Do You Live According to Godís Word?
Explore the Bible Series
April 2, 2006
Background Passage: Isaiah 24:1-31:9
Lesson Passage: Isaiah 28:14-18; 30:11-18
Introduction: Some Old Testament scholars have called this section the Isaiah Apocalypse because of its transcendent themes and timeless relevance; however, this passage appears, to this Bible student, to continue the themes and arguments of the previous section.† The difference between Isaiah 13-23 and Isaiah 24-31, it seems, relates to the audience addressed in each section.† Isaiah wrote to the nations (Syria, Babylon, Moab, Egypt, etc.) in the former material; whereas, in our present study, the prophet centered his attention on the people of Israel and Judah.† The prophetís writing strategy is reminiscent of the Prophecy of Amos (See Amos 1-2).† There, Amos followed a similar pattern.† He preached judgment toward the nations of the Middle East, and, as a great crescendo to his sermon, turned his attention to Judah and Israel See Amos 2:4-16).
As we have seen before, the Higher Critics have portrayed this section as disjointed, lacking in thematic unity. They see this as the work of a redactor (editor) who merged divergent texts into a disheveled presentation of the material.† The sayings in this section, the critics claim, bear the marks of numerous writers in differing historical settings.† However, as I read the text, these materials seem perfectly consistent with the previous sections; indeed, I see this material as logical extension of the themes signaled in Chapters Thirteen through Twenty-three.
Brief Background Passage Outline:
I. Godís Impending Judgment on the Whole Earth (24:1-23): This chapter serves as a ďbridgeĒ to the previous material (Isaiah 13-23).† The prophet, in the preceding section, pronounced judgment on the nations of the earth; here, he summarized the universal nature of the Lordís judgment.† He saw the specific pronouncements against the individual nations as part of a greater whole.† The prophet took a more expansive view of Godís displeasure with sin.† Judgment will not merely come against individual nations; instead, judgment is Godís policy for all the people, tribes, and tongues that blatantly disregard his commandments.† The statements of judgment are all-inclusive.† The earth will bear the wrath of the Lord (See v. 1), but Godís displeasure aims at judgment for individuals as well (See v. 2).† There is, the text proclaims, both a universal and a specific aim in Godís judgment. The chapter indicates that manís sin has a catastrophic effect on the created order (See Romans 8:19-22).
II. A Hymn of Praise (25:1-12): In the midst of judgment, God will not forget mercy; indeed, his judgments have a redemptive purpose for the Lordís people. They see the hand of the Lord even in his righteous judgments he brings upon the nations of the earth.†† In spite of the horror of the holy verdict on sinful men, the righteous ones will experience the blessings of Jehovah.† He will strengthen and protect the weak and the poor, and he will spread a great feast of grace before his chosen ones (See v. 6).† Above all, our gracious God will save his people, and, in doing so, he will grant them great consolation in their sufferings (v. 8).†
III. A Second Hymn of Praise (26:1-21): This hymn extols the God of Judah who is worthy of the trust of his people.† This trust will produce perfect peace and unassailable strength for Godís people (See vv. 3-4).† Even the prophetís predictions of hardships will redound to the Lordís glory and the peopleís blessing. Like a woman in pains of childbirth, the Lordís people will cry out to Jehovah for help (See vv. 16-18).† Verses twenty and twenty-one recall Noahís experience in the ark (See Genesis 6f).† The Lordís wrath, poured out in the cataclysmic flood, demonstrated Godís mercy to Noah and his family.† Though they hid, for a time, in the ark, God brought them out to a new world.† The indignation of the Lord had passed, and Noah survived because of boundless mercy.
IV. A Third Hymn of Praise (27:1-13): Perhaps verse one goes better with the hymn of Chapter twenty-six.† ďLeviathanĒ, in that case, may refer to the great, monstrous rulers of the earth, and therefore, God has pledged that he will strike down these leaders. The image of the vineyard, as depicted here, stands in sharp contrast to the expressions in Isaiah 5:1-7.† Here, God delights in the vineyard.† The nations of the earth had threatened the vineyard of his people, but Jehovah will protect his inheritance (See vv. 4-8).† What has happened to the vineyard?† Once, God found it unworthy and unfruitful; later, he expressed his delight in its dignity and beauty.† Verse nine gives us the key to understanding what has happened in Godís vineyard.† The iniquity of Jacob had been removed, and the idols and altars were destroyed (See v. 9). Isaiah employed another analogy (vv. 10-13).† In these verses Isaiah compared his people to a scattered flock.† The remnant of his people, strewn among the nations, God will gather his people again in Jerusalem (See vv. 12-13).
