Isaiah 30-35 A Rebellious People - A Gracious King December 3, 2018
God is going to preserve Jerusalem in spite of the shortcomings of his people. He laid the original cornerstone when he called Abraham out of Ur of Chaldees so many years ago. The true cornerstone, as we know, is Jesus Christ, who was elected before time began. But now we are talking about the physical Jerusalem and the physical world. The orientation of the cornerstone is righteousness in the vertical plane and justice in the horizontal. God pleads through Isaiah for his people to pursue these objectives. If each subsequent stone in the building is characterized by righteousness and justice, the building will be strong and square. The Apostle Paul likens the church to a temple being oriented by Christ as the cornerstone.
Unfortunately, in today’s lesson, we will see that the Israelites continue to rebel against Yahweh. Isaiah warns them not to go to Egypt for safety. Yahweh is their true safety. But they do not listen and go to Egypt. Egypt will soon fall to Assyria and the ones that went there will fall with her. The people encourage their prophets and seers to lie to them. They do not want to know the truth. When the head of the church speak soothing words that the people want to hear, religion becomes ‘the opiate of the people’.
The ones that remain in Judah and in Jerusalem will be blessed by Yahweh. He will wipe away their tears. He will send a king who will reign in righteousness and rule with justice. Yahweh will call his true believers out of exile and restore them to the holy city where they will worship in peace. God’s judgment will fall on the ungodly nations, but also on the ungodly Israelites.
Today’s reading requires very little comment, so our notes today will be few and short. The Word speaks for itself.
Do Not Go Down to Egypt
30:1-5 “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
For though his officials are at Zoan
and his envoys reach Hanes,
everyone comes to shame
through a people that cannot profit them,
that brings neither help nor profit,
but shame and disgrace.”
God has a plan for Israel. Unfortunately the leaders of the land have a different plan. God wants his people to remain in the land. The political powers want to migrate to Egypt for safety. Egypt in that day was the second world power to Assyria. Before Assyria it was the primary world power. But by 650 BC, a mere 50 years later, it will be totally ruled by Assyria.
Don’t you wish that nations would be satisfied with what they have and not lust after the wealth of other nations.
30:6-7 An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb.
Through a land of trouble and anguish,
from where come the lioness and the lion,
the adder and the flying fiery serpent,
they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys,
and their treasures on the humps of camels,
to a people that cannot profit them.
Egypt’s help is worthless and empty;
therefore I have called her
“Rahab who sits still.”
We noted Rahab last week. Last week it was Tyre, this week it is Egypt. It always represents the forces allied against Yahweh. In Psalm 87:4 Rahab is Egypt. In Palm 89 she represents all the evil powers in the universe.
Psalm 89:8-14 O LORD God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O LORD,
with your faithfulness all around you?
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
The north and the south, you have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
You have a mighty arm;
strong is your hand, high your right hand.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
A Rebellious People
30:8 And now, go, write it before them on a tablet
and inscribe it in a book,
that it may be for the time to come
as a witness forever.
30:9-11 For they are a rebellious people,
lying children, children unwilling to hear
the instruction of the LORD;
who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
30:12-14 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,
“Because you despise this word
and trust in oppression and perverseness
and rely on them,
therefore this iniquity shall be to you
like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse,
whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant;
and its breaking is like that of a potter's vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a shard is found
with which to take fire from the hearth,
or to dip up water out of the cistern.”
30:15-17 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.
God wanted Israel to have a passive role in the political world of the day. He wanted his people to let him rule over them. We have read in Deuteronomy the benefits of God’s rule, e.g. Deuteronomy 7:6-21. But they refused and got involved in a complicated political morass between Assyria and Egypt. Those that fled to Egypt did not find safety. They were crushed to pieces by the invading forces and probably by the Egyptians themselves. Those that remained behind found Yahweh to be the gracious and merciful God he so desires to be. The Lord will hear their prayers, even as the people destroy their false idols. The land will become fruitful one again and the dearly needed rains will return.
The Lord Will Be Gracious
30:18 Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
30:19-22 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
30:23-26 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.
30:27-28 Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar,
burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke;
his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire;
his breath is like an overflowing stream
that reaches up to the neck;
to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction,
and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray.
