Major Prophets – Isaiah 28-30

For a link to Isaiah 28:1-29, press HERE.

Woe to you, Ariel, Ariel,
    the city where David settled!
Add year to year
    and let your cycle of festivals go on.
Yet I will besiege Ariel;
    she will mourn and lament,
    she will be to me like an altar hearth.
I will encamp against you on all sides;
    I will encircle you with towers
    and set up my siege works against you.
Brought low, you will speak from the ground;
    your speech will mumble out of the dust.
Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth;
    out of the dust your speech will whisper.
But your many enemies will become like fine dust,
    the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.
Suddenly, in an instant,
    the Lord Almighty will come
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
    with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire.
Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel,
    that attack her and her fortress and besiege her,
will be as it is with a dream,
    with a vision in the night—
as when a hungry person dreams of eating,
    but awakens hungry still;
as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking,
    but awakens faint and thirsty still.
So will it be with the hordes of all the nations
    that fight against Mount Zion.
Be stunned and amazed,
    blind yourselves and be sightless;
be drunk, but not from wine,
    stagger, but not from beer.
The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep:
    He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);
    he has covered your heads (the seers).
For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed.” Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I don’t know how to read.”
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.
Therefore once more I will astound these people
    with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
Woe to those who go to great depths
    to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
    “Who sees us? Who will know?”
You turn things upside down,
    as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
    “You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter,
    “You know nothing”?
In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
    and the fertile field seem like a forest?
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
    and out of gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind will see.
Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord;
    the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
The ruthless will vanish,
    the mockers will disappear,
    and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—
those who with a word make someone out to be guilty,
    who ensnare the defender in court
    and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob:
“No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
    no longer will their faces grow pale.
When they see among them their children,
    the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
    they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
    and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
    those who complain will accept instruction.”

  • Isaiah 29:1-24

For a link to Isaiah 30:1-33, press HERE.

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Isaiah 28:1-2 ‘Woe’: “The prominent thought in this word is impending disaster. crown. The walls of Samaria were the crown of a beautiful hill overlooking a lush valley, leading toward the Mediterranean coast. Ephraim. The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians, leaving a lesson for Jerusalem under similar circumstances to learn about foreign alliances. overcome with wine. Licentious living prevailed in Ephraim before her fall (vv. 3, 7; Amos 4:1; 6:1, 6). a flood of mighty waters. Isaiah drew on forceful figures of speech to wake his readers from their lethargy in the face of an impending Assyrian invasion.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 28:5-6 ‘a remnant’: Note the striking contrast of vv.5 and 6. The Lord will always preserve a remnant, and he will be its glorious crown.

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 28:8-11 ‘no place is clean’: “When leaders wallowed in filth, the nation had no hope. weaned from milk. The drunken leaders resented it when Isaiah and other true prophets treated them as toddlers, by reminding them of elementary truths of right and wrong. precept upon precept … there a little. This is the drunkard’s sarcastically mocking response to corrective advice from the prophet. The Hebrew monosyllables imitate a young child’s babbling ridicule of Isaiah’s preaching. another tongue. Since the drunkards would not listen to God’s prophet, he responded to them by predicting their subservience to Assyrian taskmasters, who would give them instructions in a foreign language. The NT divulges an additional meaning of this verse that anticipates God’s use of the miraculous gift of tongues as a credential of His NT messengers (see … 1 Corinthians 14:21, 22; cf. Deut. 28:49; Jer. 5:15; 1 Cor. 14:12).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 28:12 ‘they would not listen’: Isaiah was undoubtedly one of the most eloquent of preachers, and yet he could not win the ears and hearts of those to whom he spoke. It was not the fault of the preacher that Israel rejected his warnings; all the fault lay with that disobedient and stubborn nation. The people of Isaiah’s day were both drunk with wine and drunk with pride. I rejoice greatly when a man gives up his drinking, but I am far happier when he renounces his self-confidence. For it he does not, he may still remain so intoxicated in mind as to refuse the gospel and perish by his own willful rejection of mercy. May the Holy Spirit deliver us all from such a sad condition.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 28:13 ‘precept upon precept … there a little’: ”In light of their rejection, the Lord imitated the mockery of the drunkards in jabber they could not understand (see v. 10).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 28:14-22 ‘Israel’s Covenant with Death’: “Isaiah 28:14-22 deals with the covenant of death and Sheol. Daniel 9:27 prophesies that the Tribulation will begin with a seven-year covenant between Israel and the Antichrist, and this passage in Isaiah deals with the same covenant, adding some details to the Daniel prophecy. While Daniel 9:27 presents the covenant from n1an’s perspective, Isaiah 28:14-22 views the covenant from God’s perspective. Verse 14 reveals God’s view of those who enter the covenant—God calls them scoffers. He considers them mockers rather than serious leaders.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Isaiah 28:16 ‘stone for a foundation … a sure foundation’: “The Lord God contrasted the only sure refuge with the false refuge of relying on foreigners (v. 15). This directly prophesied the coming of the Messiah (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6—8; cf. 8:14, 15; Ps. 118:22). will not act hastily. The Greek OT interprets this Hebrew verb for hurry in the sense of ‘put to shame,’ furnishing the basis of the NT citations of this verse (Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 28:20 ‘too short … too small’: V.20 is probably a popular proverb, employed here to highlight increasing torment, as in spending a sleepless night because the bed is too short and the blanket too small.

