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Isaiah 28: His Strange Work




Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom, overlooks the finest land in Israel, fertile and overflowing with wine. Isaiah likens the city to a wreath of beautiful flowers, but the flowers are fading. All Ephraim has left is their pride, but the Lord has an agent of change: the armies of Assyria. The Assyrians will come in with the power and speed of a flood, and like a flower in a hailstorm, Ephraim will be beaten down. Ripe for the picking, Ephraim is about to be consumed.


But Isaiah comes with a word of comfort to the remnant in the south. Rather than boasting in their own beauty, the Lord’s people will be His beautiful crown. And He, like a noble king, will be their source of justice and strength.


In verse 7, Isaiah turns his attention to “these also”—those he ministers among, the leaders of Jerusalem. Isaiah is either picturing or present at a banquet where the leaders are celebrating their alliance with Egypt. Like drunkards, the priests and their puppet prophets are suffering from a case of stupid. Their senses have left them, and they are resting their hopes on the questionable strength of Egypt rather than the sure sovereignty of God.


This is those leaders’ response to Isaiah:


“Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message?

To children weaned from their milk? For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there.” (verses 9-10)


Translation: “What? Do you think we were born yesterday? A simpleton is trying to be our teacher in the things of God!?!”


Isaiah’s response: “Very well then. How’s this for simple: Foreign invaders are on their way to tell you what to do.”


The priests and leaders of Judah may have given lip service to serving the living God, but like the Israelites in the desert, they didn’t want to hear His voice. And so they would find themselves surrounded by the noise of the Assyrians.


I doubt the words Isaiah assigned to his mockers in verses 14 and 15 were their actual words. I think they were Isaiah’s way of saying, “You boast about signing a covenant with Egypt, but you are really signing your own death warrant.” He heard them in their arrogance saying, “We know what we’re doing; we’ll stake our lives on it.” And they did. They exchanged a sure thing for a false-placed hope.


Short-term fulfillment of this prophecy is seen at least once in our history books, but the Bible promises there is another on the way. According to Daniel 9, leaders in the end days will be cut from the same cloth as those in Isaiah’s time. Through an alliance with the antichrist, they will enter into a covenant with death. I doubt they will see it as that, but rather as an alliance with the forces that can keep them from destruction. Wrong again. Fear is never a secure foundation.


“Each historical situation faces the Lord’s people with the same issues, which will all come to climactic expression at the last day. Therefore, the faith which trusts a sovereign and gracious God is the only practical course for life now, just as (and because) it will be the only saving course then.” (Motyer, J. Alec, The Prophecy of Isaiah, InterVarsity Press)


So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line (verses 16-17).


The beauty and complexity of God never ceases to amaze and humble me. We so discount Him, thinking that lying to others and dishonesty with ourselves will keep us safe from the truth! It’s God’s goodness that allows our refuge of lies to be swept away, yet He leaves us a sure foundation to cling to while He continues to do away with all that is not founded on Him.


The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you (verse 20).


Has anyone ever said to you, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it?“ A bed made as a refuge from the truth is too short to stretch out on. Its security blanket is too narrow for cover. There is no peace, no rest. But imagine a king-sized bed with a comforter you can tuck in all around. That’s rest! That’s the place God has made for His people.


But Judah’s leaders refused it.


“At this point, Isaiah is advocating repentance not because it can prevent what’s coming—it’s too late for that—but because there is no other way to prepare. The only way to flee from God’s judgment is to flee to Him.“ - (Motyer, J. Alec, The Prophecy of Isaiah, InterVarsity Press)


The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon— to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task. (verse 21)


(Mount Perazim and Valley of Gibeon were places where God masterminded the triumphs of David in founding Zion as the nation’s capital.)


His ways don’t make sense to the mind that wants everything explained. But God calls us to a place we can’t understand. He calls us to follow Him without knowing where He is going. (Remember Abraham?) He asks us to cling to Him while letting go of everything else. Without wondering why, we cannot grow!


Now stop your mocking, or your chains will become heavier;

the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has told me of the destruction decreed against the whole land. Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.

When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil? (verses 22-24)


Why plow if not to sow? Why keep working the soil? This breaking is designed to finally bring forth fruit. His intent is good. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and the LORD has Assyria ready to do His bidding. He paints a picture for His people of the fury that will overtake His land.


Tucked away in the middle of today’s reality are three powerful, hope-filled words: “In that day.“ The plan of God is steadily advancing as we see the plans of the enemy unfolding.


The violence of the last days reminds me of an inset on a roadmap: a section enlarged and superimposed on the whole. That small section looks so big, but when you turn your eyes back to the entire map, the enlarged section while demanding attention, is seen for what it really is: a little piece of an entire world.


All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent! (verse 29)


Amen.