30:29-33 You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. And the LORD will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. The Assyrians will be terror-stricken at the voice of the LORD, when he strikes with his rod. And every stroke of the appointed staff that the LORD lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them. For a burning place has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.
Even as Yahweh restores his own people, he will wreak havoc on the Assyrian forces. Next week we will see how completely he routs the Assyrian army that has placed Jerusalem under siege.
Woe to Those Who Go Down to Egypt
31:1-2 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
or consult the LORD!
And yet he is wise and brings disaster;
he does not call back his words,
but will arise against the house of the evildoers
and against the helpers of those who work iniquity.
31:3 The Egyptians are man, and not God,
and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When the LORD stretches out his hand,
the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall,
and they will all perish together.
31:4-7 For thus the LORD said to me,
“As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey,
and when a band of shepherds is called out against him
he is not terrified by their shouting
or daunted at their noise,
so the LORD of hosts will come down
to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill.
Like birds hovering, so the LORD of hosts
will protect Jerusalem;
he will protect and deliver it;
he will spare and rescue it.”
Turn to him from whom people have deeply revolted, O children of Israel. For in that day everyone shall cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which your hands have sinfully made for you.
31:8-9 “And the Assyrian shall fall by a sword, not of man;
and a sword, not of man, shall devour him;
and he shall flee from the sword,
and his young men shall be put to forced labor.
His rock shall pass away in terror,
and his officers desert the standard in panic,”
declares the LORD, whose fire is in Zion,
and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.
A King Will Reign in Righteousness
32:1-2 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
and princes will rule in justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
32:3-6 Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will give attention.
The heart of the hasty will understand and know,
and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctly.
The fool will no more be called noble,
nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.
For the fool speaks folly,
and his heart is busy with iniquity,
to practice ungodliness,
to utter error concerning the LORD,
to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied,
and to deprive the thirsty of drink.
32:7-8 As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil;
he plans wicked schemes
to ruin the poor with lying words,
even when the plea of the needy is right.
But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.
The character of the fool is marked by folly, wickedness, ungodliness and error. The character of the knave is marked by evil, deceitfulness and slander. The knave knows what he is doing. He deliberately chooses to do evil. A government led by such men is deceitful and oppressive, quite opposite of a government of righteousness and justice.
Complacent Women Warned of Disaster
32:9-13 Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice;
you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech.
In little more than a year
you will shudder, you complacent women;
for the grape harvest fails,
the fruit harvest will not come.
Tremble, you women who are at ease,
shudder, you complacent ones;
strip, and make yourselves bare,
and tie sackcloth around your waist.
Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vine,
for the soil of my people
growing up in thorns and briers,
yes, for all the joyous houses
in the exultant city.
32:14-15 For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
32:16-20 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
And it will hail when the forest falls down,
and the city will be utterly laid low.
Happy are you who sow beside all waters,
who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free.
The sins of the nation do not come through the men alone, but the women have a role in the idolatry and sin of the people. Remember Eve. We grew up in a community of righteous women, but when we look beyond the church there are a lot of women who have no regard for God and will to live godless lives.
O Lord, Be Gracious to Us
33:1 Ah, you destroyer,
who yourself have not been destroyed,
whom none has betrayed!
When you have ceased to destroy,
you will be destroyed;
and when you have finished betraying,
they will betray you.
33:2-6 O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you.
Be our arm every morning,
our salvation in the time of trouble.
At the tumultuous noise peoples flee;
when you lift yourself up, nations are scattered,
and your spoil is gathered as the caterpillar gathers;
as locusts leap, it is leapt upon.
The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is Zion's treasure.
When the Lord is exalted he bless the nation with justice and righteousness, abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the treasure of the land.
33:7-9 Behold, their heroes cry in the streets;
the envoys of peace weep bitterly.
The highways lie waste;
the traveler ceases.
Covenants are broken;
cities are despised;
there is no regard for man.
The land mourns and languishes;
Lebanon is confounded and withers away
Sharon is like a desert,
and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves.
33:10-12 “Now I will arise,” says the LORD,
“now I will lift myself up;
now I will be exalted.
You conceive chaff; you give birth to stubble;
your breath is a fire that will consume you.
And the peoples will be as if burned to lime,
like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.”
33:13-14 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done;
and you who are near, acknowledge my might.
