The twenty-eighth chapter of Isaiah summoned the people to recognize that there is only one sure foundation for life in this uncertain world. There is no security in placing our trust in human wisdom, worldly wealth, or physical power. In the context of our story, the nation of Assyria has wiped out the northern nation called Israel and has conquered the fortified cities of Judah except the capitol city of Jerusalem. Will the people trust in their God or not? This sets the scene for the thirtieth chapter of Isaiah.
Sin: Your Plans Are Not God’s Plans (30:1-7)
Isaiah begins his woe by decrying the people for making plans that are not in line with God’s plans. Isaiah calls them stubborn, rebellious children for doing this. Rather than relying on God who has promised to deliver them, they are turning to Egypt for an alliance to save them from Assyria. Notice what God says in verse 2: “Who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my direction.” The people are not considering God’s plans. They are not looking for the direction of God. God had told them that he would deliver them but out of unbelief they are making their own plans. The people fail to understand that relying on anyone but God brings shame and no help at all. Notice that God says this in verse 7. “Egypt is worthless and empty; therefore I have called her “Do-Nothing” (Rehab) who sits still.” Going our own way and seeking our own life direction leads to failure.
How often we ask all the wrong questions when we make plans for our lives! The most important questions for life are often never asked at all. Do we ask if taking a particular job or having a particular occupation is good for the kingdom of God? Is my choice good for my family’s spirituality? Is this decision good for my spirituality? Will my actions negatively impact other Christians? Will my effort cause the work for God’s kingdom to be hurt in this area? We don’t ask those questions first typically. We ask how much money we can make. We ask if it is something we want to do. We ask if it is something that we like and will make us comfortable. We often do not ask the hard questions. We do not think with spiritual intention. We do not think about how our decision will impact the future faith of our children. We must think so much more carefully about the spiritual impact we are making on other people. Are you disrupting people’s learning or a stumbling block to their faith? Are you causing an obstacle to spiritual growth? It is possible to believe all the right things but still act just like the world. God is concerned with your faith. Do you trust him to make decisions based on him and not on yourself? What a wonderful foundation and comfort to know that you can turn over your life into the hands of God.
The Problem Explained (30:8-17)
Here is the problem: “They are children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord” (30:9). They have no interest in hearing what God has to say. They do not want the truth of God’s word. Listen to verse 10: “Who say to the seers; ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right.'” Do not tell us what God has to say. We do not like his message. Instead, tell us what we want to hear. “Speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” What shocking words! Leave the path of God’s revelation. Go your own path. Tell us things we want to hear. Tell us lies. Don’t tell us things we do not like. God condemns this attitude that does not want to hear all of the words of God but only the things they want to hear. Christians and preachers are under this kind of pressure today. With the concern for having a high attendance, lessons are often given that only pat us on the back and give false assurances rather than teaching all that God has to say. Since the preacher’s income is based on the congregation, it is so easy to listen to that pressure. We must make sure that we demand to hear every verse from God’s word. We want to hear the easy things and the hard things. We want to hear well-known texts and obscure texts. We want to hear words of comfort and words of correction. If God said it, we must want to hear it no matter how difficult the words are and no matter what the consequences of the teachings are. The truth of God’s word must always be valued above teaching messages that are not textually based from scripture.
Notice the condemnation that God proclaims in verses 12-14. If you do not want to hear the word of the Lord then your sins will crush you. If we are not seeking to learn all God has to say, how can we ever think we will be saved from our sins? If there is a chance of a wealthy inheritance being left to you, then you will listen to every word of that final will to know if there is anything for you, wouldn’t you? God is offering the greatest blessings yet where is our intense to desire to learn every word he has said about it?
So God extends the offer of salvation. “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (30:15). Look at what God is asking the people to do. They are not merely to return to him. Notice the words, “rest,” “quietness,” and “trust.” God wants your strength to be in trusting in God. Your life will rest on God’s way. We can be saved if we trust in God as our strength. What difficulty are you facing that you are unwilling to trust God to handle? Think about the situation in Isaiah. Assyria has swept through Judah conquering their fortified cities. The armies have come up to the gates of Jerusalem. God is telling the people to trust him. So this call for trusting in the Lord is not a theoretical faith or a faith for the small decisions of life. God wants you to trust him during the greatest crisis of your life. Resting in God does not mean inactivity. It means that we will not panic but trust in God whatever the outcome is. April and I have come to learn this over and over again with all of the medical difficulties we face with Grace. We will do what we can. We will not sit on our hands. But we will look for solutions that show we believe in God and rest in him to take of anything that comes our way. God wanted Judah to look to him for assistance, not themselves.
