In Chapter 28 Isaiah will pronounce a woe to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In Chapter 29, Isaiah will pronounce a woe to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Father, I pray that our study in Isaiah will not merely be a review of ancient history. I pray that all who read this may see a practical application for today. Speak to us through your word Father, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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!
Ephraim was the strongest and most prosperous tribe in the Northern Kingdom (Gen 48:14-20; 49:22-26). Therefore, Ephraim was often used synonymously with Israel. Unfortunately, their prosperity led to their decadence. All great nations seem to go through similar cycles. Faith leads to courage which leads to liberty which leads to abundance which leads to apathy which leads to decadence which leads to the downfall of the nation. Ephraim was renown for her glorious beauty, but her days were numbered.
2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one [Jesus], 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.
The Assyrian invasion of Israel was the hand of God.
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,
Here we have another glimpse of the millennium. Isaiah continues his practice of oscillating back and forth between the present and the future.
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.
Drinking is what destroyed Alexander the Great. Solomon’s mother taught him that wine is not for kings, but for those who are in hospice care (Pr 31:6). Paul wrote that we as Christians are not to be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Eph 5:18)
8 For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.
The Romans are infamously remembered for their drunken reveling. It is said of Mark Antony that he once vomited in his toga while addressing the Senate. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, wrote diatribes against the use of alcohol because of its corrupting influence.
“It shows much more courage to remain dry and sober when the mob is drunk and vomiting.” — Seneca*
It appears that the drunkards of Ephraim may have been even worse than the Romans. Their tables were full of vomit; that is just plain disgusting.
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.
In some Pentecostal churches, speaking in tongues is a litmus test for being born again. However, according to the Bible, tongues are a sign to those who do not believe rather than a sign to those who do. (1 Cor 14:22) When this passage was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, those who did not believe accused the apostles of being drunk.
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.
They were instructed in the word of God and were therefore held accountable to understand and obey the word of God, but they did not. Instead, they fell backward, and were broken, and snared, and taken.
14 Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
In verse 14 Isaiah pivots from the Northern Kingdom to the Southern Kingdom, ie 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 [the Lord Jesus Christ]: he that believeth shall not make haste [in other words Christians should be patient].
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.
Jerusalem escaped the judgment of the Assyrians that led the people of the Northern Kingdom away as captives, but another judgment was coming. One hundred years later they would fall prey to the Chaldeans and be taken as captives to Babylon.
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.
David defeated his enemies, the Philistines, in Mt Perazim and attributed his victory to God. (2 Sam 5:20) Joshua defeated his enemies in the valley of Gibeon by means of one of the greatest miracles in the Bible. (Josh 10:12) It looks to me like Isaiah is comparing these events to the end of days when Jesus will defeat his enemies at his Second Coming. Isaiah calls this 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.
Isaiah is definitely looking again to the great tribulation period. His warning sounds similar to what the psalmist said in Psalm 2. There is a way of escape and that way is a Person. Isaiah is exhorting you to make peace with Him now while you still can.
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 [herbs] 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 Assyrians overran the Northern Kingdom and took them captive in Isaiah’s day. One hundred years later the Babylonians overran the people of Jerusalem and took them captive as well. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The people of Jerusalem made a covenant with death, and that is exactly what we see the radical Left doing today. The radical Left love abortion. The radical Left love euthanasia. It is their expressed goal to drastically reduce the population of the world. They mean to accomplish this through eugenics and other radical means. Solomon wrote that all who hate wisdom love death (Pr 8:36). Their covenant with death did not work out so well for them when the Babylonians came. (v 18) It did not work out so well for the Nazis in the 20th Century and it will not work out so well for those who have made such a covenant in our day either. Long before Isaiah’s day, Moses had something to say about this. If only they would have heeded his warning:
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
If you read lifenews.com, you know that the battle between those who love life and those who love death is heating up.
For those who love the precious Corner Stone, Isaiah ends the chapter with practical advice for evangelizing. First, break up your fallow ground (v 24; cf Hos 10:12). Next, consider your target. You would not harvest corn the same way you would cummin or fitches. You cannot evangelize everyone the same way either. Paul said he was all things to all men, that [he] might by all means save some. (1 Cor 9:22b; cf Jude 22, 23).
Father, help us carefully consider those who You place our paths. Help us to understand how we can best connect with them in a way that allows us to reach them. Help us to keep our minds stayed on your Son and to be about his business. May we share his gospel with others with faith, hope, and charity, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
* Seneca, Epistles, Volume I, Epistle XVIII.