The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
This question is asked and the question is answered. The answer below is appropriate for all generations and all nations. No nation will remain strong and good without a people who walk righteously and love justice.
33:15-17 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
he will dwell on the heights;
his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks;
his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.
Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty;
they will see a land that stretches afar.
That which separates one from God is not God’s consuming fire, but man’s own unrighteousness and injustice.
33:18-19 Your heart will muse on the terror:
“Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute?
Where is he who counted the towers?”
You will see no more the insolent people,
the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
stammering in a tongue that you cannot understand.
33:20-24 Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts!
Your eyes will see Jerusalem,
an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent,
whose stakes will never be plucked up,
nor will any of its cords be broken.
But there the LORD in majesty will be for us
a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
nor majestic ship can pass.
For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;
the LORD is our king; he will save us.
Your cords hang loose;
they cannot hold the mast firm in its place
or keep the sail spread out.
Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided;
even the lame will take the prey.
And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick”;
the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.
Judgment on the Nations
34:1-4 Draw near, O nations, to hear,
and give attention, O peoples!
Let the earth hear, and all that fills it;
the world, and all that comes from it.
For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall,
as leaves fall from the vine,
like leaves falling from the fig tree.
34:5-7 For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens;
behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom,
upon the people I have devoted to destruction.
The LORD has a sword; it is sated with blood;
it is gorged with fat,
with the blood of lambs and goats,
with the fat of the kidneys of rams.
For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
Wild oxen shall fall with them,
and young steers with the mighty bulls.
Their land shall drink its fill of blood,
and their soil shall be gorged with fat.
34:8-15 For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,
and her soil into sulfur;
her land shall become burning pitch.
Night and day it shall not be quenched;
its smoke shall go up forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
none shall pass through it forever and ever.
But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it
the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
He shall stretch the line of confusion over it,
and the plumb line of emptiness.
Its nobles—there is no one there to call it a kingdom,
and all its princes shall be nothing.
Thorns shall grow over its strongholds
nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of jackals,
an abode for ostriches.
And wild animals shall meet with hyenas;
the wild goat shall cry to his fellow;
indeed, there the night bird settles
and finds for herself a resting place.
There the owl nests and lays
and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow;
indeed, there the hawks are gathered,
each one with her mate.
Edom always was a thorn in Israel’s side. The Edomites are the progeny of Esau, and the conflict between Esau and Jacob goes back to Genesis. When Babylon assaulted Jerusalem the Edomites were more than happy to join them in looting the city. Bozrah was the capital city of Edom and was located about 30 miles north of Petra. It was sited on a 3000 foot high mountain with steep cliffs all around, probably much like Masada. When Edom meets its final end the conflict between Jacob and Esau will be finished. There will be no kings or princes any longer in Edom.
The judgment on Edom is just an example of God’s judgment on all nations. One by one the nations fall: Babylon, Greece and Rome in the past; Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan in our day. We must be careful that the Lord does not turn his back on us. So far he has blessed us more abundantly than any nation in the history of the world.
34:16-17 Seek and read from the book of the LORD:
Not one of these shall be missing;
none shall be without her mate.
For the mouth of the LORD has commanded,
and his Spirit has gathered them.
He has cast the lot for them;
his hand has portioned it out to them with the line;
they shall possess it forever;
from generation to generation they shall dwell in it.
The land of Edom will be a haunt for many kinds of wild birds and animals. One gets the sense that it will be haunted by evil spirits as well. It will no longer be a suitable habitat for man. You can find this out by reading ‘The Book of the Lord’.
The Ransomed Shall Return
35:1-7 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
35:8-10 And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The end result of righteousness and justice is holiness. There is a highway named Holiness that will lead to the Celestial City. Jesus calls that highway the narrow way, and Revelation names the Celestial City the New Jerusalem. Dare any of us stray from that road through unrighteousness and injustice.
Next week we return to the historical narrative. We will not have to struggle with the interpretation of poetic language. The Assyrian assault will come to an end. Jerusalem will be miraculously spared and Assyria will retreat to its own land with its tail between its legs. This is the end of Book 1 of Isaiah. When we return after Christmas we will see a different Isaiah, but it will contain a consistent message with part 1.
I anticipate resuming our stay on January 22, 2019.