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 28:23 ‘Give ear’: “The parable of a farmer underlined the lessons of judgment threats in verses 18-22. As the farmer does his different tasks, each in the right season and proportion, so God adopts His measures to His purposes: now mercy, then judgment; punishing sooner, then later. His purpose was not to destroy His people, any more than the farmer’s object in his threshing or plowing is to destroy his crop.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 29:1 ‘Ariel’: “The word means ‘lion of God,’ referring to the city’s strength, and perhaps ‘hearth of God,’ referring to the place where the altar of God always burns. Verses 7 and 8 show this to be a name for Jerusalem, and the chapter looks to the invasion of Jerusalem because of unbelief. where David dwelt. David named Jerusalem ‘the city of David’ (22:9; 2 Sam. 5:7, 9; cf. 2 Sam. 6:10, 12, 16; 1 Kin. 2:10; 3:1; 8:1; 9:24; 14:31; 15:8; 2 Kin. 8:24; 9:28; 12:21; 14:20; 15:7, 38; 16:20; 1 Chr. 11:5, 7; 13:13; 15:1, 29; 2 Chr. 5:2; 8:11; 12:16; 14:1; 16:14; 21:1, 20; 24:16, 25; 27:9; 32:5, 30; 33:14; Neh. 3:15; 12:37; Luke 2:4, 11). feasts. Jerusalem’s cycle of religious ceremonies was meaningless to God.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 29:4 ‘out of the ground … out of the dust’: “Jerusalem will be like a captive, humbled in the dust. Her voice will come from the earth like that of a medium spirit, like the voice of the dead was supposed to be. This would be fitting for her sins of necromancy.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 29:5-7 ‘all enemies will experience God’s wrath’: Vv. 7 and 8 seem to extend the notion that Assyria is not Jerusalem’s only enemy to be reduced to dust but that all foreign enemies of any time will experience God’s wrath. Such a view was a building block in the view of the inviolability of Zion (Jerusalem), i.e., that it will never be destroyed (cf. Ps 2).

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 29:10 ‘spirit of deep sleep’: “Because Israel refused to hear her true prophets initially, their ability to hear has been impaired. God gave them up judicially to their own hardness of heart. Paul applied this verse specifically to the general condition of Israel’s blindness during the age of the church (Rom. 11:8). prophets … seers. False prophets and seers have blinded their listeners with their false prophecies.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 29:15-17 ‘a woe oracle’: The next oracle (vv.15-17), a woe oracle, continues the theme of misguided wisdom. Isaiah mocks those who go to great lengths (and depths) to assure that their plans are somehow hidden from the Lord. Perhaps a secret political plan has been made between Israel and Egypt without consultation with Isaiah.

