Wednesday, October 25, 2023

2023.10.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 28

Read Isaiah 28

Questions from the Scripture text: How does chapter 28 begin (Isaiah 28:1, cf. Isaiah 29:1Isaiah 29:15Isaiah 30:1Isaiah 31:1Isaiah 33:1)? Upon what is this particular woe pronounced (cf. Isaiah 28:3a)? What sort of crown is it? What are Ephraim called (Isaiah 28:1a, verse 1d)? How did they think of themselves (Isaiah 28:1-4a–b)? But how long would this last (cf. Isaiah 28:4c–e)? Whom does the Lord have (Isaiah 28:2a)? Who will do what to Ephraim (verse 2d, Isaiah 28:3b)? How strong is he (Isaiah 28:2b–c)? Who will be the true crown (Isaiah 28:5b)? Unto whom? What two things will He be for them (Isaiah 28:6)? How have the people erred so much (Isaiah 28:7)? Especially whom (verse 7c)? Erring in what (verse 7f)? With what result (Isaiah 28:8)? Since their “wise” officers are unable to teach and lead, what question does Isaiah 28:9 ask? Why is longevity and maturity necessary for leadership and teaching (Isaiah 28:10)? How/from whom will this people learn instead (Isaiah 28:11)? What message have they previously received (Isaiah 28:12)? And how did they respond (verse 12d)? How did this rebellion and hardening proceed (Isaiah 28:13)? Especially whom is the Lord now specifically addressing (Isaiah 28:14)? How have they tried to escape the death that Assyria is bringing through the region (Isaiah 28:15)? What does the Lord YHWH offer, instead, for an escape (Isaiah 28:16)? What will this cornerstone be like (Isaiah 28:17a–b)? What role will the suffering have (verse 17c–d, cf. Isaiah 28:2b–c)? How will their hoping in their alliance with Assyria turn out (Isaiah 28:18-19)? What is hoping in our own plans like (Isaiah 28:20)? Upon whom had the judgments of Isaiah 28:21a–b fallen (cf. 2 Samuel 5:20; Joshua 10:10)? Now upon whom have the demonstrations of His awesome work fallen (Isaiah 28:21c–d)? In light of what coming event is it imperative that they submissively learn their lesson (Isaiah 28:22)? How does Isaiah 28:23 call, again, for attention? To what does He compare His afflicting them (Isaiah 28:24)? But what must the affliction give way to (Isaiah 28:25)? From whom have plowmen learned to work in this way (Isaiah 28:26)? How do they apply this wisdom (Isaiah 28:27-28)? Who, therefore, will customize His own work (Isaiah 28:29)? 

What hope is there for a people under judgment for their pride? Isaiah 28 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that those (all of us!) who are under judgment for pride must abandon our pride and humble ourselves to receive salvation as a gift from all-wise, all-powerful, abundantly merciful God.  

Woe to our pride. This the first in a new series now of six woes (Isaiah 28:1a, cf. Isaiah 29:1Isaiah 29:15Isaiah 30:1Isaiah 31:1Isaiah 33:1). Each section deals with some aspect of why Israel is coming under judgment from Assyria—and how this is a danger for all sinners, who must escape a greater judgment that is coming, or else perish eternally. In this case the “woe” is “to the crown of pride.” 

Pride puts man in the place of God. The doubling of the description emphasizes how Ephraim thought of themselves as “gloriously beautiful” (Isaiah 28:1b, Isaiah 28:4a) and took credit in their heart for the lush green valleys that sprawled below their cities (Isaiah 28:1c, Isaiah 28:4b). But whereas they were crowning themselves (Isaiah 28:1a, Isaiah 28:3a), the saved remnant are those who acknowledge that it is to YHWH alone that the crown truly belongs (Isaiah 28:5).

Pride turns blessing into curse. Wine was a great blessing of the land that looked forward to the great blessings of the last day (cf. Isaiah 25:6). But what happens when you credit yourself, rather than the Lord for your blessings? Rather than enjoying Him in them, you treat the blessing itself as the treasure. And rather than enjoying in accord with His good and life-giving law, you enjoy according to your death-bringing lusts. Look at how the “drunkards of Ephraim” (Isaiah 28:1a, Isaiah 28:3a) destroyed (Isaiah 28:7) and defiled (Isaiah 28:8) themselves!

