These are Deceitful Children

Unwilling to Listen to the LORD

30: 8-17

   DIG: What was the “official” response to Isaiah? What inescapable logic do you see in God’s judgments here? What does Isaiah mean by the image of the wall? In contrast to their alliance with Egypt, what is Isaiah’s plan for their deliverance? What will happen as a result of Israel rejecting this plan?

   REFLECT: Israel was tired of hearing the Word of God, and wished to be left alone or listen to others as well. What in your life are the pleasant things or illusions (30:10) you would rather listen to at times? How have these resulted in high walls fencing out God? Have you experienced this wall of illusion eventually cracking, bulging, and collapsing around you (30:9-14)? What effect has that had upon you? With what are you building a new wall? Compare 30:15 and 28:12 with Matthew 11:28-30. What differences do you see? What similarities? What thoughts or pictures come to mind as you consider the LORD as a resting place? If you are a workaholic, reliant on swift horses, how would you begin to apply 30:15 to your life? How does a busybody or workaholic find rest and quietness? What is there to repent of? Has the foolishness in your life been wasted? Or are you still learning?

    Here Isaiah turns from talking about the dependence upon Egypt (30:1-7), to the attitudes that encouraged the alliance. It was basically a refusal to trust God (30:15), which in fact is what Chapters 7 through 39 are all about. And having made up their mind about the issue, they didn’t want to discuss it any further. The fact was that they had the Torah, the mercy seat and the ark of the Covenant, which contained the golden jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded and the stone tablets (Hebrews 9:4). But they said in effect, “Don’t confuse us with the facts, our minds are made up.”

    They were stuck in their ways just as the Pharisees and Sadducees were when the Messiah came. They were convinced that right standing before God was achieved through the Oral Law (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law), and refused to hear anything that might be at odds with that conviction (Luke 6:6-11). But Isaiah told the Jewish religious leaders of his day that if they refused to hear the truth from him, they would have to hear it from ADONAI Himself. The LORD would wait until they had been reduced to a state of helplessness in their own efforts. The good news is that He waits to be gracious (30:18).

    It is ironic that only after we break ourselves on the results of our pride that we are able to see that He was offering His grace to us all along. The truth remains, however, if we refuse to wait for Him, He will wait until our circumstances force us to turn to Him.

    The people did not want to listen to ADONAI’s instructions through Isaiah. So God told His prophet to write it down, or inscribe it, on a tablet or scroll to serve as an eternal reminder of the foolishness of this alliance. The LORD commanded: Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, because the prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled, as we will see in Chapters 36 and 37. It would serve as an everlasting witness to authenticate Isaiah’s near historical prophecy against Assyria (30:8). Remember the test of a prophet is to predict some near historical event that could be fulfilled exactly during his lifetime, and then he could be trusted to make prophecies far beyond his own lifetime. The reason to inscribe that truth was Israel’s state of sin.

    The information on the tablet was to serve as an everlasting witness. It was not for the prophet’s own hardened generation, but for generations in the future (8:16). They would look back on the record of God’s fulfilled promises, both for discipline and for blessing, see how they were fulfilled, and then have faith in Him. Consequently, they could learn from their mistakes and the foolishness of the nation would not be wasted. The next three verses summarize for us why such a witness was necessary.

    These were rebellious people (30:9a). This is an astonishing condemnation in the context of the ancient Near East. All the other nations would only record their triumphs. If we are to learn anything of their failures, we can only look to other sources, certainly not from their own national literature. But not so the Judean’s. Isaiah’s own bitter words have preserved the evidence of their rebellious failure. What God thinks of us is more important than what we think of ourselves.

    They were also disappointing children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction (30:9b). They failed to act like respectful and obedient children. By refusing to listen to the Torah, which is the voice of God to them, they disappointed ADONAI.

    Isaiah describes Isra'el’s inclination for false prophets. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions” (30:10). These are probably not the actual words of the people, but as in 29:15, they represented their true feelings. Israel was not asking the prophets to stop prophesying; they are asking them to change their message. The people wanted to pretend that they were pious (1:2-31). They said: Leave this way, get off this path (30:11a). The path is the teaching of the Torah. They wanted to turn the direction of the prophetic message. In that way they would stop the Holy One of Israel from ever confronting them. By keeping the prophets and seers from proclaiming His real message they, in effect, didn’t have to think about their state of sin (30:11b). However, Israel’s desire for false prophets, and rejecting the message of the one true prophet, led to consequences.

    This is an increasing problem today. Children are not being taught about consequences in life. They can do whatever they like and seemingly never have to pay. “Self-esteem” has nothing to do with performance and behavior. Thus, it is emerging that some of the people with the highest self-esteem are thieves and crooks. The triumph of “feel good” psychology is killing us, because all of this is an illusion. There are consequences in life, and those in the public eye who teach otherwise are the modern equivalent of the false prophets. They tell us we can have everything we want with no responsibility for the outcome. One of the tragic examples of this trend is the epidemic increase in male irresponsibility for the children they have fathered. The social costs of this phenomenon are only beginning to be felt. We need prophets who will declare “what is right” and not what people “want to hear.”105

    The consequences of Judah’s Indifference: Immediately after they said they did not want to be confronted, Isaiah confronts them with more words from ADONAI. He declared: Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Isra'el says: You have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit (30:12). Isaiah reiterates the cause and disobedience to the LORD's message through His prophet. Because they rejected his message, relying on oppression (plans to avoid God’s counsel) and deceit (which Egypt would practice on them), they would undergo judgment because they despised the words of the prophets. The refusal to be instructed by God is a sin, and if not corrected, over time, will lead to disaster. This sin is described with two figures, both of which indicate the suddenness and totality of the impending disaster.

