Notes on Isaiah 28,29
David H. Linden
University Presbyterian Church,
28:1-6 The Fall of
28:1 Ephraim was
28:2-4 The Lord (the word ‘Lord’ here infers
sovereignty), had someone who would do that.
God would use
28:5,6 As Isaiah loves to do, the message is
quickly reversed. For
28:7,8 The words “these also” show the text has switched from
28:9,10 They are mocking Isaiah as if saying, “What
is this simpleton trying to teach us?”
They claimed he spoke to them as if they were children. This mocking shows that the pride of the
Isaiah could write an intricate book with masterful command of his language. He could write and speak effectively as a very educated man, yet he made the issue of repentance and faith very clear and very simple. There is no value in speaking over people’s heads. Yet God has chosen to give us Isaiah’s writings as one of the most intellectually challenging books in the entire Bible.
28:11 The message was rejected. Their ridicule of a message from God as childish language is turned around on them. Someday they will hear in their land strange languages from invaders. In this way God will ‘speak’ in judgment against them. They will struggle like children to learn the new language of invaders. They would not hear what God had said plainly through Isaiah, so they would suffer defeat from a foreign power and be forced to hear the strange new words of the invaders’ language.
28:14-19 They are called ‘scoffers’, a word used in
Proverbs for those who ridicule the wisdom of God. Proverbs 1:22-27 fits this part of Isaiah
very well. Scoffers or mockers in their
godless ‘wisdom’ do not trust God’s promises.
The rulers in
expressed his point as if they were really admitting they had made a covenant
with death. In this way he ridiculed their alliance with
this setting of a false hope in a heathen nation that would let them down
terribly, God gives one of the famous gems of His word about Christ. To understand it well, we must see this as a call
for a genuine trust in reaction to a false trust. In
· In saying “Sovereign Lord”, God emphasizes His authority. The nations have their plans, but so does God, and His is the only one that will happen.
“I lay…” This is a way to say that His
activity in the world is personal and direct.
Psalm 2:6 uses the same verb for the same message, “I have installed my king on
This promised stone is in
The stone is tested. To a builder that would mean it fits. But in salvation, this is a way of telling us
that this is the right stone to do what is needed. The policy makers in
· The stone is precious to God. For those not sure what this stone is, this is an odd thing to hear. God does not mean the stone is pure jade. The value of the stone lies in Who the stone is.
· It is a cornerstone in the foundation, and the others must fit to it and be built on it.
Isaiah does not say, “trust the stone”, but
the stone is connected in some way to faith.
In this text God does not say Who the stone is, but
· Those who trust will not be dismayed. “Dismayed” always has the sense of hurrying.
Who is the Stone?
Romans 9:33 Paul quotes Isaiah 8:14 & 28:16 in a conflated quotation. He
says, “the one who trusts in him.” Thus the apostle tells us the Stone
is a person we should trust in and repeats this in Romans 10:11. Then he says that that “no one can lay any
other foundation than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ,” a reference
to Isaiah 28:16. In Ephesians 2:20,21,
Christ is the chief cornerstone in the foundation of the church. Then Peter in
1 Peter 2:4-8 quotes three OT texts about Christ as the Stone, over whom men
stumble in unbelief (Isaiah 8:14): the precious Stone of Isaiah 28:16, and the
Capstone of Psalm 118:22. So we know the
Holy Spirit was speaking in this verse of Christ, the One in Whom we are to
trust. Jesus was not born in
28:17-19 The text speaks of justice and righteousness
because the building will be built by such principles. It is on a sure foundation, but the alliance
28:20-22 They rejected a good place for repose,
(v.12). Now in v.20 they find a
different bed, one that gives no rest – too short to stretch out on, with a
blanket too narrow to give cover. Thus does the prophet show what a frustrating
inadequate arrangement they chose rather than the protection of God Almighty.
With the Lord they could sleep well while He watched over
the past God rose up to struck down the Philistines at Perazim and
28:23-29 Illustrations from farming When farmers plow the ground, they do not keep doing that one thing. There is a time when plowing is no longer needed and it is time to plant. They learned that from God. The God Who teaches man how to farm, must know how to do it Himself! He will not keep plowing in judgment; He will turn to planting. His judgments are not just so He can judge His people. Like a farmer, He has a purpose beyond that. Likewise, just as different grains and seeds are harvested with different techniques, the Lord knows what He is doing. A heavy-handed grinding would destroy certain seeds, so He will not do a similar thing. God is wonderful in counsel, (same Hebrew words as in 9:6 of Christ!) and in wisdom; He will accomplish His purpose. Just as a good result comes from all the plowing and threshing, these illustrations hint that that kind of wonderful result is coming, and it is in chapter 29.
29:1-4 Ariel the altar hearth Ariel is
29:5-8 The change is so sudden we might fail to
see that the situation has radically changed.
The thunder, earthquake, and noise are
not literal; they describe the suddenness of God’s action. God reserves very carefully His sovereign
right to act when and how He chooses.
