February 13, 2015.
Daily Reading: Isaiah 29-33.
Background: Isaiah 23-28.
Concepts and Connections.
1. A spirit of deep sleep from the Lord: As with times before, this is yet another prophecy against Jerusalem for their disobedience and apostasy, foretelling of the calamity that was in store for them if they would not repent and turn back to the Lord. The Lord would set His face against His people and His city for they had fallen away, committing spiritual adultery with other gods of foreign lands which surrounded them. God would raise up these lands against His people and use them as His arm gigabits Jerusalem. It is interesting that He says that He will once again do great and wonderful works in Jerusalem, however this time they would be against His people as opposed to the great and wonderful works He did when He brought them out of the bondage of Egypt. Now He was going to pour out a spirit of deep sleep on His people so that His prophets would not prophesy and His seers would not see visions. He was cutting off His people from His revelation, for they had forsaken it and hidden from the counsel of God. Paul talks about something similar to this when he tells about the coming activity of Satan and how God will send them a strong delusion that they might believe a lie, because they refused to love the truth so that they might be saved (see II Thessalonians 2:9-12). Let us not forsake the counsel of the Lord.
2. Lip service: Verse thirteen of this chapter is a very popular verse, as it can be applied to many people in many different situations. The people of God were offering lip service to Him, but their heart was far from Him. This is why calamity was to be brought upon them. This is why the Lord was going to send a spirit of deep sleep on them. Their hearts were not pure, for their intentions were far from God. The paid homage to God. They acknowledged Him, and even sent praises to Him. Yet they did not love God, nor did they follow Him. As can be inferred from the number of times this verse is quoted today, we can take lesson here, for it is very possible to act like we love God, to praise His name, but not be in the right with Him. Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 15:8, applying it to the scribes and Pharisees who would not accept Him, but tried to get His disciples to follow the tradition of the elders instead of simply the command of God.
It is possible to honor Him with our lips, but not with our lives. This is not good in the sight of God. It is deplorable, and He will not accept praise that is not from the heart. We would be wise to take an honest evaluation of our hearts and lives to make sure that our praise and worship is not vain lip service. Our worship is the way we live our lives, our spiritual sacrifice (see Romans 12:1).
1. Trusting in other instead of trusting in the Lord: When the children of Israel saw their enemies closing in on them (or when the southern tribes of Judah saw the captivity of the Northern tribes of Israel), they sought help. But they did not seek help from the Lord or take counsel from Him, but rather they went down to Egypt to elicit help from the Egyptians against their present enemies. The children of Israel are called “stubborn children” here, as they make plans without asking God and they stick to their own knowledge and wisdom, which will ultimately fail. Stubbornness can often keep us from relying on the Lord and giving up our pride to trust in Him and His wisdom. How often do we turn to other people before seeking refuge in the Lord? Sometimes it is very easy for us to judge the children of Israel for their flaws and mistakes, all while going ahead and making the very mistakes they did without even realizing. We need to learn to trust in the Lord and lean on Him and His understanding when we fall into various trials and tribulations, as well as in times of peace and prosperity. We do not need to ever forget or forsake the Lord, as His children had done here.
2. Rebellion and mercy: Time and again are the people called rebellious in this oracle, citing that they do not want to hear or see; they tell the prophets and seers to stop prophesying and seeing. They ask them to speak smooth things to them, and prophesy illusions. They did not want to hear the truth (because they didn’t believe it was truth), but only wanted to hear what they wanted to hear. They despised the word and trusted in oppression and perverseness. They were in rebellion to the Lord, and the Lord would not stand for it, for He cannot stand for unrighteousness. And yet, there is a bit of hope offered at the end of this chapter. It is said that the Lord “waits to be gracious” to them. The Lord wanted to show steadfast love and mercy to them, and He would do so at the first sign of their repentance. This is like the parable of the prodigal son, who upon his return from leaving his father to live in the word, the Father was waiting at the door and ran to meet him when he was a far off (see Luke 15:11-32). The Lord will indeed punish iniquity, but He is waiting and willing to show us mercy and grace. All we have to do is take that first step back, and the Father will run to meet us.
Trusting in might that will fail, and a seed of hope: Here we see again that the children of Israel had misplaced their trust. Instead of fully trusting the Lord to carry them through against their enemies. They trusted in the chariots and horses of Egypt instead of the mighty hand of God. And for this, they are given a woe and a promise that the horses of Egypt would fail. But then there is a call for repentance, a seed of hope that if the children of Israel return to Him who against whom the people had deeply revolted, the Lord would rise up and grant salvation to His people. He would again thwart the hand of their enemies and return them to their land. He would protect Jerusalem and His people. All they had to do was come back to Him. God loved His people and He did not want to see them destroyed. But He is also the definition of righteousness, and He cannot be around a people who has forsaken Him, for that was the point of free will: so that man might show his love towards God. The Lord was waiting, just as He is waiting on us. In whom are we going to trust?
1. Hope: If other passages in the previous two chapters offered seeds of hope, this one gives a clear picture of it. The chapter begins with the picture of a reigning king who will rule a land that has been set back to prosperity. A land where water flows freely and wisdom has been restored. A land where the righteous are called righteous and the fool no longer sets in their place. Good will be called good and evil will be known as evil. This is a picture of restoration, of reconciliation. A picture of peace, amid oracles of destruction. It is a vivid and beautiful picture of hope. When we are in trouble, when we are in trials, we do not need to forget the picture of hope that God has set before us. We should remember that He is on the side of those who love Him and He is working things out for good, for His glory (see Romans 8:28). When His land is established, no one will be able to stand against it. Let us put our trust in Him, for He alone can save.
2. Complacency: Though the chapter begins with a visual of hope, the oracle soon returns to pronouncing woes. This woe is against complacency, specifically the women who were at ease. The people thought things were fine, they weren’t worried about their iniquity. They thought little about their forsaking the Lord and turning to other gods. Complacency had come about them, and they were simply fine where they were at. There was no movement to seek God, there was no motivation to draw near to the Almighty. They were stagnant. This was not good, not only because the place they were stagnant was outside of God, but also because their complacency would hinder them from seeking out truth and returning to the Lord. Thus destruction would come upon them from the hand of the Lord. They were at ease now, but their comfort wouldn’t stay. Let us guard our hearts and check our complacency to be sure that we do not stagnate like the women in this section had done.
The plea and the Lord’s answer: In this chapter, there is a plea made to the Lord to be gracious to the children of Israel who had gone astray. The text does not specifically say who is making the plea, though Isaiah himself would be a likely candidate, who also talks about the people’s cry in the street. The visual given is one of a broken people, destroyed and laid to waste, who is crying out to the Lord, though the destruction had come by His hand for their disobedience. However, when God sees their cry for mercy, indicating a repentant heart, He does what is in His character to do when a people repent (especially His chosen people). He rises up to consume the enemies, those who have oppressed and destroyed. He again turns His hand to His people and becomes a protection for them. He will restore them and set things right. He will forgive them of their iniquity. What a beautiful scene that is pained. The Lord is waiting and willing to forgive us when we have gone astray. He is standing at the door looking to see us come back. He wants to show His mercy and steadfast love. He wants to forgive. It is His character. This happens when we repent and turn towards Him; when we put on His name to walk in His Spirit. Then the Lord will be once again our protection. His hand will be with us. When we cry out to God, God will answer. Let us never forget this, ever looking towards the Almighty for His mercy and grace.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 14-16.
To the everlasting King be glory, honor and dominion forever.