Friday, March 7, 2014

CCXLII - Isaiah 28-31

As a quick review for a backdrop, I need to mention that Judah was being given the opportunity to ally itself with the powerful Egypt.  They needed protection from the inevitable attack from the Assyrians, an aggressive government with a much stronger military than Judah had.  Egypt was known as a power that not even the Assyrians would take to task.  So, to all of Judah’s leaders, an alliance with Egypt seemed to be the perfect answer to their current dilemma.  But God had instructed His spokesman Isaiah to warn Judah against such an alliance.  The principle message was that they needed to rely on God as their Protector, rather than a foreign military.  Isaiah had his work cut out for him.

Chapter 28

Note that when the book of Isaiah refers to Ephraim he is referring to the northern kingdom Israel, who was about to be taken into captivity by the Assyrians.  Judah and Israel had been at odds for generations, but now Israel was trying to convince Judah to join their alliance with Syria to further strengthen all three of them against the aggressive Assyrians.
Isaiah starts out this rather long indictment against Israel in the very first verse by getting their attention.  He opened with the word “Woe”, a word to precede lamentations, drawing attention to whatever might follow.  Then he further shocks them by calling their leaders “drunkards”.  {Not much of a way to win friends and influence people, but the situation was too severe for mincing words.  Isaiah needed to get the attention of both Israel and Judah however he could.}  Isaiah shows desperation trying to reveal Israel for what it has become, and he is placing most blame on their current leaders.  Look at verse 7 and 8.  Not only the government leaders, but also the religious leaders were so influenced by drinking that their vision was blurred and their judgment was confused.  Look in verse 8 as it describes a disgusting situation:  Their tables were covered with vomit and there was not a clean spot on them.  He is using desperate language because the situation is desperate.  Israel is about to be taken captive and if Judah does not listen to Isaiah, it will suffer the same fate.

In verses 23-29 Isaiah uses a farmer parable to explain that God has an order in which He acts, determining the timing of the steps based on the hearts of His people.

Chapter 29 begins with the same word as did 28, “Woe”.  But this time he is not speaking to Israel.  He is speaking to Judah.  The word Ariel is referencing the altar of God meaning the Temple, which is located in Jerusalem.  This seems to be about the time Sennacherib of Assyria was unsuccessfully laying siege against Jerusalem.  The good thing about the attack was that the people of Judah were finally listening to Isaiah.  Isaiah’s message remains here that the temptation to rely on foreign alliances must be resisted, choosing rather to rely on God.  But in the last few verses of this chapter we see that Isaiah (as always) offers hope to his listeners for their own future.  This style of following gloomy prophecies with future hope is throughout the book of Isaiah. 

Chapter 30 shows Isaiah continuing his warning against foreign alliances. In the first twenty-six verses of this chapter Isaiah deals directly with Judah, but not kindly.  As mentioned earlier, Judah thought the answers to their problems with the threat from Assyria lay in Egypt and their mighty military.  Judah was directly between Assyria and Egypt, therefore it made sense that Egypt wanted to keep Judah as a safe and strong buffer zone against the world’s most aggressive military power.  So Judah sent a group of officials to Egypt to make that appeal to Pharaoh.  In the first few verses Isaiah speaks directly to these officials, warning them that all of Egypt’s horses, chariots, and brave soldiers cannot protect Judah from Assyria or any other nation.  Basically Isaiah is telling this group of officials that they are wasting their time.  But up to verse 26 in this chapter Isaiah is not really criticizing the logic of the delegation to Egypt.  Isaiah wants all of Judah to realize that sending that delegation to Egypt is just a symptom of the larger problem:  Judah has forsaken God.  Depending on Egypt for protection is just further evidence of it.  Isaiah uses poignant language in describing Judah’s current state of spiritual despair.  And the pitiful part is that they do not realize it.  Isaiah is pronouncing judgment on Judah, but at the same time he is appealing to them to turn back to God which will avert the very judgment he prophesies.

Verses 27-33 tell of God being ready and anxious to bless Judah.  Not only that, but He will punish Assyria for not only what they have done, but also for what they will do in the near future.  Although Isaiah goes into much more detail of Assyria’s fate in chapter 37, he is continuing to appeal to Judah at this time to turn to God rather than to Egypt.

In chapter 31 Isaiah return to his appeal and forewarnings against Judah’s supposed dependence on Egypt, using more direct language in his descriptions.  In verse 8 he prophesies that Assyria will fall not by human sword, but by the hand of God.

In the next post we will continue our study of Isaiah in chapter 32, but will see Isaiah’s subject shift from condemnation to redemption and deliverance. 

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