Notes on Isaiah 30-32
Oracle re the Negev
30:8 It is wonderful that God has committed so much to writing. Some people will not sign what they say, so their word on another day cannot be compared with their previous promise. Isaiah was to write down his message, (perhaps the oracle of vv.6 & 7), as a witness that he had said what he did. It is vital in a book like Isaiah that we connect the time of a prophecy to an event fulfilled later. The Lord shows His deity by His ability to say in advance what will happen. God’s predictions are a witness that God is God (43:9,10). Isaiah’s written word was to be “an everlasting witness”. 2700 years later we are still going over every word recorded in his book. God’s people are doing this all over the earth!
30:9-14 Isaiah’s ministry of the Word was rejected, as in 28:9,10. In vv.10,11 Isaiah puts their attitudes into words, just as in 28:15. The people were willing to hear something as long as they could control what was being said. The message they preferred would be morally unchallenging, devoid of the holiness of God, new in the sense of not being the old message of His previous revelation. They wanted the message to be pleasant to them. By asking for illusions, they wanted to have error; they chose to be deceived. (See Zechariah 1:2-6.) Isaiah said they were unwilling to listen.
There is a big difference
between the one who is blind with no exposure to the Word of God, and the
person who is willfully blind, by consciously choosing illusions in rejection
of the truth of the Word of God. (Later in Isaiah 42:18-22, God will declare
Rejecting the Message Isaiah says of those seeking to be free of God’s path that they rely on oppression, an indication that rebels get the opposite of what they seek. They want freedom and get bondage. The penalty is given in vv.12-14 in illustrations of a wall collapsing and pottery being smashed. Again as in 29:5, where judgment is as sudden as an earthquake, the wall will collapse “suddenly, in an instant”. Often God gives no further warning to those already warned (Proverbs 29:1; Matthew 24:36-39). His warnings may be an irritation to those whose hearts are hard, but such warnings are mercy ignored.
30:15-17 In this paragraph we are given the message Isaiah gave,
which they rejected. Notice they would
have none of it. Our sinful condition apart from God’s grace is frightful. They despised salvation and strength. In
their delusion they hoped for salvation from Assyria through reliance on
Their faith was in fast
horses, but the enemies’ horses would be faster. God promised them in Leviticus
26:6-8 peace in their land without fear.
This is what quietness is like. He promised to remove wild beasts
(Leviticus 26:6), but
30:18-26 Good News This paragraph is one of the most encouraging in the Bible. Vv.18-26 show that human sin cannot stop God from being gracious to His people. The section holds out both blessings and abundance. In verses 1-17 there is rejection of the Word, but vv.18-26 show the opposite: a receptive spirit to God’s Word, and an obedience that rejects idols.
30:18 Compassion and Justice Human sin will be treated in God’s justice; He cannot overlook sin and be Himself. The cross of Christ is the great evidence that God does not excuse sin. He may pardon it, but He never fails to punish it. When the penalty for sin is lifted from us, it is only because it was laid on Christ (53:6).
V.16 had a double “therefore” as does v. 18 (though the NIV unfortunately does not show it in v.18). This is a link between the verses. In v.16 the “therefore’s” are related to judgment; in v.18, to compassion. The judgment had to come first since the grace of God does not circumvent the justice of God. Grace works by justice being satisfied, not by justice avoided. V.18 could be translated “He will wait in order to be gracious.” Here God stresses devotion to His purpose using the language of longing. When we read that one ‘rises’, as in getting up early from desired sleep, it shows motivation and strong desire (Jeremiah 7:25).
30:19 By stating
30:20,21 First their bread was adversity; later there will be plentiful food (v.23). The contrast is between bread of adversity (i.e., suffering) and the presence of their teacher. Everyone who sins suffers the adversity that comes from sinning. That will change in this new day when instead of sinning, the Lord their Teacher will be present to give constant instruction. (Teachers could be singular or plural here.) The Lord will no longer hide His face from them (8:17; 45:15). They will see Him, because they have close contact. He will watch over them so carefully that He will keep them from sinning. If they stray to the right or the left, they will have immediate correction.
“So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you… so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess”.
This is the commandment in Deuteronomy 5:32,33, a command tied to teachers in Deuteronomy 17:11, and to other gods in 28:12-14. But here in Isaiah 30 we have a situation where one can no longer stray. Isaiah speaks of the glorified state where His people are held to holiness by their divine Teacher and are finally in full conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29). An immediacy in answered prayer, instruction, and of God’s presence among them, describes the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21,22).
