway" and "cummin" seeds would crush them to dust (Isa 28:27a). Instead, he uses a jointed "stick" called a "flail" in English. And even a correct method must not be overused. Therefore, God knows exactly how to work with each of us (Jn 21:20-23). God has just the right touch for you. Trust him.

Isaiah is saying that these peasants have learned these principles from God (Isa 28:26, 29). God's natural revelation has taught them how life works. Why can't these wise counselors, who have the benefit of both natural and divine revelation, be as intelligent as the uneducated peasant when it comes to understanding that God can be trusted and humans cannot?


Woe to Drunken Rulers (Isaiah 28-29)

Having established God's sovereignty over the nations both in particular (13-13) and in general (24-27), Isaiah now returns to particular situations in Israel and Judah (28-33) that illustrate the folly of trusting the nations instead of God. The Assyria with which Ahaz had allied himself is first finishing up with Samaria (28:1-13) and then turning its unwanted attentions on Judah (29:7-8). The flood which Isaiah had foretold (8:6, 8) is about to burst full force against the southern kingdom, Judah. Between Samaria's fall (722 BC) and Sennacherib's attack on Jerusalem (701 BC), it appears that Judah's foreign-policy makers turned more and more toward alliance with Egypt (Isa 30:3; 31:1). To Isaiah, this alliance was just as stupid as the earlier one with Assyria. Though Egypt would not seek to devour Judah as Assyria did, any help she could give was unreliable (30:3-7; 31:3; 20:1-6). To trust Egypt instead of God was incredible (30:15-33). This exposed a faithless leadership drunk on its own power and privilege (Isa 28:7-8; 29:15-16; 30:1; 1:23; 7:13; 9:14-16; 19:11-15).

The structure of 28-33:


Two Choices (Isaiah 28)

Isaiah 28:1-29

"God has told his people, 'Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.' But they would not listen" (Isa 28:12, NLT). "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).
  1. Two crowns (1-6). What are you proud of?
  2. Two words (7-13). What are you hearing?
  3. Two covenants/foundations/alternatives (14-22). Who are you trusting?
  4. Two methods (23-29). Can you trust God's different ways of dealing with you?


How To Live In Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26-27)

  1. Live righteously (Isa 26:2). Cf. Isa 26:10.
  2. Be steadfast (Isa 26:3a; Rev 2:10b).
  3. Trust God (Isa 26:3b-4), wait on him (Isa 26:8).
  4. Yearn for God and desire God (Isa 26:9).
  5. Know that God does everything (Isa 26:12; 1 Cor 1:31; Gal 6:14).
  6. Honor God's name (Isa 26:13).
  7. Live for the resurrection (Isa 26:19; 25:8; Dan 12:2).
  8. Know your real enemy (Isa 27:1).
  9. Embrace God's punishing blows (Isa 27:6-9).


Woe To Those Who Do Not Wait/Trust in God (Isaiah 28-35)

Isaiah 28-35 has also been titled:
  • The folly of trusting the nations.
  • Do not trust in enemies who will be defeated.
  • Human schemes and God's plans.
  • Six woes.
In Isaiah 28-35 Isaiah continues the lessons in trust since Ahaz decided not to trust God as recorded in Isaiah 7. Having established God's sovereignty and supremacy over the nations, both in particular (ch.13-23) and in general (ch.24-27), Isaiah now returns to particular situations in Israel and Judah that illustrate the folly of trusting the nations instead of God. The key issue in Isaiah 28-35 is whether Judah, and 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.


God's Ultimate Purpose for His People (Isaiah 27)

Isaiah 27:2-13

"In days to come, Jacob will take root. Israel will blossom and bloom and fill the whole world with fruit" (Isa 27:6, HCSB).

