Text: Isaiah 28
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be, “Woe to the Proud!” The warnings are for Judah, and for today’s believers. The LORD will speak of the punishment of those who rebel against Him by relying on man’s wisdom and ways, and on false gods, whose root is the god of self.
For believers today, He speaks a word of warning to those who have refused His command to ask Him to fill them with the Holy Spirit and crucify the prideful sin nature.
Again, He disciplines and punishes so that His people will return to Him!
The downfall of all humans is pride of heart, which is the fruit of the sin nature we are all born with, as children of Adam. The Spirit-inspired Apostle John warns believers about pride —
1John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
Jesus says those who are His do not love the world system that pridefully and boastfully defies God —
John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
Now, Isaiah 28, “Woe to the Proud!”
Verse 1 —
Woe to the proud crown of Ephraim (Jacob/northern Israel). They wear their pride like a crown on their heads. Their glorious beauty, which is at the head of the fertile valley, is fading. Their beauty and fertility is fading — things treasured by the fertility gods that they have come to adore!
Those who wear crowns of pride are overcome (struck down, hit with a hammer) with wine! Pride makes you drunk, and will strike you down like the strike of a hammer, beloved! That word from the LORD comes with an exclamation point!
Verse 2 —
Behold! Take warning! Take notice! The LORD has a mighty and strong one — even the king of Assyria — who will come like a storm of hail, a tempest of destruction. By the LORD’s own hand, He casts His judgment of Ephraim down to the earth, by way of Assyria.
Verses 3-4 —
Again, the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim will be trodden underfoot — the LORD is driving home His point! The prideful will be punished!
He speaks again of the fading flower and the fertile valley, but this time, He likens Ephraim to a first ripe fig prior to summer. Ah! Assyria will see that the fig of Ephraim is ripe for picking and eating! The king of Assyria will take Ephraim and swallow him!
Verses 5-6 —
In that day, when Ephraim is trodden underfoot, everyone will see that the LORD of hosts (whom we have identified as God the Son) has beauty that does not fade. He has a beautiful (glorious) crown, and a glorious diadem (crown), for the remnant of His people who return to Him and ask Him to forgive them.
He has a spirit of justice, as He sits in judgment of Ephraim, and as He sits in judgment at the end of things. And He will be strength to those who repel the onslaught at the gate — those who refuse to bow to false gods. The onslaught at the gate of Christianity is increasing exponentially today. We must repel it by speaking the truth, in love.
Verses 7-8 —
Even the priests and the prophets reel with wine and stagger from strong drink. Even they are drunk with pride! They stagger and reel like drunkards.
The priests have gone astray after false idols, and the false prophets, are confused and stagger. They reel as they see their false visions. They totter when they render judgment, because they are not just.
All the tables are full of filthy vomit. From the priest to the common man, everyone has drunk of the cup of pride until they vomit. But then, just like a drunkard, they continue to drink it!
Verses 9-10 —
The LORD sent prophets to teach Ephraim knowledge. But there was no one who could interpret their message. Why?
Ephraim does not know or recognize the voice of the one they call LORD. As part of His judgment of them, He will speak, but it will sound like rote. Line upon line, order upon order.
They are like infants just weaned, just taken from the breast. The writer of Hebrews exhorts the Jewish believers who have been scattered because of persecution —
Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to (ignorant of) the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
It is the same today! Many are infants in Christ. They do not know the voice of Jesus Christ, their Good Shepherd. So they follow after the voice of strangers, and are devoured by wolves who teach and prophesy out of their own imagination!
For Ephraim and for infants in Christ, the LORD makes His words uninterpretable, for they have chosen not to learn His Word and His ways. The scripture will therefore be, “commandment upon commandment, line upon line, a little here, a little there.”
They will not be able to make sense of His truth nor the words of warning from His prophets, for they are drunk on pride and do not know — nor have they sought to know — His voice!
Verse 11 —
Of their own choice, they do not know His voice nor understand His words. By their own choice, they have trusted in man’s strength and ways and wisdom. Therefore, He will speak to them through those who have stammering tongues.
