Today: [Isaiah 28] The Stammering Lips of God’s Deliverance. In this chapter Isaiah declares that the northern kingdom has erred in its counsel like drunken leaders who have no wisdom. He then turns to the southern kingdom and exhorts them to learn from the bitter lessons of the northern kingdom. We may not be drunk with alcohol but Jesus warned us in Luke 21:34 not to allow our hearts to be drunken with worry and fear thus leading us to make decisions that exclude God and result in our own failure. Then Isaiah points us to the stammering lips through which God speaks as a foretelling of the day of Pentecost when God would send His power on the fledgling church in the aftermath of Jesus death burial and crucifixion. It is a strong exhortation to us to look to God and not to man for our deliverance during times of upheaval when we do not know what to do next.
[Isa 28:1-29 KJV] 1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty [is] a fading flower, which [are] on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! 2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, [which] as a tempest of hail [and] a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. 3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: 4 And the glorious beauty, which [is] on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, [and] as the hasty fruit before the summer; which [when] he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up. 5 In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, 6 And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate. 7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble [in] judgment. 8 For all tables are full of vomit [and] filthiness, [so that there is] no place [clean].
When Isaiah speaks of the tribe of Ephraim he is referring actually to the entire remnant of the northern kingdom of Israel which had divided from Judah in Rheoboam’s day. In the beginning God spoke through the prophets that the kingdom should be divided however the northern tribes immediately lapsed into idolatry and over time became fierce enemies of the southern kingdom of Judah. During the time that Isaiah spoke against the north, they had joined in military conquest with Syria and other neighboring enemies of Jerusalem to wage war and force Judah to join with them against Assyria. Isaiah compares them to drunken counselors and leaders who have gorged themselves to insensibility who will be brought to shame when the battle is turned to the gate and destroyed right when they think that the southern kingdom is theirs for the taking.
When we read of the northern kingdom we can find an application for our own correction in the area of compromises we make out of expediency and self-survival. From the very beginning the northern tribes made idolatrous choices in refusing to allow their people to go to Jerusalem to worship even though God had authorized them to establish a second kingdom. Samaria (the northern capital) was afraid to see their people worship in Jerusalem so they established a pagan altar in Bethel and commanded the people to worship there. Many times God will move in our lives and give us instruction and a promise of His blessing, only to find ourselves intimated and fearful to walk in the place that God has provided. When we move out of fear and insecurity we set ourselves at enmity against God in the very situation He led us into for our blessing and benefit. The important thing for us is to identify when we are making sinful and ungodly choices because we feel we have no other option. Those are the times that we forsake our own mercy and set ourselves up for failure right at the moment of our greatest breakthrough.
9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? [them that are] weaned from the milk, [and] drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept [must be] upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, [and] there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This [is] the rest [wherewith] ye may cause the weary to rest; and this [is] the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, [and] there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. 14 Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which [is] in Jerusalem. 15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: 16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Now Isaiah turns his attention to the southern kingdom of Judah. He points to the folly and destruction that is taking place in the north and asks the southern kingdom and its people in effect “are you learning the lessons gleaned from the destruction of Samaria”? When you see others make ungodly choices and suffer for it – we should make a choice to learn from the failures of others and resist the temptation to conclude we are better than they are because we haven’t suffered the same fate. The consequences that fall on the disobedient are not a pretext for us to justify ourselves rather to humble ourselves and ask for mercy for our enemies and for our own lives as well.
Isaiah goes on to warn the southern kingdom to guard against the rationale that the north followed that got them into trouble. This passage is often misquoted by teachers and ministers when they say that God teaches “line upon line and precept upon precept…” as a means of helping the people of God. Actually Isaiah is warning the people not to expect everything that God tells them to appeal to their logic and rational lest they (v. 13) they “fall backward, be broken, and snared, and taken (into captivity) which ultimately is exactly what happened. In the midst of this prophetic exhortation is a declaration of a voice rising up with stammering lips to speak to the people of Jerusalem which eventually takes place on the day of Pentecost as we read in Acts 2:
[Act 2:1-4 KJV] 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This came about in a day when the priests and rulers in Jerusalem had made the very error that Isaiah speaks against in chapter 28. The people in Isaiah’s day made decisions that made sense to them, that they felt they had no other choice than to commit to even though in so doing they set themselves in opposition against God and forsake their trust in the leading of the Lord and the dictates of God’s word. The southern kingdom in Isaiah’s day responded to the threat of invasion from the north by setting up idols in the temple of God in order to impress and influence the Assyrians to spare them and protect them. They thought they were still faithful servants of Jehovah – just doing what was necessary, making necessary compromises for their own survival. This was exactly the thinking of the leaders of the people in Jesus day who crucified Jesus because they feared his popularity would bring down upon them the wrath of Rome. As a result of their demand to implement solutions that arose from “line upon line, precept upon precept” thinking they brought upon themselves their own destruction and crucified the Lord of Glory, their own Messiah.
The danger for us is that we make the same errors in our own life, relying on our own flawed thinking and logic rather than trusting in God and waging war in the spirit with stammering lips and another tongue crying out to God for salvation rather than compromising our faith looking for natural solutions.
17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. 18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. 19 From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only [to] understand the report. 20 For the bed is shorter than that [a man] can stretch himself [on it]: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself [in it]. 21 For the LORD shall rise up as [in] mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as [in] the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. 22 Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth. 23 Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. 24 Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? 25 When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place? 26 For his God doth instruct him to discretion, [and] doth teach him. 27 For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. 28 Bread [corn] is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break [it with] the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it [with] his horsemen. 29 This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, [which] is wonderful in counsel, [and] excellent in working.
The southern kingdom in enticing the Assyrians and the Babylonians by setting up idols in the temple had made a covenant with death, a deal with the devil hoping to be spared. As a result, Isaiah tells them that the respite they are seeking from the pressures around them is like a tall man trying to sleep in a short bed. They have put their trust in man and set themselves at enmity with the very God who would have totally delivered them had they trusted in Him instead of in their own logic and their own flawed ability to solve their own problem. In verse 22 Isaiah anticipates the people mocking his counsel and warns them that their own mockery will result in greater bondage in the coming ruin. Many times we get under pressure and we look to the scriptures and what God has said with frustration and conclude we have to do what we must do no matter what the bible says. This is the mockery that makes the consequences of disobedience even harsher. I remember when I have faced difficult decisions and did not know which way to turn that instead of resorting to my own strength or ungodly counsel I would go to God and say “God if this is what you want me to do – I don’t have the courage or the strength to do it…” Then I would experience the mercy of God instead of chastisement because I humbled myself in the situation rather than try to think my way out of the difficulty ignoring what God might say to deliver me. The chapter concludes with Isaiah warning the people that as they have sown in disobedience so they will reap consequences God never intended for them to their own hurt. This is a cautionary chapter for us that when we are under pressure and do not know where to turn that we look to God and wait upon Him trusting in spiritual resources rather than our own reason or rational to save us.
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