Isaiah 28:14 – 29
Time Travelling Contextualisation of this moment in Isaiah
OK! OK! OK! Here we are in the king’s court in Jerusalem. Stand with me and imagine. It’s the king of Judah whose name is Ahaz. He is surrounded by the Hebrew princes and aristocracy. There may be a few priests present – but it wouldn’t be many. There may be the odd “prophet” or two, but some of them were prophets in a false way. There were many in the “Schools of the Prophets” who were not prophets at all, in fact they were drunkards. The only true prophet we are aware of in this context is Isaiah. He definitely had contemporary brothers that carried the prophetic mantel, but for the purpose, place and time where we are, his contemporaneous prophets were not present at this moment. Isaiah wasn’t really welcome in the court of Ahaz. Isaiah was too straight, too direct, and too certain that Yahweh was the only God. There may have been a few false prophets who would have O.K’d the huge pile of Gold and gifts that Ahaz had sent to the king of Assyria asking Tiglath Pileser III to protect himself from being tortured and/or abused by the kings of Israel and Syria, but Ahaz would be sitting on his throne, smugly pharisaic (though the Pharisees were not in existence as a group at that time – that was something like 650 years into the future of Ahaz’s time line). Imagine the picture of you, my dear reader, and myself actually stood in his court in Jerusalem. As we are welcomed as time travellers (No! I haven’t gone nuts. Just bear with me for a few moments.) they have invited me to address them.
You can stand by me while I stand to say something to the court, each member of which are sat there prig and proud that they have been allowed by Yahweh, (or the god’s of Assyria as some of them may have thought) to be still extant while the ten northern tribes of the people of Israel have been scattered around the Middle East to a point where the world has never properly traced them all. It is now known that one or two of the smaller tribes were even scattered as far as India.
So standing before them – and hiding in the security of my imagination – a fact that makes me look and sound ever so courageous and wonderful (Cough! Cough! Splutter! Splutter!) I step forward to make the greatest prophetic address the court of Ahaz had ever heard. Better and more informed than the mighty Isaiah son of Amoz. (Oh! How armchair Christianity can make spiritual giants of us all – NOT! How 2,700 years of retrospection can make us all so certain and sure of a situation!)
So here I go! In this dream scenario, looking directly into the eyes of Ahaz.
“Oh Ahaz! Ahaz! Do not be so foolish as to think that Israel has been exiled and become non-existent because they are evil beyond any comprehension – and evil in ways that you are not. Israel has indeed been wiped off the planet like one of your servants wipes the dregs of your supper off your plates of gold …or whatever they are made of, but that does not even hint at the plain fact that you, and your example to your princes and your nation, have proven yourself to be more spiritually and morally depraved than their long list of kings up north. You lot of governmental characters are just as bad. In fact it could be reasoned that you are worse than the Northern monarchs, princes and people.
Your sins are greater because here in Jerusalem, no matter where they are hidden, are the scrolls of the book of Moses. You have the scrolls, the temple, the Land, the Levitical priests, and greater access to the history archives concerning Samuel, David, Solomon and Jehoshaphat. Your capacity of truth is greater than the now lost tribes, which makes your sins – identical though they may be to the now extinct northern kingdom of Israel – weightier and heavier because your culpability and knowledge of the truth was – and still is greater than theirs was. Israel’s sins were full and running over, therefore God has obliterated them as a nation. Previous generations of kings, and forefathers who had broken off from the Davidic line of monarchs had plunged themselves into 200 plus years of a dark age of intrigue, idolatry, twisted morality, coup after coup, and had the dastardly demonic evil mind to have considered Yahweh as on par to the tin pot gods of all the other nations of the Middle East, and the wild inventions of idolatrous nonsense that they revelled in.. It wasn’t a slow dripping tap of godlessness. It was more like a deep volcanic eruption of evil and corruption. The Northern Kingdom was conceived in sin, birthed in spiritual darkness, matured in an idolatrous cess-pit of spiritual filth and moral sewage.
But you, Ahaz, and your people, were divorced and separated by force from your brothers. The Darkness up north allowed the likes of Elijah, Elisha, Amos and others to shine gloriously brightly. You here, have had the likes of Hosea, Jonah and Micah speaking God’s word to bring you back into the garden of the covenant that Yahweh made through Moses. And now, you have that mighty prince of God – Isaiah. Why do you refuse to listen to him? No matter how much you feel safe because of the obscene amount of gold you have paid to Tiglath Pileser the king of Assyria, you are in great danger, and be assured there is a Diocletian sword overhanging you, swinging ever closer and although you might die with the kingdom of Judah intact, rest assured that when you stand before Yahweh in some later day, you will be held accountable for leading your people into deeper darkness from the first day you took office.
