Isaiah 28:7- 13
Too many Christian people shy away from the Old Testament. “Too much judgement for the wicked.” Sadly, it is not palatable for many of today’s believers. Milk is commonly the diet of many Christians who flatly refuse meat – as well as living with the fact that there are too many pastors that love to shovel the milk by the cartload and never progress to solid food. “Too much violence!” It’s considered as absolutely nasty in its theological ramifications for the easy comfort of the modern church – and western Christianity in particular. Greasy grace is easy to preach. One can have the hallelujah’s shaking the roof and people swinging from the chandeliers when all they hear is grace -grace and even more grace. The call for obedience and holiness becomes an obscene expletive that “upsets the anointing.” Excuse me while I use my “sick-bag” for a moment. The call for integrity, honesty, accountability and serious discipleship leaves some Christians petrified into inaction. Prophets who itemize certain sins and bad lifestyles that get a little bit too near to the bone for many in our complex twenty-first century, leaves many people turning their back on the Master. It leaves many Christian people having one standard of morality for the office, another standard for the home, one tone of language for the friends in the pub and another pitch of language for the children and the spouse. Too much talk of “moral duty and responsibility” – Agh! I can sense many switching to the next blog or advert on their Google list of finds.”Duty?”Don’t use such foul language at the modern Christian!
I cannot help but think that answering the demands of the twenty-first century post-modernism, and the depths of the modern, brilliantly sharp atheism evangelists, reveals that the body of Christ has, in its attempts to be relevant, become perceived as utterly irrelevant, in its desperation to reach the masses, the masses have turned away and left us at the point where even though there are probably more zealous Spirit-filled Christians in the West than there has been for a long time, we are seemingly voiceless, powerless and influence-less. There is clearly “Trouble at ‘Mill”.
Oh yes! Some will undoubtedly point to the pockets of positive influence here and there. I read with great enthusiasm the reports of men like Jonathan Conrathe who brings the power of the living Christ wherever he goes in the West or in Africa. He leaves behind him a clear trail of people being saved, healed, delivered and baptised in the Holy Spirit. My eyes water when I read of what Daniel Kolenda is doing with his African Missions whilst following in the footsteps of the mighty Reinhard Bonnke. But there is indeed a general famine of the sort of stuff that punches unbelief, cynicism and scepticism solidly in the solar plexus of the world views and belief systems that run the world and the mass media.
Isaiah here steps into the realm of politics and the private lives of politicians. The world screams at the Christians and their leaders teaching us with a straight face and a sincere tone that “a person’s lifestyle and social outlook is absolutely nothing to do with their ability to run the country and make decisions that are motivated by nothing but political opinion.” Yeh! Right! Lobbyists that aim at the weaknesses and financial involvements of people with influence and clout in high places know what they are doing. In the midst of the lies and corruption of the press that report from personal opinion more than objective factuality, it is often to vilify the press and miss the politicians and senior civil servants that have their investments in the pies over which they make political decisions that add to their wealth and comfort.
A generally missed out observation of British Politics of a previous generation is that there was a slowness to make slavery and any dealings in slavery illegal. Many of the wealthy of the day were wealthy people who made their fortunes from slavery or actually had slaves here in the UK. When it was finally realised that the moral argument was like a steam roller running over a peanut the government was forced, by the wealthy, to pay the erstwhile slave owners a certain fixed fee for their “financial losses” in having to free their property – i.e. human beings that they owned as slaves. History tells us that Britain was almost reduced to financial deficits in the practical out-workings of the law to free slaves. The rich got richer. The ex “black-slaves” were rendered jobless and on the street, and the nation was near to economic breakdown and poverty.
Are we to believe that the political water level is higher today than in those long past days.
Isaiah was in a day of moral, spiritual, social, political and international upheaval. It was an earthquake of fear, violence, nations looking for help here there and everywhere. The two tiny Hebrew states of Judah and Israel were like paper boats trying to survive in the midst of a Perfect Storm. The Perfect Storm, however was to be mastered and conquered and overcome by the mighty hand of the God of Israel and Judah.
In the days prior to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel (722 B.C), Isaiah, it seems made a rare visit to Samaria. What he encountered sickened him. But we are clearly left with the graphic word picture that what he shockingly describes as the political scene up north in Samaria, was also being enacted in Jerusalem.
Samaria was tragically fallen in morality, spirit and purpose before it was physically dismantled and razed. But this is the same the world over isn’t it? The picture painted by the prophet is very striking. It suggests that Isaiah visited Samaria to see the sight, or that he possibly had met people that had been present at the woeful vision that the prophet paints for the reader.
But, what have we here! This isn’t simply megalomaniac power brokers in high places getting drunk on the job. But the prime leaders in dissipation and dissolution are none other than the “religious” ministry people, that is, the men of the cloth, and those that had been accredited with so much mystique and esteem through the ages – the prophets. Reeling, stumbling, staggering and vomiting were those who were acknowledged as prophets. Could this be?
Samaria was in a mess.
7. But now those leaders are drunk and reel with wine, stumbling and staggering from drinking too much. The priests and prophets are drunk and stagger with strong drink and filled with wine. They stumble and stagger while the prophets see their own visions and the judges make their verdicts.