The Assyrian language, Akkadian, was a foreign tongue to Ephraim. It sounded like stuttering and stammering. And by the Assyrian invasion, the LORD will clearly show them that there is a price for rebellion and sin. Their day of punishment has arrived! Again, He disciplines and punishes so that His people will return to Him.
Verses 12-13 —
The LORD had said, Here is rest, give rest to the weary, just as Christ spoke in Matthew 11:28-30. He said, Here is repose. But they would not listen.
So the word of the LORD makes no sense to them. It is His judgment upon them. They are only able to see it as command upon command, line upon line, a little here, a little there.
And their inability to understand, brought on by their own pride, will cause them to go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive by Assyria! Satan will do the same with you, beloved, taking you captive because of your pride!
He offered His people rest in the wilderness wanderings, but they refused to obey Him. The Spirit-inspired writer of Hebrews says —
Hebrews 3:18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
I tell you, if you do not know the LORD through His Word then you cannot know His voice and cannot know Him. Because you do not know Him, you will disobey Him and rebel against Him. Therefore, you will have no rest and no repose! It will be because you do not believe Him, He says.
Jesus Christ promises that He will set you free, indeed, if you continue in His Word. Then you are truly disciples of His, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free, indeed (see John 8:31-36). Free from what? He will set you free from slavery to sin, beloved.
Verses 14-15 —
In the remaining verses of Chapter 28 of Isaiah, the LORD speaks directly to Judah, through Isaiah. Isaiah says, Hear the word of the LORD, O scoffers who rule the people who are in Jerusalem.
What does the LORD say? I will judge you because you have said, we have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. Therefore, the overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by.
Despite the LORD’s warnings through Isaiah, Judah and its people are confident that they have pleased Mot, the god of death. They have given their own brothers as food for Mot to eat — I must assume they burned their brothers alive, on an altar, since that is the usual way that false gods “eat”.
Judah is sure it will not go down to Sheol (hell), for they have made an agreement with death and hell. Death will not get them, they think.
They have made falsehood their refuge, and have concealed (hid) themselves from death by falsehood. Therefore, the LORD will show them, by punishing them, that all the falsehood that they trusted in and believed is false and nothingness!
Verse 16 —
Therefore, says the LORD! This is His judgment! Because you do not believe or trust Me, but are prideful and trust your own wisdom and ways, and have made a deal with falsehood and nothingness, I am laying in Zion a stone, a well-laid stone, a costly (literally, precious, excellent) cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes will not be disturbed.
This is a direct reference to Jesus Christ. Judah will be exiled for 70 years, and in 30 AD, He will reveal in Zion His stone, His excellent and precious Son. Jesus says to the unbelieving chief priests and Pharisees —
Matthew 21:42 “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone. This came about from the LORD, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Matthew 21:43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 44 “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.
Then the chief priests and Pharisees, in their blindness and pride, sought to seize Him. But they did not, because they feared retribution from the people, who saw Jesus as a prophet.
Verse 17 —
The LORD will make justice the measuring line. He will set up a plumb line, as He says through His prophet Amos, and find them to be like crooked walls —
Amos 7:8 The LORD said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold I am about to put a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel. I will spare them no longer.”
He will measure their righteousness with a level, and find them to be tipped to one side by their unrighteous. They have come against Him, they have followed false gods, they have gone in crooked ways and not on level paths. Thus, the LORD is right to judge them. Even now, He calls them and you, beloved, to repent —
Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain (level) . . .
When the LORD has judged Judah, hail will sweep away the refuge of lies in which they have trusted. Waters will overflow the secret places where worship of false gods was done.
Verses 18-19 —
The LORD tells Judah their covenant with the god of death will be canceled, for they have made a covenant with a false god whose promises are false. And it will be the same with their treaty with hell.
The overwhelming scourge they are sure will not reach them will surely make them a trampling place. The armies of Babylon will trample them!
Babylon will overcome Judah and there will be a series of exiles of the Jews before Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon has finished the work assigned to him by the LORD (Jeremiah 25:9). Every time Babylon passes through, both day and night, it will seize (carry away) more Judeans.