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 29:17-24 ‘Future Regeneration of Israel’: “Isaiah 29:1—16 deals mostly with Israel’s spiritual condition at the time of Isaiah and verses 17-24 look to the future, predicting a time of regeneration in Israel. Isaiah prophesies that someday Israel’s blindness will be removed and the people will be able to hear the Word of God and to understand what the prophets wrote. In that day they will have joy in the Lord—not a mere outward profession but the result of true regeneration. What Israel does not understand now, she will understand in the future.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Isaiah 30:1-2 ‘not of Me … not of My Spirit’: “Hezekiah’s advisers urged him to turn to the Egyptians, not to God, for help against the invading Assyrians. Isaiah denounced this reliance on Egypt rather than God, who had forbidden such alliances. not asked My advice. They had failed to consult God’s prophet. Egypt … Pharaoh … Egypt. The Lord had warned Israel against returning to Egypt (Deut. 17:16). Now, He warns them against an alliance with Egypt (31:1). Note the similar advice from the Assyrian Rabshakeh, while laying siege to Jerusalem (36:9).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 30:4 ‘relying upon weakness’: V.4 is not immediately clear, but the history behind the text suggests that the Ethiopian Shubako had only recently devastated Egypt and continued to have envoys in strategic locations, thus heightening the foolishness of relying on weakened Egypt.

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 30:6-7 ‘the sea monster’: Vv.6 and 7 comprise a separate oracle. With great artistic skill, Isaiah paints a picture of extraordinary measures to transport extravagant payment to buy the help of a wasted and wornout mythical figure now rendered impotent (Rahab is the sea monster but is here portrayed as an old woman sitting on the ground.)

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 30:15 ‘too busy to be alone’: “Unquestionably, part of our failure today is religious activity that is not preceded by aloneness, by inactivity. I mean getting alone with God and waiting in silence and quietness until we are charged with God’s Spirit. Then, when we act, our activity really amounts to something because we have been prepared by God for it (see Isaiah 30:15).”

  • A. W. Tozer, Faith beyond Reason

Isaiah 30:18-26 ‘Delay in Restoration’: “In Isaiah 30-31 the prophet warns Israel against any covenants and alliances with Egypt, an admonition that Hezekiah disobeyed, resulting in the Assyrian invasion of Israel. Isaiah 30 begins by describing the condition of Israel in Isaiah’s day, and then verses 18-26 go on to describe the future restoration of Israel. This delay of the final restoration is caused by Israel’s sins (verse 18). God is a God of justice, and people’s sins must be dealt with. When Israel finally returns to God, Jerusalem will be restored (verse 19) and the people will weep no more. This prophecy was not fulfilled after the remnant returned from Babylon; rather, it will be fulfilled in the final restoration connected with the advent of the messianic kingdom. In that day, God will provide outward guidance (verse 20) through teachers who will expound the Word of God honestly. He will also give inward guidance (verse 21) through the still small voice of the Spirit, who will warn the people against turning either to the left or the right. As a result, they will walk a straight path and not deviate from the will of the Lord (verse 22). They will receive the material blessings of the land (verses 23-25), and enjoy greater light (verse 26) from the moon, which will be as bright as the sun, and the sun, which will be as bright as seven suns. This increased light will not be harmful because this will be the day of Israel’s healing.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Isaiah 30:19 ‘getting away from God’: “People constantly struggle to get away from God, but the Lord is willing enough to receive them, to forgive them, to bless them, and to enrich them with every joy. Nor is he merely willing, but he is able, fully able, to assist the troubled heart in every difficulty and to comfort under every distress. Therefore, the Lord waits to be gracious and be exalted when he shows mercy. If God were unwilling on his part to receive people to himself, we might readily understand and in a measure justify the unwillingness of people to turn to God. But when the Lord bids them to return, invites them, reasons with them, entreats them, and makes every preparation for his reception, why do people refuse? The Lord has given rich promises to give the help people need, and it is inexcusable ingratitude and wicked obstinacy on the part of those who refuse to come to him so that they still persist in keeping aloof from the Creator. Many choose to perish forever rather than trust in God.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 30:21 ‘The voice from behind’: In the Scriptures the Lord is pictured as a Shepherd walking before His sheep, leading them through the dangerous wilderness of this world. Yet in Isaiah it is written, ‘And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.’ Why does the voice of the Lord sound from behind us instead of coming as usual from before? The rest of the verse makes it clear, ‘when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.’  Whenever we turn our backs on the way, the voice comes from behind us. The Lord never leaves the way. Always His voice sounds in the way and if we wander from it we can only hear a voice behind us, never in front.
“The story of the rich young ruler illustrates this further. As Christ watched the young ruler walk away from Him, He could speak only from behind him. And as the distance between the two increased, so much more faintly sounded the voice of Jesus in the young man’s ears. That was and could be only tragedy for the erring man. Christ calls men to Him. He never leaves the true way to go to them.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect

