One of the things that people are looking for in life is a foundation. We need a foundation to build our lives upon. We want something that frames our values and decisions.
What Is Your Crown? (28:1-6)
Isaiah turns back to the problem of pride in the hearts of the people. Notice the imagery in verse 1: “the proud crown.” The image is repeated in verse 3. God had blessed the nation of Israel only for them to take the blessings and use them for their own selfish pride and desires. Isaiah calls them “the drunkard of Ephraim” and says they are “overcome with wine.” Israel has done what the world tells us to do: get all you can out of this life. Live life to the fullest and max out every want and desire. There is no restraint. There is no control. There is no telling ourselves “no.” So their crown is their own glory, their own wealth, and their own lives. I do what I want. I will do things that make myself happy and when I am not happy, then it is someone else’s fault. They exult in themselves and their crown is their own happiness. These people are overcome with wine. The result of this pride and this lifestyle is that Israel will be trampled underfoot. They will be like ripe figs, plucked, and gulped down with ease.
In verses 5-6 Isaiah looks out to the future and speaks of a new people that will come “in that day.” We have observed repeatedly in Isaiah’s prophecy that the phrase “in that day” has reference to the events surrounding the arrival of the Messiah and his kingdom. In that day the Lord will be the crown of glory to the remnant of his people. There is a better day that has yet to dawn when the Lord will be true crown of his people and their city will be impregnable. The gate symbolizes the defense structure of the city. Listen to what Isaiah is picturing. There is a day when the remnant, the people of God when Christ comes, will find their pride, glory, value, and esteem in the Lord and not in the ways of the world. The people who are with Christ will find the Lord to be their crowning beauty. They will make decisions and judgments based on the justice of the Lord, not the morals of the world. They will find their strength in the Lord and not in themselves. God will be their pride and joy. God will be their glory and crown. The people will find in God all they need. God will be their foremost and their uttermost. They will not be a nation under God that is consumed in pursuing their own pride and joy, comfort and desires. God is going to be their treasure and God will be more delightful to them than anything in this world. This is exactly what Jesus taught in a very short parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV)
Do you see the same idea here? Those who belong to the kingdom of God, this new family in Christ, see Jesus as a great treasure that they have found. In joy they give us everything and sell everything to have the treasure. They will see through the world’s deception and emptiness and prize Jesus above all else. God’s people will not be distracted by alcohol and other pleasures of life. Let me illustrate the idea. Suppose you have a treasure. You have found one million dollars. Will you give me your million dollar treasure in exchange for my old 2002 truck? Of course not? Will you trade your treasure for all the money I have in my wallet? No chance. You recognize the high value of your treasure and you will not trade it for anything else because nothing is as valuable. Seeing Jesus as the great treasure means we reject anything else that is not the pursuing of him.
What Rules Your Life? (28:7-13)
After getting the people of Judah to listen to and agree with condemnation against Israel, Isaiah turns to Judah and says that they are no better than those in the northern nation. “These also reel with wine.” They are no better for they are also consumed by alcohol. Listen to the graphic description in verse 8: “For all tables are full of filthy vomit, with no space left.” (Isaiah 28:8 ESV) They also are indulging the body. They are giving in to their desires.
Verses 9-10 recount the criticisms of the people against Isaiah. Being filled with worldliness, the people are mocking Isaiah. The first mockery is against the simplicity of the message. The content is just too simple. Verse 9 reveals how the only people who need to explanation of Isaiah’s words are those who have just been weaned from nursing. Isaiah’s teachings are only suitable for those in the earliest stage of learning. Isaiah’s message has been fairly simple: trust God. Stop trusting in other things. This is not very deep teaching according to the priests and the false prophets. They have some dazzling teachings and can really spin the scriptures. We must take care that we do not become like these people or like the Athenians in Paul’s day who were simply looking for something new to hear. Sometimes the word of God is complicated and requires work to understand its meaning. Sometimes the meaning is straightforward. Either way, if it is the word of God, the message is powerful, deep, and life changing. If the words are from the mouth of God, then simple, straightforward teachings are just as needed for life and godliness.