And it will be sheer terror to understand what it means What will cause them to feel sheer terror if they understand the words that are in the remaining verses of Isaiah 28? The LORD now gives Isaiah a series of parables. If Judah understands them, they will feel sheer terror, for they are parables of judgment!
Verses 20-22 —
The bed is too short on which to stretch out, and the blanket is too small to wrap oneself in. There will be no rest for them. By their rebellion, they have made their bed too small to rest upon. By their rebellion, they have made their covering too short to hide beneath it. There will be nothing to cover them. He will no longer provide them with rest or cover.
For the LORD will rise up as at Mount Perazim, where He helped David defeat the Philistines (2Samuel 5:20). He will rise up not to save His people, but to hand them over to Babylon.
He will be so angry that He will quiver, as in the valley of Gibeon (Joshua 10:10), where He helped Joshua defeat five kings. But His anger will be toward Judah, not toward their enemies.
He will rise up and quiver with anger as He does His work, His strange work of helping Judah’s enemies defeat them! Shudder with sheer terror, O church full of false teachers who worship what the world worships, even fashioning “another Jesus!”
So, Isaiah says, do not carry on as mockers who mock the LORD’s prophets when they warn. If you mock them, He will make your chains stronger! Why? Because His prophets have heard from Him — the Lord GOD of hosts — but they have not listened! What have His prophets heard of from the LORD? His decision to destroy (consume) all the earth.
The earth will be completely consumed, at the end of things. And in 150 years, Judah will be nearly consumed by Babylon, with just a small remnant returning 70 years later.
Verses 23-29 —
These are rhetorical questions from the LORD. He commands His people to give ear (broaden their ears) and hear (consider) His words, through Isaiah. So Isaiah says, Listen (prick up your ears) and hear (heed, obey) my words from the LORD of hosts.
Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? No, he plows once, or he will destroy what he has just planted. Does he continually turn and harrow (break up the clods of) the ground? No, for he will destroy the seedlings if he does. If they have begun to germinate, they will be torn to pieces by the harrowing and turning.
Does the farmer not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cumin, and plant wheat in rows, barley in its place, and rye within its area? Barley and rye were sown on the outer edges of wheat fields.
Every seed the farmer sows is carefully sown into soil that he has prepared. The seeds that are to be scattered across the top of the soil are scattered, and those that are to be sown are sown. All seed is planted exactly how and where it will grow best. He does all of it according to the LORD’s instruction.
Then, when it is time for the harvest, the farmer does not thresh dill with a heavy threshing sledge — the dill, a tender herb, would be destroyed. A cartwheel is not driven over cumin — it would be crushed and useless. But dill seed is beaten out with a staff, and cumin with a small rod. The farmer follows the instruction of the LORD.
Grain for bread is crushed, but the farmer does not continue to thresh it forever, because the wheel of his cart and his horses would eventually break it to pieces, making it unusable. So, he does not thresh it for too long. All of the farmer’s wisdom comes from the LORD of hosts, who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.
All the farmer’s wisdom comes from the LORD of hosts. The farmer follows the instruction of the LORD. He does all of it according to the LORD’s instruction. But Judah has not followed His instruction, like the farmer did. They have not listened to and heeded the LORD’s wisdom, like the farmer did. They have not learned from Him, as the farmer did.
So, He will no longer instruct Judah, for they refuse to listen. He will allow them to be trampled by Babylon, just as He has already promised, in Verse 18.
Why? The LORD of host’s counsel (instruction) that they have rejected is wonderful (great, wondrous, high and lofty), and His wisdom that they have rejected is excellent and magnificent.
I tell you the truth, Jesus Christ, the LORD of hosts will not seek a harvest of righteousness from His church forever. There will come a day when she is judged by Him. And those who refuse to repent will be trampled by Satan, the enemy of their souls, for they have listened to falsehood. Paul exhorts the believers at Corinth, who are being led astray just as Ephraim and Judah were —
2Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Lord Jesus, I pray that Your people would hear and heed Your instruction, learn Your voice in Your Word, and hear and heed Your warning. May many repent. So be it, Lord. Amen.