I often find myself drawn back to Isaiah 28. There’s all sorts of revelation within this one great chapter – from God breaking out, to the Babylonians breaking in, to Judah’s religious house of cards breaking down. I’ve written about parts and pieces and principles of this chapter in the past. I am at it again. That is safe for us, myself included.
Isaiah was prophesying prior to the Babylonian invasion. Things sort of seemed OK on one level, but the Lord sees things differently than we do, and He was graciously, though quite firmly, warning His people of upcoming troubles, initiated by Him. Although pertinent to the day in which it was written, because some of this chapter has never been fully-filled (“whole earth” mention, which coordinates with many other chapters and books in both testaments), we would do well to consider it as yet to fully occur (not one jot or tittle not occurring, says our Lord). Also we do well to consider how God operated in the past as a marker of how He will always operate, regardless of the Testament period in which we find ourselves. Paul certainly thought so: 1 Cor 10:1-11.
A good thing to remember – in Malachi – so clearly in the Old Testament, God sets forth that He never changes, and that even within the context of what we might consider the severity of the Mosaic covenant, His mercy was what kept His people from being consumed:
“For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower
Which is at the head of the verdant valleys,
To those who are overcome with wine!
(Both religiously as well as literally, Israel was in a drunken stupor)
2 Behold, the Lord has a mighty and strong one, (one appointed for a purpose of God’s judgment, Babylon)
Like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm,
Like a flood of mighty waters overflowing,
Who will bring them down to the earth with His hand. (it was God’s intended judgment purpose that was to occur)
3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim,
Will be trampled underfoot;
4 And the glorious beauty is a fading flower
Which is at the head of the verdant valley,
Like the first fruit before the summer, (a delicacy was the early fig crop, often devoured as a special treat – in like manner the Babylonians would actually enjoy their destruction of Judah)
Which an observer sees;
He eats it up while it is still in his hand.
5 In that day the Lord of hosts will be
For a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty
To the remnant of His people,
(In the midst of the worst of times, God would glorify those who were His, and who stood for His righteousness)
6 For a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment,
And for strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.
(in many ways, turning back the battle at the gate pertained to taking a stand against the religiosity and sin of the people of God. The Babylonians actually were not going to be turned back at the gate)
7 But they also have erred through wine,
And through intoxicating drink are out of the way;
The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink,
They are swallowed up by wine,
They are out of the way through intoxicating drink;
They err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
(still functioning in their offices, those who should have been righteous leaders were failing, falling, humiliated and degraded)
8 For all tables are full of vomit and filth;
No place is clean.
(next is the huge question, revealing an eternal truth we all would do well to understand – the progression of God as the divine Instructor of all things, who will only do things the right way)
9 “Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
Those just weaned from milk?
Those just drawn from the breasts?
(answer: absolutely not. Confirmation can be found in Hebrews 6 – the ones who had allowed themselves, perhaps by disuse or neglect, to be dulled backwards into a state of immaturity, were unfit in their present state to go on to higher education)
(and here’s a MUST. It simply has to be this way. There are no shortcuts in the Kingdom)
10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.”
(11 is an interesting verse, prophesying of a strange-speaking people who would be invading a disobedient nation. There is divine irony in that Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:21 clearly reflects back to this one verse to describe the sign of tongues being spoken out by saints – a similar “strange-speaking” sign of one kingdom – the kingdom of God – invading another disobedient kingdom – the kingdom of this disobedient world. No wonder the religious spirit would want tongues relegated to, at most, backroom ministry).
11 For with stammering lips and another tongue
He will speak to this people,
12 To whom He said, “This is the rest with which
You may cause the weary to rest,”
And, “This is the refreshing”;
Yet they would not hear.
(the rest and the refreshing would be, and is only, in obedience and compliance to the Spirit. Disobedience = wickedness = no rest. There is Sabbath, ceasing from one’s works and picking up the works of the Kingdom)
(nonetheless, the MUST of line upon line, which was intended to instruct progressively, remains in place, but sadly the progression was to become a breaking down as opposed to a building up, because of choices of the people)
13 But the word of the Lord was to them,
“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little,”
That they might go and fall backward, and be broken
And snared and caught.
(judgment is particularly harsh on those in leadership, who have convinced themselves that their plans, in contradiction with God’s plans, would keep them secure)
14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men,
Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,
15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
And with Sheol we are in agreement.
When the overflowing scourge passes through,
It will not come to us,
For we have made lies our refuge,
And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”
(God in His mercy tells them – and us – that in His mercy He has established a cornerstone of truth, a bedrock of Kingdom reality, and whether or not that stone is our foundation or for our crushing, is up to us)
16 Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.
17 Also I will make justice the measuring line,
And righteousness the plummet;
The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
And the waters will overflow the hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled,
And your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
When the overflowing scourge passes through,
Then you will be trampled down by it.
(the judgment of God will be complete, and will be thorough)
19 As often as it goes out it will take you;
For morning by morning it will pass over,
And by day and by night;
It will be a terror just to understand the report.”
(life will purposely be made uncomfortable. It won’t fit right, by divine design)
20 For the bed is too short to stretch out on,
And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it.
(the reference here is to God breaking in. 2 Samuel 5 and 6 has David proclaiming God as Baal Perazim – the Lord of break-ins/breakthroughs. On one hand, God had broken in and defeated the attacking Philistines [2 Sam 5]. Shortly afterward [2 Sam 6] David understood that the death of Uzzah [in mishandling the sacred ark] was also an act of a God who takes things seriously, even breaking in on the sin of His people).
21 For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim,
He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon—
That He may do His work, His awesome work,
And bring to pass His act, His unusual act.
22 Now therefore, do not be mockers,
Lest your bonds be made strong;
(interesting prophecy. “even upon the whole earth” is a phrase pointing to something bigger and more widespread that Nebuchadnezzar invading Jerusalem – and if that is the case, then the warning re not mocking may well be directed to the church and its propensity for happy-times-gospel and the writing off the warnings of last-days judgment, including judgment even beginning at the house of God)
Peter said it this way:
1 Peter 4:17
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts,
A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.
(23 through the conclusion of the chapter speaks on many levels – from God using the natural to demonstrate principles of the supernatural, to the truth that for some crops to be harvested they truly must be broken down carefully and thoroughly and most finely. God’s Spirit will accomplish His purposes, and we would do well to observe and learn and understand the work our God is doing, at this time, on earth. It will be thorough, it will be yield its harvest. It will be good)
23 Give ear and hear my voice,
Listen and hear my speech.
24 Does the plowman keep plowing all day to sow?
Does he keep turning his soil and breaking the clods?
25 When he has leveled its surface,
Does he not sow the black cummin
And scatter the cummin,
Plant the wheat in rows,
The barley in the appointed place,
And the spelt in its place?
26 For He instructs him in right judgment,
His God teaches him.
27 For the black cummin is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
Nor is a cartwheel rolled over the cummin;
But the black cummin is beaten out with a stick,
And the cummin with a rod.
28 Bread flour must be ground;
Therefore he does not thresh it forever,
Break it with his cartwheel,
Or crush it with his horsemen.
29 This also comes from the Lord of hosts,
Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.
(Yes the Lord of hosts – our great God identified by His warrior name “King of the universe and Commander of the armies of heaven, is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance. To whom will He teach knowledge, we were asked earlier).
Teach us, Oh Lord.
All Scripture NKJV.