Bad Leaders Produce Unacceptable Worship (Isaiah 29)

Isaiah 29 (1-8, 9-14, 15-24)

"The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught'" (Isa 29:13, NIV).

Isaiah 28-33 continues the discourse (which begun in Isaiah 7) of the foolishness of trusting the nations instead of the Lord, by dealing particularly with the specific political situation in Judah: Would Judah trust God or not? The same approach was seen in ch. 13-27 where particular nations were addressed (13-23) before addressing the world as a whole (24-27).
The structure of this segment (28-33) may be divided into:
  1. 28-29: the foolish leaders and their counsel that something must be done at once (depend on Egypt) rather than wait on God.
  2. 30-31: the proposed solution: depend on Egypt and the folly of doing so.
  3. 32-33: the true solution: the revelation of the King and his presence in their midst.
Isaiah 28 (Mocking Isaiah's Words) describe what bad leaders do:
  1. Seek their own glory (1-6). What Ephraim foolishly did and Judah is not learning from and thus repeating.
  2. Reject and mock Isaiah's words to trust God (7-13). They mocked his Bible teaching as simplistic and childish.
  3. Depend on themselves--a covenant with death--rather than on God, the tested and sure foundation (14-22).
  4. Reject God's instructions and wonderful plans, which uneducated farmers embrace (23-29).
Isaiah 29 continues the theme of bad leaders and bad leadership. What are some attributes of bad leaders?
  1. Presumption. Presume that God is their God and they have immunity from judgment (1, 13). But instead, God, not Assyria is their primary enemy (Isa 29:2-3).
  2. Blindness. Blind to what God is doing (9-14). Though they "know" the Bible, it is unintelligible to them (Isa 29:10-12). Their habitual worship, based on man-made rules, has no encounter with God (Isa 29:13). Their worship is utilitarian. It is their attempt to manipulate God to do for them what they want and what they have already decided. They don't want God but only what God can do for them.
  3. Secrecy. Hide their plans from God because they already have their own plans (15-24). God pronounces "woe" on their secretive, clandestine, furtive and surreptitious behavior that lacks honesty, openness and transparency (Isa 29:15).