    The first consequence will be the fall of the house Judah. He uses an analogy and says that their spiritual condition is similar to houses built of clay. Of these there are several varieties. Some have a framework of wicker hurdles thickly daubed with mud. In others the walls are made of layers of mud placed one over the other, each drying before the next is put on. Others still are made of sun-dried bricks. This style of building is very ancient, and is still common in many parts of the East. A thief might easily break through a wall of this kind, and modern thieves are as ready to do it as were the burglars who lived in the days of Job 4:19.106

    This sin will become for you a high wall (30:13a). The first figure of disaster is a wall that is ready to topple. The interval from the first cracks until the actual collapse may be quite a long time, but when the collapse comes it is sudden, terrible and irreversible. The judgment would come suddenly, like a cracked and bulging high wall that suddenly collapses in an instant (30:13b). So it would be with Judah’s refusal to rely on ADONAI. Years would pass, but one day the Assyrians would stand at the door of Jerusalem with all of Judah in ruins behind them (Second Kings 18:13).

    The second figure is that of a ceramic jug. When the wall collapses it will be shattered as suddenly and completely as a jug dropped on a rock. One minute the jug was whole, the next it was only pieces. Isaiah prophesied that the Judeans would break like pieces of pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment would be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern (12:14). They will be broken in so many pieces that each piece will be of no use. In short, Judah was overconfident, thinking that God would protect her no matter how great her sin.

    We saw the same thing outside Washington, DC in 1861 before the Civil War. The Union Army had convinced itself that it could dispose of the ragtag Confederate Army in short order. After all, they had better-looking uniforms and more up-to-date equipment, and they were better drilled. As a matter of fact, however, they knew little about discipline, determination, and courage – things the Southerners had a good deal of. In the battle, it quickly became apparent that in terms of raw fighting skill, the northern army was badly outclassed. Soon setbacks were turned into defeats, defeats into retreats and the retreats into headlong flight. The picnickers who had come out to watch the “jolly ole fight” led the rush back to the defenses of Washington.

    If we place our confidence in the wrong things, adversity and difficulty will destroy us. We will have no resources to meet them. But if our confidence is in God and not in ourselves, these things will only drive us closer to Him. We know that He will not fail us, so we can be faithful, even to death. That kind of fortitude means that defeats do not turn into routs. We can fall back to a new line of defense and fight it out with courage, knowing that God is at our back. The Judeans had forfeited that knowledge by turning to Egypt, just as the overconfident Yankees had trusted in their own superiority.107

    The second consequence will be flight and depopulation. The cause of their consequences is again the rejection of the prophetic message. For this is what Adonai ELOHIM, the Holy One of Isra'el says: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it (30:15). Isaiah’s plan for their deliverance was repentance and rest in the sense of conversion. It has the fundamental idea of turning around or turning back. This would be how they would obtain their rest. The rest is to stop trying to achieve salvation by any human activity and resting in the grace of God. They then would have quietness and trust, or confidence. But Isaiah’s contemporaries rejected all this; they would have none of it. They had obviously failed to learn from the mistake of Ahaz (7:3-4). It was this original subjugation of Judah under the Assyrian yoke that was the motivation for their current course of action. Now Isaiah offers them another message. Do not rebel by trying to free yourself from the dominance of the Assyrian Empire. In time God will free you. But instead, they wished to rely on their own plans, reject the prophetic message, and turn to the Egyptians for help. So they continued to make the same mistake that Ahaz had made.

    The Holy One of Israel had extended His arms to them with a gentile word of strength. The LORD said: This is the resting place, let the weary rest, and: This is the place of repose – but they would not listen (28:11). They could have hidden beneath His wings like chicks, but they would not (Matthew 23:37). Why not? They were proud and overconfident and that is a dangerous combination.

    Instead of depending on God, they depended on military might. Therefore, their consequences would be twofold. The first consequence would be flight. The Judean's had said: No, we will flee on horses. So ADONAI said: Therefore, you will flee! Then those in Judah continued: We will ride off on swift horses. So the LORD countered with: Therefore your pursuers will be swift (30:16). If they were to rely on horses (31:1), God said they would be forced to flee. This is the direct opposite of the blessings promised for obedience in the Torah (Leviticus 26:8; Deuteronomy 32:30; Joshua 23:10). Because they trusted in the wrong things, when those things failed, they were completely undone.

    The second consequence would be that of depopulation. A thousand will flee at the threat of one Assyrian; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill (30:17). The emphasis is on the solitary condition under which Judah will be left. Being easily alarmed by the threat of the enemy, they would stand alone like a flagstaff on a mountaintop as a warning to others not to count on military strength.

 

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