Isaiah 30:33 ‘Tophet’: “Lit. a place of abomination. Idolatrous Israel had burned to death human victims in this valley just south of Jerusalem, an area sometimes called the Valley of Hinnom (2 Kin. 23:10; see … Jer. 19:6). Later, it became known as Gehenna, the place of refuse for the city, with constantly burning fires, symbolizing hell. The defeat was to be so complete that the fire burns continually.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)


My Thoughts

There is so much imagery in these three chapters.

Isaiah 28 starts with Ephraim’s leaders being called drunkards.  The scene seems worse than some movies that depict debauchery run amok.  And in this debauchery, they have their “rules’.  So, if that is what they want, rule following for the sake of rule following, God will become the rule maker.

They will make a covenant with death.  Lies will be their refuge and falsehood their hiding place.  Hmmm. Sounds familiar.

Being a construction engineer, I loved the illustration of how God will provide justice like a measuring line and righteousness like a plumb line.  Your foundation for a structure needs both.  You need to have perfectly square corners.  You need to have the foundation the correct size and shape.  But it must also be level.  When you see new construction for a house, you might see batter boards.  The measuring line has measured the size of the structure, length and width.  But to make sure that the corners are at a perfect 90-degree angle, a string stretches across the corner to make a triangle.  Four inches along one side and three inches across the other should yield five inches between the ends.  The 3-4-5 triangle proves the corner is square, or 90 degrees.  But then the string lines of the batter boards must be level.  In ancient times, a plumb line is used, often still used in surveying.  But with the batter boards, they hang a level, a curve tube filled with oil and the air bubble must be in the middle.  Thus, God’s justice and righteousness provides us with a firm foundation, at least to construction people, it speaks volumes.

And the story of the bed being too short and the blanket too narrow, I have been there.  When visiting my parents, they had us sleep upstairs, where the grandchildren usually sleep when they visit.  My wife had the small bed with ample bed linens.  I slept on the day bed in the corner.  My feet dangled over the end of the bed.  I had a blanket that my younger son still has.  If I held it under my chin, it did not reach my knees.  Unlike the prophecy, I got “some” sleep, but not enough.

Isaiah 28 ends with the parable of the farmer.  It is important to take away the concept that plowing, then planting, then nurturing, then harvesting, then threshing all have their seasons.  And the details provided are interesting although I have not grown these crops.

Isaiah 29 refers to Jerusalem as Ariel.  It will be besieged.  I liked the image of someone dreaming of eating, but waking up hungry, dreaming of drinking, but waking up thirsty.  When I have been on survival training exercises, you do that.

Again, like with Ephraim, God speaks of rules for rules sake, that their worship is a bunch of empty rules to follow with no knowledge of why they are doing the rules or Who they are worshipping.  Can the pot tell the potter that he knows nothing?  Yet, it seems that is happening today in all walks of life.

But there will come a day when Jacob will no longer be ashamed.

Isaiah 30 tells of some of that shame.  They have turned to Egypt for protection, but  Egypt is unable to protect themselves.  When 1,000 flee from one attacker, it seems like the Israel-Arab wars during my youth.

