In Chapter 29, Isaiah pronounced a woe to Jerusalem. In Chapter 30, Isaiah calls them rebellious children, the implication being, woe to any child of God who is rebellious. I believe we can learn a lot from what Isaiah is saying. Spiritual principles are like physical laws or mathematical rules. They are immutable and universal. These principles affect us just as much today as they affected those who lived back in Isaiah’s day.
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:
I am currently reading a book by Watchman Nee titled Spiritual Authority (Christian Fellowship Publishers Inc., 1992). This book has been very thought-provoking. As Christians, we are fellowheirs of the blessings of Abraham (Gal 3:14). The blessings of Abraham are tied to the Abrahamic Covenant, which was a unilateral covenant. In other words, there was nothing Abraham or his descendants could do to break it. Likewise, we as Christians depend on our Shepherd to get us safely home. In other words, nothing can pluck us out of his hand. However, when we disobey, we bring unnecessary misfortune our way, much as the Jews in Isaiah’s day brought misfortune on themselves.
This issue of authority and how we respond to it is key to the Christian walk, and will determine whether we are willingly led by our Shepherd to experience the abundant Christian life, or whether He needs to break one of our legs and bind it back up to keep us from wandering off from the flock again (metaphorically speaking).
2 That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!
2 Kings 18, specifically verses 21, 24 seem to indicate that Hezekiah was actively seeking help from the Egyptians. The verses below seem to indicate this as well. One hundred years later in Jeremiah’s day, God’s people sought refuge in Egypt, again contrary to his will. Egypt, of course, is a type of the world. I believe the real trouble comes when we seek to meet our obligations or fulfill our desires using worldly methods instead of looking to God. This is rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft. (1 Sam 15:23) God promises to supply all our needs (Phil 4:19); when we doubt his promise and try to get results by other means outside his will, we are engaging in rebellion, or witchcraft. Contrariwise, when we walk by faith and not by sight (ie when we trust Him) things have a way of working out. King Asa, for example, overcame a million-man army because he trusted the Lord and followed his instructions, despite overwhelming evidence that trusting the Lord would not work out well. (2 Ch 14:12)
Verse two has a clue that points to a common means of rebellion, the occult. The word occult means ‘hidden’ or ‘covered’. Hidden or covered wisdom sounds like one possible meaning of what Isaiah calls the shadow of Egypt. To this day, the Egyptians are renown for their mastery of hidden wisdom. However, has their command of such knowledge brought blessings? I think not. Egypt is not typically a place that comes to mind as a ‘blessed nation’.
3 Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
One of the common results of involvement in occult practices is unclear thinking. This may manifest itself in what is sometimes characterized as ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘bipolar disorder’. Or, it may be thinking that appears to be lucid, but is clearly ‘confused’ inasmuch the person makes poor decisions — like trusting in the occult instead of Jesus.
4 For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.
Zoan and Hanes were Egyptian cities. It looks like Hezekiah was seeking to establish diplomatic ties with the Egyptians in order to garner military support in the face of the Assyrian onslaught. (Or possibly, Isaiah was seeing into the future beyond his own time.)
5 They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.
6 The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
Egypt is south of Israel. The beasts (camels) were carrying heavy burdens, literally: treasures that were intended to buy the loyalty of the Egyptians.
7 For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
Disobedience, whether it be by sins of commission or omission, keeps us from thriving and reaching our goals. This principle is illustrated in the way that the Jews failed to prosper after the Babylonian captivity was over: Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (Hag 1:5, 6)
8 Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
In the New Testament, this behavior is described as the gainsaying of Core [Korah] (Jude 11; cf Num 16). When people refuse to hear what a God-ordained minister is telling them, or worse yet, try to tell him how he should preach, they are rebelling against God.
11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
Isaiah is telling the people of Jerusalem that the woe has a reason. There is a cause an effect. Actions have consequences and as Christians, we need to be mindful that we have a tremendous amount of power to affect change in the world, either for good or bad depending on our obedience to God’s authority or our rebellion against it.
Proverbs 26:2 says, As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come. Suffering from inexplicable misfortunes (like an illness that the doctors can find no explanation for, for example) does not ‘just happen’. In his pamphlet titled, Why Do God’s Children Suffer?, J Vernon McGee listed seven reasons why. I personally believe there are more than seven; my point is, there is always a reason.
