Woe to Those Who Go to Great Depths to Hide Their Plans from the LORD

29: 9-16

    DIG: Even though the eleventh hour defeat of Judah’s enemies has been foretold, what effect will these events have on the people (29:9-14)? What will the impact be, specifically, on the prophets and seers? On the uneducated? On the literate? On the wise and intelligent? How do you account for why they are so unable to grasp what Isaiah is saying to them (29:10-13; compare to 26:8)? Why was God displeased with the worship practices of the people of Judah?

    REFLECT: What such rituals or routines do you see in your church or messianic synagogue? How might Isaiah mock that practice? Which of these traps do you fall into at times? In what ways have you tried to dictate the terms of your relationship with God? What did the Potter then say to the clay? What else would it take to convince you that the Potter is not just like the clay? Rabbi Saul echoes Isaiah in saying that the wisdom of the wise, which advocates that people find spiritual reality in some other way than Messiah, will perish (First Corinthians 1:19). Have you found Christ to be a more reliable ally in your spiritual life than the other alternatives people turn to? How so? What other ally still seems to appeal to you? Why? What does this ally do to your faith in God?

    Isaiah suddenly propels us back to his own day and the near historical future of the southern kingdom of Judah. The root cause of Judah’s troubles was the spiritual blindness of her leaders. Spiritual blindness is both self-chosen (29:9b) and also a judgment from God upon the choice made (29:10). It is a pointless, stubborn and careless refusal of the truth (29:11-12), and ADONAI sees right through their hypocrisy (29:14).

    It is obvious that what Isaiah had said about Judah’s present and future both stunned and amazed her rulers (29:9a). All the talk about trusting the LORD instead of Egypt and victory through defeat confused them. The were not led by the Spirit, but by the world (First John 2:15-17). To them, such talk was foolishness. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (First Corinthians 2:14).

    The words of Isaiah call continued to come true. The more he spoke the truth, the less the nation of Judah understood him (6:9-10). So in agony and frustration, it was as if he cried out to them, “Alright, go ahead and be blind, be anesthetized like a drunk.” Blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer (29:9b). But your problem is not from alcohol like those in Samaria (28:1 and 7), your problem comes from ADONAI. You have offended Him to the point that He no longer allows you to hear Him. God is the one who enables us to hear His voice, and if we rebel against Him long enough, He withdraws His enabling grace (Romans 1:18-25).

    Interestingly enough it was not the priests who were mainly to blame for the blindness of the people. Without doubt they were guilty of implying that rituals alone would satisfy God. But the prophets and seers were really to blame. They could have received clear direction from ADONAI as Amos did (5:21-24), but they did not. The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep. He has sealed your eyes with the prophets; He has covered your heads with the seers (29:10). This deep sleep is a total insensitivity to spiritual things. When King Ahab decided to believe 400 apostate prophets who only told him what he wanted to hear, ADONAI allowed a lying spirit, or a demon, to speak through them as a means of bringing Ahab to his death (First Kings 22:1-38). If those on whom the nation depends for a word from God lose contact with Him, that nation is lost like a ship at sea in the fog with no instruments or radio.

    The prophets and seers had the technical skills to understand God’s Word, but they lacked the spiritual insight that would enable them to see the obvious meaning. So of course, the situation was hopeless for the common person. The person who can read, cannot be bothered to open the Scriptures and the person who cannot read is unconcerned to find someone who can! For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I can’t for it is sealed” (29:11). For those who are educated, it is like the Scriptures are sealed. For those who are not educated, they are in now hurry to find someone to help them understand. Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I don’t know how to read” (29:12). The people took their lead from their leaders and became hypocrites themselves.

    The same situation applies today. If we are far from God or deep in sin we will find the book closed. It will be as dry as dust and just as boring. The Apostle Paul wrote about this when he said: For the mind controlled by the old nature is hostile to God, because it does not submit to God’s Torah – indeed, it cannot (Romans 8:7 CJB). But if we have fallen in love with the Author and long to know Him better, it is amazing how the Scriptures open up.99

    The people of Jerusalem, professing to know the LORD, did not worship God from their hearts. They were mere hypocrites. ADONAI declared: These people come near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me (29:13a). The hypocrisy of the people came from the inability of their leaders to interpret the word of the LORD. They had a pretense of godliness, but in truth, their hearts were far from God. Their offerings and feasts were merely for show. the LORD cannot be manipulated or mocked (Galatians 6:7-8). No place is this truth stated more plainly than in Psalm 51:16-17: You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