30:23,24 This is the result of redemption of the earth itself from the curse on it in Genesis 3:17-19. God will give rain (i.e., proper conditions), and the earth will give in abundance. (See Amos 9:13-15.) Even the animals will eat well. In broad meadows they will be undisturbed. Suffering from Adam’s sin will be over for both man, animal, and all creation (Romans 8:18-25).
30:25,26 A great slaughter is in the future but not for God’s people, thus this reference to falling towers (see 2:12-18). For them there will there be no more tears, the water of affliction of v.20. God’s blessing is deliberately exaggerated as if water actually flowed on the top of mountains, and the sun and moon would give greatly magnified light; there will be an awesome change. It is the picture of a creation that no longer holds back its benefits of water and light; both are released in their full power. This is in conjunction with the Lord healing His people. Once He inflicted them for their sin; now having redeemed them, He heals them. Full redemption includes the inanimate creation and the sinful creature. (Only fallen angels have no redemption at all.)
30:27,28 All three stanzas of this section have consuming fire or burning in some form, with a climax in the prepared fire, Topheth. This is like the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). While this is a figure of speech, fire is the metaphor most used for the wrath of God on sinners. The notion now being promoted that hell is only the consequences of man’s choices, is a half-truth which devalues the Biblical emphasis that eternal judgment is the direct punishment of God. Here the burning anger is presented as from His lips, His tongue, His breath and He is the one who sifts the nations. Shaking or sifting is another metaphor of God’s judgment. (Note how Hebrews 12:25-29 repeats this description of judgment from Haggai 2:6,7, 21,22.)
God shakes the nations is a sieve of destruction. As in Matthew 13:47-50, this passage may also be teaching that there is a sifting in the day of judgment to separate the wicked from the righteous. In Matthew 13 angels separate the evil from the righteous. In this Isaiah text, it is God shaking the sieve.
Celebrating Judgment This stanza contains singing and musical instruments
(also found in v.32). In Revelation 19:1-4 there is cheering and praise to the
Lord over the destruction of
As Isaiah progresses there are more and more references to the Lord’s arm. Eventually it is the Lord’s Arm, because in 53:1 this is a term for Christ. When the arm is revealed (52:10), it is Christ. (See also 51:5,9; 59:1,16.)
music and judgment continue without any apology for God’s enthusiasm in dealing
section has many parallels with Isaiah 29:1-14. Chapter 31 opens with the fifth
of six woes in 28-35, in the NIV or six “ah’s” in the ESV. Some go down to
31:1 Isaiah keeps
up the theme that trust in
31:2,3 It was the
Lord Who brought the Assyrian disaster (10:6). It was the Lord Who promised the
preservation of the throne of David (He does not take back His words). It is
the Lord Who will rise up against the help of the evil-doers of
animal illustrations For their sin, God fights against
31:6-9 Not believing in such a wonderful Lord is a terrible sin, so Isaiah calls for repentance. A misdirected faith will always lead to terrible disappointment. Strong feeling against idols will come for all who trust false gods. “The Lord will be exalted in that day; the idols will totally disappear” (2:17,18). Isaiah probably means by “in that day” the Judgment Day. Then it will be horribly clear to idolaters that their idols are worthless. The appeal of the Bible is to turn from idols before their helplessness is evident to all the world in that great day when all shall see that only God is God (Philippians 2:9-11).
The deliverance from
The Assyrian defeat is one of
terror because the Lord is in
32:1 The Messianic King of chapters 9 & 11 will reign in righteousness, and so will the princes under Him. This chapter does not dwell on the righteousness of His reign but in the resulting righteousness to be found in His subjects vv.3,4.
32:2 How this is translated obviously affects whether it speaks of the one man, Christ as the shelter and shade, or other men as well – such as the princes of v.1. We may say, “A man would be wise to do this.” When we speak that way, we do not have one person in mind. But while it is possible in the grammar of 32:2 to speak of “each man” without having a specific soul in mind, Isaiah 32:1 is describing a king in the singular. I say the text ahs in mind one king, Christ. The prophet is not speaking of a number of men in v.2. He spoke of a king and then of a man to describe Him further. Would Isaiah really say that a number of men are each a shelter and refuge, when the Bible presents only the Lord Himself that way? So I urge this understanding: Isaiah spoke first of “a king” (v.1) with princes under Him. The he spoke of this great king with the righteous rule as “a man”, referring only to Christ. Please note that those who translate 32:1,2 have not denied that Christ is in view in v.1. No one in history fulfills v.1 but Christ.
Other weighty reasons to say “a man” as in the KJV for v.2 rather that “each man” referring to multiple persons:
1) In chapter 4 it is very clear that the overarching glory is the shekinah presence of the Lord shading His people. In that context He is “a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain” (4:6). This should affect how we read chapter 32. But Isaiah 25 does the same thing! “For you have been a stronghold to the poor … a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (25:4). Such is the clear language of Isaiah prior to the words of chapter 32.