V. A Lament for the Drunken Leaders of Israel (28:1-29): The tribe of Ephraim stands for the nation of Israel, and Isaiah raised particular concern about the pride and drunkenness of this people.† Their unfettered pride and disgraceful drunkenness will bring them to ruin (See vv. 7-8). God pledged to bring low these arrogant drunkards, and they will, under the Lordís judgment, wither like a flower (See vv. 1-4).† Thankfully, even the severe judgments of the Lord will not, according to the prophet, preclude Godís mercy toward the remnant of Israel (See vv. 5-6 and 9-13). The Messianic Age will bring security, hope, and regeneration to the people through the foundation stone laid in Zion (See vv. 16-19).† The last verses of the chapter (vv. 23-29) seem to indicate that God will discern a proper judgment for the sins of the people.† A farmer does not harvest his various crops in the same manner.† He processes the rye, cumin, barley, and wheat, as the nature of the crops require.† So God will do with Ephraim.
VI. A Lament for Jerusalem (29:1-24): Why Isaiah used ďArielĒ to refer to Jerusalem remains a mystery, but the context clearly identifies the ancient city as the prophetís primary concern in this chapter.† The people of Judah remained intensely religious during Isaiahís day, but they worshipped God in vain. Their feasts and ritual had no meaning (See vv. 1 and 13-14).† Furthermore, they sought to conceal their wickedness from the eyes of men, but, of course, they could not hide from God (See vv. 15-16).† Judahís enemies assaulted the land, but the Lordís hand stood behind the attacks (See vv. 2-8).† Here again, Isaiah peppered his thoughts with promises of mercy.† After a little while, God promised to give his people wisdom and remove the sinnerís shame (See vv. 17-24).
VII. The Foolishness of Not Trusting the Lord (30:1-31:9): The rebellion of Judah was revealed in their unwillingness to trust God; instead, they placed their faith in alliances with idolatrous nations like Egypt (See 30:1-7) and Assyria (See 30:27-33).† They filled their mouths with lies, and they despised the word of the Lord.† So disenchanted were they with Godís word that they sought to persuade the prophets to speak ďsmoothĒ things to them (See 30:9-10). Over and over, the Lord made overtures of grace to this rebellious people, but they would not seek Jehovah (See 30:15-17).† Eventually, God would show them mercy.† In the day of grace, they will hear the Lord, turn from the false teachers, and abandon their idols (See 30:18-22).† God promised to pour out his blessings upon Judah (See 30:23-26).†† Again, as Isaiah concluded this section, he chided Judah for seeking consolation in its political alliances with Egypt.† Only God could deliver Judah from her calamities (31:1-9).
Brief Thoughts on the Lesson Passage: Isaiah 28:14-18; 30:12-18
1. The leaders of Ephraim believed they had learned how to cheat death and judgment (See 28: 14-15).† They anticipated that God might visit some people with judgment, but they also flattered themselves that they would escape unscathed.† As we recently observed in a previous lesson, these wicked men, like Adam and his apron of fig leaves, thought they had devised a fool-proof shelter from Godís judgment (See vv. 14-15).†
2. No one escapes the judgment of God.† All will answer to Jehovah, but some will find mercy.† The grace of God comes to the elect in the form of a ďstoneĒ laid in Zion (See v. 16).† He is a precious and assayed stone and serves as the cornerstone and sure foundation for the people of God (See I Peter 2:4-10).
3. Men who rebel against God will find themselves like a decrepit, old wall; that is, they will have no defense against their enemies. Their fall will come swiftly and without immediate warning. Also, God will shatter them like a potter destroys a flawed vessel (See 30:12-14).† The judgment of disobedient men is as certain as the fall of a feeble wall or the destruction of a flawed clay vessel.
4. Many times, sinful men ignore and reject the merciful overtures of God (See 30:15-18).† He offers comfort, strength, and forgiveness; nevertheless, they would rather trust in their own devices.† The Lord is great in patience, and he waits for the repentant sinner to turn to grace (See 30:18).†