    There is a story about an old village in Spain. The people of this village heard the king planned to visit there. No king had ever done that. So naturally, they became excited and wanted to offer a great celebration that would show their adoration and that would honor the king. But what could a village of such poor people offer? Someone proposed that since so many of the villagers made their own wines – very good wines – they could offer that to please the king. And they each decided that they would all take some of their best wine, and combine them as a gift for the king. On the day of the king’s arrival, they all came to the village square early in the morning with a large cup of their finest wine and poured their offering into a small opening at the top of a large barrel. They were excited to see the king enjoy the best wine he’d ever tasted. When he arrived, the king was escorted to square where he was ceremoniously presented with a silver cup and invited to draw wine from the barrel. He was told the villagers were delighted to have him taste the best they had to offer. He filled his cup from the spigot. And when he drank the wine, to his surprise he tasted only water. Had some miracle-worker turned wine to water? Had someone stolen all of the wine that was meant for the king? No. Each villager had reasoned, "I’ll withhold my best wine and give water. There will be so many cups of excellent wine poured into the barrel that mine will never be missed.” After all was said and done, the king was left with a town full of people who simply went through the motions of showing their love and admiration for him. This is what the nation of Israel was guilty of. And that is why God told them here: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (From a sermon by Peter Sapp, True Worship, 6/10/2010).

    Through Isaiah as His prophet, God declared: Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men (29:14b). This type of thinking would eventually bring the Jews into the Oral Law, the traditions of men (Mark 7:8), or the Mishnah in the New Covenant and is the ultimate reason for the rejection of Christ by the (see my commentary on The Life of Christ - Lg The Great Sanhedrin). This is quoted in Matthew 15:1-9. Jesus even says: You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you and then Jesus quotes Isaiah here. It is the fact that the Jews worshiped God by laws taught by men and not divine commandments that brought about this accusation of hypocrisy. This was a problem for the Jews in Isaiah’s day and for the Jews of Christ’s day. Messiah takes these words and directly applies them to the Pharisees. They had a sense of religiosity that was a product of human works. And to reemphasize what I said above, their reliance upon the Oral Law (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law) is the reason that Jesus was ultimately rejected by His generation. But Jesus had nothing to do with the Oral Law because He knew it had nothing to do with ADONAI. He knew it was manmade. And because He rejected it, they rejected Him. This led to the worldwide dispersion in 70 AD, and ultimately to the covenant between the antichrist and Israel, and the Great Tribulation or His strange work, and His alien task (28:21).

    Because their worship of ADONAI was made up only of rules taught by men, God judged them and their wisdom would vanish. When Isaiah prophesied that once more the LORD will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish and the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish (29:14), the near historical fulfillment served to illustrate its future and ultimate fulfillment. When Isaiah made the prophecy, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was planning to conquer Judah. The LORD told His prophet not to fear because the king’s plan would fail. But it would not fail because of the strength of Judah’s army or because of the strategy of King Hezekiah or his advisors. No, Judah would be saved solely by God’s power, with no human help. Human wisdom said that little Judah had no chance against the most powerful army known to the world at that time. However, the wisdom of the wise perished, and the intelligence of the intelligent vanished when He destroyed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night (37:36).

    Rabbi Saul used this quotation of Isaiah in First Corinthians 1:19 to emphasize that the wisdom of men will be destroyed. Isaiah’s teaching will have its ultimate fulfillment in the last days, when all men’s philosophies and objections to the gospel will be done away with. I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Then Paul goes on to say: Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world (First Corinthians 1:20)? Men are inclined to try to solve their problems and fight their battles by their own cleverness and in their own might. But human cleverness and might only get in God’s way, they only hinder Him rather than help Him. Solomon tells us that there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12). One of the things that keep people away from Christ is their disagreement with the Bible. It does not agree with their way of thinking. Even if they were confused over what it is that they believe, they would rather be confused than simply take the LORD at His Word. This willful unbelief is described by Paul in Romans 1:18-23. Pretending to be wise, these people are fools.

    God pronounced a woe on those who thought He did not see their actions. The context to the accusation of human planning that excludes ADONAI from the equation is the Egyptian alliance (30:1 to 31:9). God’s prophet declares: Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know” (29:15)? They attempted to hide their plans from God by doing things at night. But they had it backwards. God can hide His plans from man (29:10-12), but man cannot hide their plans from the LORD.

    Such thinking twisted the facts and confused the potter with the clay (41:25; 45:9 and 64:8). You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! A pot cannot deny that the potter made it, or say the potter is ignorant (45:9, 64:8). Shall what is formed say to him who formed it. “He did not make me?” Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing” (29:16)? They tell God what to do rather than seeking His direction. Then they tell Him that He lacks understanding! Despite this confusion, Isaiah encouraged the nation next with the knowledge that in the far exegetical future, things will be different. Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, normally follows up discouragement with encouragement.

    Although we today no longer offer blood sacrifices, we run the same danger as the people in Old Covenant times. That is, because we have performed certain religious activities, we believe ADONAI must do our will. We have prayed long and hard; therefore, God must heal our child. We have gone to church or messianic synagogue for months; as a result, the LORD must give us a good job. We have read the Bible daily; consequently, God must lift our depression. These are not acts of worship but attempts at manipulation. Worship should be a free expression of praise and thanks because of what God has already done for us. Of course He wants to bless us even further, but all too often our attempts to use Him, while still maintaining control of our lives, only serve to block the very blessing He wants to give.100


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