The Second Coming of Christ, likewise, will be a sudden unannounced
event to the world, the shock of all shocks. The suddenness here refers to the
29:9-14 In Isaiah 6:9,10 Isaiah was commissioned to go with a message that would blind those who heard it. Willful blindness brings on judicial blindness. God blinds people in their chosen falsehood when they are eager not to believe His truth. See the case of Ahab in 1 Kings 22. In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, speaking in the context of Anti-Christ, those who refuse to love the truth shall not have it. God will send a spirit of delusion so that they will believe the lie. This is similar to those devoted to sexual impurity; they will find that God abandons them to it (Romans 1:21-32), when the Lord gives them such depraved minds they will pronounce themselves normal. Thus the Lord brings on people a deep sleep, the punishment of being hardened by God (Romans 11:7,8,25).
Isaiah gives two scenarios of those who fail to get the message. One can read but won’t; the other cannot read. No one can be saved apart from accepting the Word of the Lord. They must receive God’s truth as truth in order to believe its message. With blind seers and prophets leading the blind (Matthew 15:14, a passage that quotes 29:13), the spiritual plight is horrible. Only a divine intervention can save them; even having the Word of God in hand will not do it. The problem God overcomes is a heart that will not believe. In the very presence of Christ Himself, most who heard Him did not believe even though they saw His mighty works (Matthew 11:20-24; John 6:36). Therefore He praised His Father, “because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned” (Matthew 11:25). Hiding truth from wicked men is a form of justice.
29:13 is a famous statement. (See Mark 7 & Matthew 15.) To God’s dismay, the outward activity of worship continued without a worshipping heart (1:10-17). This text raises another issue in worship: May we design our own worship service? The historic Reformed position is that we may not “worship Him in any other manner than He has commanded in His Word,” (Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 96). Thus we must not create our own rules or principles for how we will approach God. We must deduce the elements and principles of worship from Scripture. If something is not there, we may not add it. We must never forget that the most basic principle of worship is that sinners may approach God only by our Mediator. This means we come by way of the blood of Jesus shed for our forgiveness and acceptance (Hebrews 10:19-22).
29:14 is also a famous statement. The wisdom of the wise will perish. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Paul dismisses the wisdom of the philosopher of this age and of this world. There is no salvation in it. Opposed to this, and deliberately contrasted to it, is the message of the cross. By his wisdom, man has not known God. By God’s wisdom, Christ, the One “Who has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30), we have everything: “our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
In the context of Isaiah 29, it is clear
that the wisdom of trusting
A wonderful angle easy to miss in this famous verse is related to the words, “once more”. It is also acceptable to translate them, “I will add to act.” This could hint that a new fresh act is in view, namely the destruction of false wisdom, a prelude to the establishment of truth in the minds of those He will save. Salvation is the theme of the next few verses. The destruction of error is a blessing because it opens the door to truth, thus it is part of God’s saving work.
29:15,16 V.15 opens with those who hide from the Lord (Romans 9:16-18), and the section ends with those who acknowledge the Lord (v.23). Woe to those whose attitudes exclude God from their thinking. They deny His oversight, which is about as atheistic a spirit as one will find in the OT – close to the fool who said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). The answer to “Who will see us?” is “No one!” They must go to great depths because being an atheist is hard work. Every wonder of creation must be denied as the work of an intelligent Lord. Every ethical principle, however essential to life, must be denied as a reflection that we are created in God’s image. The need to keep up a wall against pervasive truth is relentless and exhausting.
They get everything backwards. “As if the potter were like the clay” is another way to say, “As if God were like man.” God is transcendent and is not like us; we have been made to be like Him. Isaiah shows that men may deny God’s distinctiveness (now a major problem among evangelicals in the views of Open Theism). Modern man also denies God’s sovereignty and role as creator when he says, “He did not make me”. This is one of the chief confessions of falsehood to which the intelligentsia of our day is ardently devoted. No one is welcome in their club apart from affirming evolution. They also deny His wisdom (“He knows nothing”). We do not understand our own time in history unless we see that man struts across the earth asserting “I am the potter and God is the clay.” The denial of God in these two verses is vivid, but it is the setup for the wonderful salvation this section moves to.
29:17-21 The turnabout is astonishing. These verses cover nature, spiritual deadness, classes of society, civil stability, and a righteous legal system. Earlier the words on the scroll were inaccessible; now the Word will be heard and the blind will see. When the humble and needy are part of rejoicing in the Lord, then the ones at the bottom of a society are not left out. It is the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, they will worship. The streets will be safe from violent persons and justice will be done in the courts. This has only one explanation in light of the blindness and hardening seen in the earlier verses. God has moved to overthrow the wisdom of the world, and to change the hearts of men so they will believe. All of this asserts the benefits of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34), a topic Isaiah has not yet opened up fully. The changes in this segment are not possible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. V.23 will claim that this great change is the work of God’s hands.
ARM of the Lord
29:22-24 The transformation continues from another angle. Both Abraham and Jacob learned to fear the Lord and live consistently in sincere respect for God. If they could see their children in the generations that followed, it would be a tremendous shame to them. By saving their children, God turns the hearts of the fathers approvingly to them (Malachi 4:6).
Salvation in terms of spiritual life is complete: in describing it as keeping God’s name holy; in acknowledging the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob; and in standing in awe of the God of Israel. The Lord of Jacob did much to change Jacob’s heart throughout his lifetime. Now God says He will do it for Jacob’s children. The wayward will be obedient, not going their own way (53:6), and teachable, because they will all be taught by the Lord (54:13).