And the Tozer commentary on Isaiah 30:21 is excellent.  God’s voice comes from behind, for as we wander from the true path, God remains on the path.  It requires the voice from behind for us to know we are going astray.  A wonderful illustration.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“Isaiah 28: 1. What examples from national news stories can you think of where a person’s pride, arrogance and self-indulgence have ultimately destroyed his or her plans? Do you tend to react to these stories more by scoffing or by examining your own life? Why? What have you learned about yourself from considering one of these stories?
“2. Judah’s kings often lacked strength to oppose evil. Where do you need, like Israel did (vv.5-6), the Spirit of the Lord to strengthen you to ‘turn back the battle at the gate’ of your life?
“3. Have you ever responded to the Lord’s message as the leaders did in verses 9-10? How long did that rebellious phase last? With what result? How did God break through your cynicism?
“4. In what ‘dead-end covenant’ (money, relationships, power, etc.) do people today try to find refuge? From what ‘overwhelming scourge’ (poverty, loneliness, insecurity) are they hiding? What is the good news for them in this passage? What is the accompanying warning?
“5. What would it take for you to learn to trust God as your resting place instead of these things?
“6. What use has the New Testament made of verse 16 (see 1 Co 3:11;1 Pe 2:4-8)? What are some of the implications of saying that Jesus is the foundation stone for your life? How will you demonstrate that in a practical way this week?
29: 1. What ‘spiritual high’ (v.9), ‘man-made rules’ (v.13) or ‘hidden agenda’ (v.15) do those in political and religious circles today use to try to keep God ‘on their side’, regardless of what is going on in their hearts? What such rituals or routines do you see in your church? How might Isaiah mock that practice?
“2. Which of these traps do you fall into at times? When was the last time you tried to sneak something past God so he wouldn’t notice? What did the ‘Potter’ then say to the ‘clay’? What else would it take to break you out of such presumptuous thinking (that the Potter is just like the clay)?
“3. Tell the group about a time when God turned things around for you ‘in an instant’ (v.5). What were you doing at the time you were ‘surprised by joy’? How did God show his love to you in a special, personal way? What does such a serendipity show you about God’s grace?
“4. The apostle Paul echoes Isaiah in saying that the ‘wisdom of the wise’, which advocates that people find spiritual reality in some other way than Christ, will perish (see 1 Co. 1:19). Have you found Christ to be a more reliable ally in your spiritual life than the other alternatives people turn to? How so? What other ally still seems to appeal to you? Why? What does this ally do to your faith in God?
“5. How has Jesus opened your ears and eyes to learn his message in away you never could before? In what ways do you still feel like you can’t quite hear or see what’s going on in Isaiah? What hope do the promises in verses 17-24 give you even in that situation?
30: 1. Judah‘s ‘Shame’ is repeated three times in verses 3-5. Judah looked for the right thing (security) but in the wrong place (Egypt instead of God). What are some of the wrong places you have hoped to find the right things (security, love, acceptance)? As a result of your search, did you find what you were looking for’? Or did your search ultimately lead to the building up of shame in your inner life? What is the antidote to dealing with shame?
“2. Israel was tired of hearing the Word of God, and wished to be left alone or listen to others as well. What in your life are the ‘pleasant things’ or ‘illusions’ (v.10) you would rather listen to at times? How have they resulted in ‘high walls’ (v.13), fencing out God?
“3. Have you experienced this wall of illusion eventually ‘cracking, bulging and collapsing’ down on you (as in vv.9-14)? What effect has that had upon you? With what are you building a new wall?
“4. Comparing 28:12 and 30:15 with Matthew 11:28-30, what differences do you see? What similarities? What thoughts or pictures come to mind as you consider the Lord as a ‘resting place’?
“5. If you are a workaholic, reliant on ‘swift horses’, how would you begin to apply verse 15? How does a busybody or workaholic find rest and quietness? What is there to repent of? How might the small group help in this regard?
“6. When we pray ‘thy kingdom come’, what does that imply about those who resist God and are not part of his kingdom? Should one rejoice at the thought of God‘s judgment? Why or why not?
“7. What does this passage say to severely oppressed people (Jewish prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp, or American Blacks marching for civil rights in the 1960s, or the Arab Palestinians in the 1980s)? Knowing God’s judgment is certain, how does that strengthen you to keep on following him?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for each chapter.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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