Gracious God (30:18-26)
Now some amazing words are declared in verse 18. “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.” The grace of God cannot be presently given for judgment is going to arrive first. But God does not write off his people all together. God waits to be gracious to you. It is God’s desire to dispense grace to those who seek it. But God will not pour out his blessings on stubborn people who will not listen to him. If they will return to the Lord then God is more than willing to pour out his grace.
Further, the Lord exalts himself to show mercy to you. God shows mercy to people for his own exaltation. Have we thought about this purpose of God? The mercy and grace of God are not to terminate on ourselves. The dispensing of God’s mercy is to cause us to exalt him. Further, the display of his mercy is an exaltation of his glorious character because he has acted benevolently toward rebellious people. The exaltation of God brings about our good. The exaltation of ourselves brings about evil. This is one aspect that makes God different from humans. When we are exalted, things usually go wrong in pride and arrogance to selfishness. But the exaltation of God is just and right because he acts for the good of his creation.
In the following section, Isaiah pictures what God will do for the new people of God who will come in the future. As we stand 2700 removed from this prophecy, it is important for us to recognize that Isaiah is looking forward to Christians, the new people of God when the Christ comes. Verse 19 shows another aspect of what makes God exalted. In the future, the people will dwell in Zion and will no longer weep. When his people cry, God will surely be gracious. As soon as he hears your words, he will answer. What a tremendous promise! God listens to your prayers. He hears your prayers and he answers. Notice the next promise is that a Teacher is coming and their eyes will see him even though they are going to put through a time of judgment. God is waiting to be gracious and after the judgment of the nation God will be gracious. A Teacher is coming and they will see him and he will teach them which way to go (30:21). What a wonderful promise that the Lord will come and be a teacher to the people! This promise was fulfilled in Jesus who taught us the ways of the Lord and many people saw him. The first chapter of John’s gospel presents Jesus as God who reveals the glory and teachings of the Father. When Jesus comes with the graciousness of God being revealed, notice that people will reject their idols (30:22). God’s mercy and grace drives us dump our idols and renovate our idolatrous hearts. Our trust will not be in anything else but the Lord himself. This is what the new people of God will look like. We will not seek the broken cisterns of idolatry. When the idols are cast out, then God will pour out his blessings even more (30:23-26). Verse 26 sums up the great blessings of God. “…in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blows.” The Christ is going to come to heal the people of its sins and brokenness. What Christ will do for the world will bring the healing that every person needs to stand whole and repaired before God. The scriptures speak of us as being broken by sin. The solution is Jesus. The solution is not the world. The solution for fixing your life is Jesus. Isaiah speaks of that hope.
Faith In God’s Purposes (30:27-33)
At the same time the Lord will come in powerful judgment against the world (30:27-28). From verses 27-33 God is describing what he will do in the future against the Assyrians. Though the present is grim, the future is bright. We learn a great lesson from this final paragraph of this chapter. Faith in God’s long term plans prepare us for his short term purposes. I do not know what is going on now but I will trust because I believe in God’s long term plan. God repeatedly calls on his people to believe in him. This is the call of faith. Habakkuk was to believe in the long term purposes of God to get through the short term difficulties he was presently facing. Job was to believe in the long term purposes and wisdom of God to get through the present suffering and lack of understanding. Illustration: When we were building our house, the foundation was laid and it looked like the house was far too small. April and I walked on the concrete pad and thought that there had been a terrible mistake made. Dan told us to trust him that it was plenty big. But it just did not look like it. As the house continued to be built we began to see that he was right. It was the house that we wanted to build even though there was a time when it looked like everything was all wrong. In a similar way, we cannot look at our circumstances now and pass judgment that the future is all a mess and things are not going to work out. God’s purposes are going to be accomplished and we are to put our full trust in that knowledge. Job was to trust God. Habakkuk was to trust God. The righteous live by faith not by what they see right now. Do we walk by faith or do we walk by sight (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7)?
Isaiah teaches us what true faith looks like before God.
- True faith does not rely on human strength, other people, or other physical things (30:1-7). We will not look the ourselves but always look to God to help in all situations.
- True faith desires the word of the Lord and nothing else (30:9-12).
- True faith repents of rebellious acts (30:15). If we truly love God and truly believe in his plan for our lives, then we will stop seeking our sinful ways and turn our hearts to him.
- True faith rests securely in God’s salvation (30:15). There is no need to panic. We will find our strength in relying on the purposes and strength of God.
- True faith believes in the purposes of God (30:18-19).