The second criticism of Isaiah’s teaching is found in verse 10. They do not like the way he teaches. Seeing and hearing the words in Hebrew will help us see the criticism clearly: sav lasav sav lasav qav laqav qav laqav. Isaiah preaches law by law, line by line, and it is just “blah, blah, blah, blah.” To put it in our language, they hate that Isaiah preaches verse by verse, line by line, law by law, rule by rule. They do not want to hear it! They do not want to hear the word of the Lord. They have no desire for the law of God. They have no taste for hearing the word of the Lord. We may be shocked by this. But brethren, we must recognize that there are people and there are churches that do not want to hear the word of God line by line, law by law. It is a sad state of affairs. If studying a book of the Bible and reading it and teaching from it line by line is blah, blah, bald, then we have a serious heart problem.
Listen to the consequences to Judah for having this attitude toward God’s word. In verse 11 God says that he will speak to the people with a foreign tongue from now on. You don’t want to hear the word of the Lord, then you are going to hear the word of the Lord in a foreign language because you are going to be taken from your land and exiled in another country. God does not take lightly our lack of desire to hearing God’s word. Our lack of maturity is a serious offense to God. In fact, the apostle Paul quotes verse 11 in 1 Corinthians 14:21. Paul is comparing the Corinthian Christians to these people. Recall that they were glorifying themselves for speaking in tongues, that is, foreign languages. He tells them that they are acting sinfully by elevating one of God’s miraculous spiritual gifts above another. In verse 20 Paul told the Corinthians to stop thinking like children and mature in their thinking. The Corinthians’ distain for plain speech and plain teaching condemned them like it did in Isaiah’s day. Their usage of tongues will cause unbelievers not to listen to the Lord, but to just hear, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Further, listen to the message they are condemning. They are condemning God’s message of grace. The message of rest and grace of God is what is boring to them (Isaiah 28:12). But notice verse 13. God does not change his message. We can find his message as boring as we want, but God is not going to change the message and no teacher of God should change the message. The message will not change and we will be judged for our treatment of God’s word.
The Covenant of Death (28:14-15)
Isaiah now summarizes what they have done. The security they have signed up for has turned out to be the covenant of death. They thought they were finding security and hope in Egypt to save them. But by not placing their trust in the Lord to deliver them but trusting in themselves and making alliances with other nations they have signed their own death warrant. Outside of trusting in the Lord and his promises there is only death. Trusting in anything else but God is to sign our own death warrant. Any shelter other than God is a shelter of lies. So what is God going to do about this? The answer is shocking.
The Sure Foundation (28:16-29)
God is going to lay a sure foundation. God is going to act and his going to save you from yourselves. God acts and will save us from our foolish and sinful ways. God is going to lay a foundation in Zion and whoever does not act in haste. The idea is that the one who believes in this foundation will not act out of panic. They will not frantically try to save themselves but put their trust in the sure foundation of God. Verse 18 again speaks to the grace of God as God says he will annul the covenant of death. They should die for trusting in someone else but the Lord. But God is going to offer them a new foundation to put their trust in rather than utterly destroying Judah. In the foundation of God there is true rest. Trusting in ourselves offers as much rest as a bed that is too short or as much comfort as a blanket that is too narrow (28:20). The foundation that God will lay will bring true rest and true comfort and those who believe in that foundation will not panic or act out of thoughtless haste.
Isaiah tells the people why they do not need to panic and why they can put their hope and trust in the Lord. The purpose of plowing is the sowing of a carefully planted crop (28:24-26). A farmer does not plow without purpose. The purpose of overturning the soil is to bring a crop. God is pictured as purposefully plowing, thoughtfully threshing, and crushing with calculated care. Listen to verse 29. The counsel of the Lord is wonderful and his wisdom is magnificent. That is why the righteous do not panic. God is calculated in his works and purposeful in his activities. God’s foundation is the place we put all our hope in trust. The apostle Peter quotes this text and shows us what this means for us as Christians.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4–7 ESV)
The foundation that God would lay is Jesus. He is the reason we do not panic in life. He is the sure foundation. To trust in anything else is to make a covenant of death and sign our death warrant. Our glory and honor is found in the Lord Jesus and not in ourselves. People will find in Jesus all that they need. Jesus will be the foremost and uttermost. He will be the foundation of our lives because he is our treasure and we will prize Jesus above everything else. Do not let God’s offer of grace through Jesus on whom to build your life be to you, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.” His message of salvation will become a message of doom if we do not build our lives on Jesus.