Isaiah 27 closes this section (ch.24-27--the triumph of God over the nations). It summarizes and illustrates God's sovereignty regarding Israel and the nations. The result of God's sovereignty will be redemption. In contrast to the earlier songs in this section (Isa 24:9; 25:5; 26:1), 27:2-13 is more personal and intimate. It praises God for delivering his people. Isaiah 24 and 25--the first two songs--declare universal judgment and universal salvation. It is hyperbole to emphasize the point regarding God's universal judgment and salvation. In Isaiah 26--the third song--the people proclaim their trust in God, and also confess their inability to deliver themselves and fulfill their ministry in the world. In Isaiah 27, God confirms his promise to deliver them. God himself is the singer of this final song of the apocalypse. His people sing to him (Isa 24:14-16; 25:1-5; 26:1-6), and now he sings over them. The Lord and his people are one, and their joy is complete (Zep 3:17).


God's Triumph Over the Nations (Isaiah 24-27), 1-39

Outline of Isaiah 1-39:
  • 1-5: The problem: A lack of servanthood.
  • 6: The solution: The call to servanthood.
  • 7-39: Lessons in trust, the basis of servanthood.
7-12 (739 BC): God or Assyria. No Trust (Ahaz). Thus the need to learn lessons in trust.
13-23: God's judgment on the nations--Don't trust the nations.
24-27: God's triumph over the nations--God is the sovereign actor on the stage of history.
28-33: Woe to those who trust the nations, who do not trust and wait on God.
34-35: Trusting God or the nations--Results.
36-39 (701 BC): God or Assyria. Trust (Hezekiah).


Perfect Peace and Confident Trust (Isaiah 26)

Isaiah 26:1-27; 27:1

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You. Trust in the Lord forever, because in Yah, the Lord, is an everlasting rock!" (Isa 26:3-4, HCSB).

Isaiah 24 is a general summary. All nations will be destroyed (Isa 24:1-3) and her drunken songs silenced (Isa 24:7-9), because the Lord alone will be exalted in that day (Isa 24:3). In Isaiah 25, God is going to have a feast on his great holy mountain (Isa 25:6). It is a feast for the whole world, for "all peoples." This is hyperbole here: the whole world is destroyed, and the whole world will be saved. No one escapes judgment, and everyone has the possibility of redemption. God will pull away the shroud that covers humanity (Isa 25:6). God will raise us from the dead. We will have songs in the night because of what he has done (Isa 25:9). But the arrogant will not escape. Proud and arrogant Moab will be pushed down into a manure pile (Isa 25:10). Isaiah 26-27 continues the thought of 24-25, such as the song of joy (Isa 26:1, 19; 27:2), because of God's victory over the city of oppression (Isa 26:5; 27:10, 13), but with a somewhat changed focus. Whereas ch. 24-25 focus on the victory and the feast which follows, ch. 26-27 reflect in a somewhat more solemn view upon the meaning of this victory for Judah. However, the general theme of God's sovereignty remains of central importance as does the atmosphere of hope stemming from that conviction.


Trust God, only He Saves (Isaiah 25)

Isaiah 25:1-12

"On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food (fatness) for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.In that day they will say, 'Surely this is our God; we trusted in him (waited for him), and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him (waited for him); let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation'" (Isa 25:6-9, NIV).

From shattered silence to joy is the sharp contrast of Isaiah 24 and 25. Isaiah 25 forms the response to the announcement of the destruction of the earth city (Isa 24:10). In Isaiah judgment and destruction (Isa 24:1, 3) are never God's intended last words. Rather, it paves the way for hope and redemption (Isa 25:9). From the silence of the shattered city (Isa 24:8) comes the joy of a feast where the host is the Lord (Isa 25:6).
  1. The song (1-5): Thanksgiving for God's faithfulness. Joy in the Lord. Individual praise: his supernatural acts.
  2. The banquet (6-8): Announcement that God's purpose in the destruction of the earth is her redemption from death.
  3. The festivities (9-12): Joy that comes from being delivered from their enemies, typified by Moab. Communal praise: his saving acts.