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
This was fulfilled later in 589 BC when Nebuchadnezzar broke down the walls of the city. Isaiah 30 contains both woe and blessing. The woe would not come to pass for over one hundred years; the blessing would not come to pass for thousands of years (ie until the millennium).
14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
Just as Isaiah foresaw, Jerusalem was eventually leveled and the temple was razed.
15 For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
The remedy was available to them. All they had to do was repent. But as Solomon said, He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. (Pr 29:1)
16 But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
17 One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
God wanted to bless Judah, but He was forced to wait because of their rebellion. In the following verses, we see the sovereignty of God. Isaiah says that after the waiting period is over, God is going to save Israel despite their rebellion:
19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
22 Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.
23 Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
24 The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.
I believe this issue of rebellion against spiritual authority has been overlooked in our churches in these last days. The church in America now emphasizes the doctrine of grace, and that is good. I believe we should always err on the side of grace, especially when in a position of authority over others. However, we also need to be mindful of our behavior when under authority. A husband and father is in authority over his household. The wife and the child are under his authority. (Eph 5:23; 6:1) The highest Authority is Christ (Phil 2:9). As Christians, we are all under the authority of Christ. Let’s start there. We are each responsible for our personal decisions, as well as how we interact with others. Anyone who claims the name of Christ ought to be making these decisions based on the authority of the word of God. (We can only be effective in authority when we are obedient under authority.) In Joshua 1:8, God promises that if we will meditate on his word each day, and obey it, He will prosper us and give us success.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
When we try to achieve our goals by means outside of God’s will, or when we selectively decide which verses we want to obey, we are rebelling against God’s authority. My comments above under verse 1 imply the doctrine of eternal security, which is a Calvinistic view. Yet, for every verse on election and eternal security we can find one on free will as well, like this one:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven [ie he who is obedient].
What about people who fall away and never repent? This is why we are exhorted to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10), by being obedient.
Both the Old Testament verse (Josh 1:8) and the New Testament verse (Matt 7:21) demonstrate the paramount importance of obeying the word of God. Setting aside the doctrines of election and free will, the basic concept of prospering in our endeavors is tied to the principle of obedience to spiritual authority. Almost without exception, each of God’s promises come with contingencies. IF we do something, God in turn promises to do something for us. For example:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and [if you do that, then] all these things shall be added unto you.
In order for us to seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, we must meditate on the word of God so we can see how to seek it. This way, when one is faced with a difficult decision, he can pull the appropriate Bible verse out of his tool kit and respond accordingly. That is how obedience to spiritual authority works. This is what God wanted from his people in Isaiah’s day. I believe He still wants this from his people in our day as well.
Consider how God must feel. Any parent who has had a rebellious child understands what it is like when the child he loves, and wants the best for, refuses to submit to his authority—to the child’s own detriment. God has given us directives to obey for our own good. When we determine to follow our own will instead of his, we are exhibiting an attitude that is nothing short of satanic. Aleister Crowley’s maxim was ‘do as thou wilt’. Hitler’s propaganda film was titled, ‘Triumph of the Will’. Satan’s fall from heaven was prompted by his five ‘I will’ statements in Isaiah 14. God has indeed given each of us the precious gift of free will, and the wisest thing to do with that gift is to give it right back to Him. If you feel your life has been less than blessed in the way you would like it to be, consider these things. Consider doing a spiritual evaluation to see how closely you have been following the will of God (the word of God) in obedience. Ask God to show you the areas where you are being disobedient. I can promise you this: If you listen to his voice and obey what He says, you will see things change in your life. (Matt 7:7) As you meditate on this, remember that love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom 13:10; cf Gal 5:14) I, for one, am looking forward to finding out what God has to say to me on this subject. I hope you will join me in this endeavor.
Father, please search our hearts, our minds, and our actions. Bring to our attention anything and everything that is not pleasing to You. Give us the strength and the courage to repent and obey You in all things. Transform our minds, that we may each have the mind of Christ. Conform our will to your will, that we may forsake anything that smacks of rebellion, that we might not sin against Thee, in Jesus’ name. Amen.