Those who genuinely hold Yahweh as their strength and stay, submitting to the Spirit of God and the divine insights He grants, will supersede the former drunken and dissolute rulers, priests, and prophets. In Isaiah’s day these men were so drunk from wine and beer that they could not see the right from the wrong, or the right from the left, and neither could they see their rights from their privileges. Their so called “prophetic vision” was initiated by their drunken revelry and imagination. We are talking of serious, deep profligacy in the corridors of power. To say errors were made is an incredible understatement (See Amos 4:1; 6:1, 6). Instead of being filled with the Spirit of God, they were filled with wine and other fermented drink (Leviticus 10:9 -10; Numbers 11:24–25, 29; and Ephesians 5:18). It is altogether a sorrowful sketch of Samaria’s “present” highlighted against the glorious vision of their millennial future – a future that all the prophets testified of seeing, yet not having the slightest clue as to when. However, this “Samaritan present” was so dark, it was not to be granted as much as a future that went beyond the horizon of a few more days. It was the last failing days of a society that had degenerated into total anarchy and mobocracy.
8. Every table is covered with vomit. There is not a clean place anywhere.
The extreme drunkenness of these Ephraimite elite power brokers, the supposedly genteel aristocrats of society is a portrait of absolutely filth and disgusting chaos, the verbal description of which creates a word picture of horror and downright shamefulness. This illustrates Samaria as in verse 1 of this chapter. They are staggering drunkenly toward destruction. The leaders are sleeping at their drinking tables with the faces and hair soaking in the vomit from their own debauchery.
Clearly, the mere thought of their unrestrained drunken celebration was abhorrent to Isaiah, as it was to God Himself.
9. The Lord is trying to teach the people a lesson he is trying to make them understand his message. But the people are like babies too old for breast milk, like those who no longer nurse at their mother’s breast.
Writers, preachers and teachers vary in what they see in the Hebrew text of these verses in Isaiah 28. This writer is of the opinion that the leaders of the “The War Party”, that is those who were confident that their political allies would join together with them and defeat Assyria, along with the priests and prophets who were one with them – when they were sober – began here, to mock Isaiah’s message. They want him to know that they are not babies and do not need his advice. They are claiming a more mature understanding of the world situation in their day than Isaiah or Amos could ever claim. They suggest that God’s prophet does not possess their “superior wisdom.” Isaiah’s point is that they are immature and hardly passed the weaning knowledge of their political life. They, in return, mock Isaiah as if talking to a child.
10. So they make fun of the Lord’s prophet and say: “A command here, a command there;
a rule here, a rule there; a little lesson here, a little lesson there.”
They mock his message as if it were baby talk, repeating syllables, like children reciting their ABC’s. The Hebrew text reads as: “tsau latsau, tsau latsau, qau laqau, qau laqau, ze’er sham, ze’er sham.” They actually contended that Isaiah was treating them as if they were ignorant, uneducated unweaned toddlers. Actually, his message was simple and clear. Many unbelievers today are like them. They do not consider the Bible to be logical, or they say it is “out of date.” We need to witness to the truth of the Scriptures, not only by our words, but by our lives. Being mocked for silly simplistic approaches to life goes along with the territory that the believer takes.We servants cannot escape what our Master entered into.
11. So, the Lord will use strange words, mocking/stammering lips and foreign languages and tongues to speak to these people.
Isaiah responds by saying that if they do not learn the lesson by heeding the simple message he is explaining in their own language, God is about to use people of another language to teach them the same lesson he is talking about. The Assyrians, with their Akkadian language, are in the prophet’s view. They will teach the people of the northern kingdom about humility and contrition in a way that will shock and humiliate them all – notwithstanding their premature demise in Assyria’s blood curdling cruelty.
12. God said to them, “Here is a place of rest; let the tired people come and rest. This is the place of peace.” But the people would not listen.
God’s message through Isaiah was targeted to bring rest, including security and rejuvenation, to his people. However, they would not. He verbally exhorted, cried and encouraged the people to a place of faith and rest. But they would not.
13. So the words of the Lord will be, “A command here, a command there. A rule here, a rule there. A little lesson here, a little lesson there.”
God now uses the same words to mimic the insults of humiliation they had thrown at Isaiah. The word of the Yahweh would continue to be a simple clear message, to be horribly and finally fulfilled by the Assyrians. But the message only hardened the hearts of those who heard the message while wallowing in their drunken obscenity. God would let them continue with their plans, but they were to fail in their purposes and would be defeated, trapped, and captured. Samaria needed a man with an A frame on his shoulders walking the streets. Never had, “Repent for the end is nigh” held such deep importance and relevance to any group of people, notwithstanding Belshazzar at his party in Daniel 5. Singing, getting drunk, and partying while the Meds and Persians were blocking the mote and water systems of Babylon only to kill him and the entire Babylonian culture in a single night. Oh Samaria! Samaria! You were at the cusp of total annihilation, and the man Isaiah – as well as Amos – were the voices to save you all.
But it is at this point Isaiah brings the message to Samaria back home to resonate in the corridors of Government in Jerusalem. Isaiah’s insight is profound as we read on.