Pride harms not only ourselves, but those to whom you ought to have been a blessing. By their pride, Ephraim didn’t just harm themselves, but the generations to come. The problem in Isaiah 28:9 is the problem in Hebrews 5:12. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” 

In God’s ordinary way of working among His people, He uses one generation to teach the next. But Ephraim’s pride has made them spiritual infants (Isaiah 28:9). Spiritual maturity comes through the cumulative formation of doctrine and life (Isaiah 28:10Isaiah 28:13) in which God accommodates our slowness of mind. Even now, He will accommodate Israel by teaching them by means of foreign invaders (Isaiah 28:11) to find rest and refreshment in Him alone (Isaiah 28:12a–c), but they still will not hear (Isaiah 28:12d, Isaiah 28:13e–f). 

Pride keeps us from the One True Hope. It’s not just Ephraim (northern Israel) who are proud. Isaiah 28:14-15 reminds us of Jerusalem’s pride. Remember back in Isaiah 7:10ff, when YHWH commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign that He was going to save them from Assyria. But Ahaz responded as if he was being godly (cf. Isaiah 7:12), when the real reason was that he was hoping in his own alliance with the Assyrian king (cf. 2 Kings 16:7–9). He was afraid of Ephraim/Syria and trusted in Tiglath Pileser. And YHWH declared that trusting in their own conspiracy (cf. Isaiah 8:12a–b), and fearing what mere man can do (cf. Isaiah 8:12c), actually kept them from trusting YHWH (cf. Isaiah 8:13) and made His salvation a stumbling block to them (cf. Isaiah 8:14–15). 

Now YHWH calls that covenant a covenant with “death” (Isaiah 28:15a) and “Sheol” (verse 15b), and they will not actually escape when Assyria comes through (verse 15c–f, Isaiah 28:18-19). Pride deceives us to trust in our own ideas, so that we trust in ourselves, or we trust in men, to such an extent that when the Lord YHWH lays a sure foundation of salvation (Isaiah 28:16, cf. Isaiah 8:14a), they stumble over it (cf. Isaiah 8:14–15c).

O how dangerous is the pride that so blinds us that we stumble over God’s salvation instead of resting upon it! When people are determined that they can somehow get themselves out of trouble, then when God Himself offers salvation, they treat it as if it is by works. A hear that is hoping to find out how to save itself will turn believing in Jesus into a work, making a decision into a work. It wasn’t just Ahaz who did this in the 8th century BC; unbelieving Jews were doing it in Paul’s day (cf. Romans 9:31–33), and unbelievers continue to do it in Christian churches.

STOP HOPING IN YOUR RESPONSE to the gospel, and hope instead in Him Whom the gospel announces to you! Don’t hope in your decision. Don’t hope in your faith. Don’t hope in how sorry you are. Don’t hope in how sincerely you mean it this time. Hope only in Christ, only in Who Christ is and what Christ has done! Our own works, even our believing, are marvelously illustrated in Isaiah 28:20. You can imagine the feeling—perhaps you know the feeling—of a bed that is just a little bit too short, or a blanket that is just a bit too small. Such a bed seems to hold a promise of rest, and such a blanket seems to hold a promise of warmth, but either one results in a long night of misery! Such is any hoping at all in what we do; it is a stumbling over the stumbling stone. 

Pride keeps us from receiving God’s chastening well. If we are humble enough to hear the Lord instructing us (Isaiah 28:22a, Isaiah 28:23), then we will be able to see His mercy even in afflicting us. Isaiah 28:21 refers to 2 Samuel 5:20 and Joshua 10:10, but we must remember what was just said, in the previous section, in Isaiah 27:7. For those whom He is saving, the Lord’s chastening may be painful like the plow (Isaiah 28:24a), but it aims at planting (Isaiah 28:25-26), threshing (Isaiah 28:27), and grinding (Isaiah 28:28). At the end, there have been several different sorts of pain, but the outcome is a fine flour. This, of course, corresponds to what He has just said about gathering His remnant to Himself as good wheat and making sure that not one grain is left out (cf. Isaiah 27:12). The Lord’s work in a believer’s life may include many phases of pain (cf. Hebrews 12:11a), but its outcome is a fruit (cf. Hebrews 12:11b) that fits us out for seeing the Lord! 

God give us humility to learn from Him, to rest upon Him, to receive His chastening well, and even to be matured—here a little, there a little—until we can be used to teach this to generations to come!

What are some instances where pride harmed you in ways that are highlighted in this chapter? What would the corresponding humility look like? From Whom can it come? By what actions / attitudes can you seek it from Him?

Sample prayer: Lord, we see how self-destructive Ephraim’s pride was. But we too have often failed to learn from You. We have often failed to rest upon You. We have often failed to rest upon You. We have often received chastening without hope in Your purpose behind it. We see, now, how great are the workings of our remaining pride in each of these things. Forgive us for that pride, we pray. And give us humility by the merciful and powerful work of Your Spirit, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP9B “Sing Praise to the LORD” or TPH389 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear?”

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