2) The message of Isaiah in its early chapters relates to the throne and line of David, corrupted by his sons. Ahaz feared from his life and his city, ignoring the covenant with David, of which he was the chief beneficiary. In this context, the Lord promised the son of the virgin for the House of David ouse of David House in Isaiah 7, the son to assume the throne of David in chapter 9, the human shoot from the stump of Jesse in chapter 11. All of this and more points to the King of 32:1 being a man, the singular man of 32:2. It is nothing bless than a crying shame (pardon my exaggeration) for us to lose the Isaiah 32 gem in its reference to Christ. To do so is like the expert who comes in when a movie is half over and has missed the early story line.
In other words, we should interpret Isaiah by reading Isaiah.
This picture of Christ as protector and provider comes as protection from the driving wind and water, and protection from the scorching heat of the sun. He supplies water to sustain life. Having such a King has positive results as the following verses show. Vv.1,2 should be seen this way. The Lord Himself is a shelter and refuge from eternal danger brought on us by our sin. The danger to every sinner is the Lord God Himself, because in His holy justice, He must reward our sin with death. But the Lord has become our saving Refuge, because in His grace God has provided Christ. Since Christ took the guilt and punishment of our sin, we have in Him full forgiveness and shelter from the wrath of God. Apart from Christ that wrath would be upon us. Christ, and only Christ, is our Shelter and Shade.
32:3-5 The reign of Christ will bring about change in those who enjoy His reign. These changes are perception (eyes), reception (ears), grasp of truth (mind), and communication of it (tongue). Blindness to God’s truth (6:10; 29:9,10) will be removed. His people will no longer be rash; they will not talk without knowledge. No longer will fools be admired.
32:6-8 The future day will have no fools, but till then they are still with us. Isaiah describes in vv.6,7 how godless men speak and of the ruin they bring to others. They teach error concerning the Lord. We must beware of false teachers. (See Acts 20:29-31; all of 2 Peter and Jude; Philippians 3; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 3-4:5; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15, and Galatians). False teachers are noted for immoral lives and deceit. Following them brings emptiness, dissatisfaction, and destruction. This is a powerful Scripture to show us that doctrine is important. False doctrine and ungodly conduct are the devil’s trade. This must be answered by truth proclaimed and godly lives. When this is so, the quality of a noble man will be revealed. The wicked will not stand in the judgment; his way will perish, (Psalm 1).
32:8 V.1 anticipates quality princes who will rule in justice. Christ has others ruling with Him (Revelation 3:21). The righteousness of the right King results in righteousness in those allied with Him. So v.8 announces that noble colleagues (of Christ) will plan noble things. In v.15 we will see that the Spirit is poured out. That Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), Who will produce the character of Christ in His people.
Isaiah addresses different segments of
society from prophets to priests to old and young. Here he speaks again, as in
chapter 3, to complacent and selfish women. A failure to take serious things
seriously is a sin. These women feel secure because they do not believe the
prophet’s warning and cannot sense the famine that is coming. But the trouble
is worse than a crop failure; the fields that produce the grapes will be
overrun and the city itself will be deserted. Since
32:15-18 Another great blessing is still ahead for God’s people. God will pour out His Spirit upon those who are truly His people. Vv.6-14 show how bad it can be among the covenant people. God cannot be defeated in accomplishing His purposes. To bring righteousness among us, He had to send Christ, our Refuge from wrath, the Redeemer of His people from their sin. This same chapter promises the other great ‘sending’, the sending of the Holy Spirit. The language used is “pouring” because the Spirit’s work of bringing life is sometimes compared to water poured on dry ground (44:3,4).
Just as water brings life to plants in desert and forest, the Holy Spirit will bring justice, righteousness, and peace, the opposite of the disaster in vv.9-14. No longer is the new earth under a curse but blessing. The gospel is of salvation by resting in God’s promise (30:15). The Spirit produces righteousness in God’s people and that brings peace, quietness and confidence. In the new earth there will be no more war or conflict. The prophecy is not intended to inform us of what our houses will be like, but of peaceful life undisturbed by any external threat or internal sin. In the future kingdom of the Righteous King, Who pours His Spirit upon His own (Acts 2:33) there will be no threat to peace and righteousness.
32:19,20 The section ends with an epilogue. The world shall experience the wrath of God, shown by a destroyed forest and a leveled city. That judgment is real and is ahead for all who will not believe. The other experience is of the peace and happy fulfillment of one who can go about his business in safety. He is blessed and thus not under wrath. Even his animals live in security and without fear.