From those early days after your father passed away leaving you the sole reigning monarch over this Davidic kingdom, you trembled, feared and shook in terror, turning your back on God. You even insulted Yahweh’s servant Isaiah when he came to tell you not to fear. It was Yahweh’s glorious attempt to woo you into a conscious alert and dynamic faith in His care for you and your people. Pekah and Rezin were not to be allowed to touch you – son of David. No matter how hard Isaiah tried to speak peace into your soul, you refused to listen. Even when the prophet invited you to ask for a sign whether it had been in heaven or on earth – just ask! Yahweh was so eager for you to plant your feet into a life of faith and trust in Him. But you refused.
You did right not to join Pekah and Rezin and fight against Tiglath Pileser. But you committed the greater sin and made a contract of submission to him, worshipping the Assyrian gods, and even removing Yahweh’s altar from the Lord’s temple, and replacing it with a duplicate model of the Assyrian demon worship. Because of this huge betrayal of your heritage, your God, your brothers in Israel, and Yahweh Himself, Tiglath Pileser was given a false reason to annex the people of Aram and then exile them, just as he did with Israel.
Ahaz! Can’t you see that the mad megalomaniac rantings of Tiglath Pileser III and the Assyrian armies would have demolished Aram and Israel anyhow, with or without your gold, your obeisance, and your invite birthed in deep fear and personal self protection? Your scribes have informed us all that “Tiglath-Pileser attacked Israel and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.” Tiglath Pileser was so proud of these conquests he has written the very same things in his journals. You betrayed Israel no matter what the set agenda was for Tiglath Pileser.
Your freedom to sit here in Jerusalem in false pomposity with your tin pot court, was bought at the expense of the freedom of thousands of others in Aram – and your own brothers and kin in Israel. Shame! Shame! Shame on you!
Oh Judah! Judah! Do not suffer yourselves to even think that you are superior over the ten Northern tribes. Get hold of common sense and maintain a deep consciousness of accountability to God. Listen to everything that Isaiah says and you will not go wrong at all.”
Wow! Now that’s a powerful message if ever I heard one.
However, I really and truly am not living in cloud cuckoo land. I am writing this to show my readers where Isaiah was in all this.
So returning to the absolute raw reality of Isaiah’s situation, we return to his words in Isaiah 28.
Scholars don’t seem to be sure whether or not the first half of Isaiah 28 was actually spoken in a visit to Israel before they were besieged, defeated and exiled. Or whether he spoke as if addressing Israel simply to make his point with Ahaz and the kingdom of Judah. They say this because having explained the sins and symptoms of Israel’s problems, he returns to Jerusalem and Judah’s complications.
14. So listen to the Lord’s message, you who brag, mock and scoff; you leaders who rule this people in Jerusalem.
Yahweh proceeds with a word for the powerful rulers and princes in Jerusalem who had been mocking His word through Isaiah in an arrogant, cynical way. Proverbs 1:22 states “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” Proverbs 9:7 says: Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.” Proverbs was basically constructed by Solomon over 200 years before Ahaz was born, or Hezekiah. Foolishness is so consistent that words of wisdom written 3,000 years before my time, still diagnose fools absolutely correctly.
15. You say, “We have made an agreed covenant with death; we have a secret contractual agreement with Sheol. When terrible punishment, an overwhelming flood, passes by, it won’t hurt us. Our lies will keep us safe and are our refuge, and our falsehood will hide us and be our refuge.”
Oh my! The language is shockingly dreadful. The “covenant with death” made by the elders and royalty of Judah is utterly godless. Their secret agreement with hell is more than likely what Isiah referred to as a “covenant with death.” It was actually a covenant with Egypt for help against the overwhelming scourge of Assyria as portrayed in Isaiah 8:7; and 10:5. They had not only rejected their covenant with Yahweh – that is the very covenant that validated their actual existence on the planet in this life, but were joyfully confident in their human ability and strength, encouraged by those people who depended on occult practices for guidance, of which there were many. However, they were, in reality, making lies their refuge and hiding under fearful falsehoods. All unbelievers since Adam’s day have done exactly the same, making fools of themselves in the eyes of Almighty Yahweh.
16. Because of these things, this is what the Lord God says: “I will lay a stone in the ground in Jerusalem, in Zion – the location of the Temple, a tested stone. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. It will be a precious cornerstone, a firm foundation. Anyone who trusts in it will never be disappointed or panic, waver or be shaken.”
This is, yet again, where Isaiah’s predictions of hope and faith get juicy and exhilarating. In contrast to their foolish refuge of lies and falsehood, God is laying in Zion a foundation of stone, a precious and priceless stone and a veritable “sure foundation.” God himself is the foundation Stone (see 8:14; 17:10; cf. Gen. 49:24). He was, is and will be present as the foundation for the ongoing future fulfillment of His divine plan and the kingdom to come. When Hezekiah took a stand of faith, he was like a cornerstone who would stand firm (cf. 36:15, 18, 21; 37:15–20). But Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of these words, for He is the Stone the builders rejected (Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42) and He is the One on whom the Church is built (Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4–8). Those who believe and trust in God will not have to hurry here and there seeking human help or fleeing from human enemies. Because of their faith in God, they will rest in Him and enjoy His peace.
17. I will use justice as a measuring line and righteousness as the plumb line. The lies you hide behind and take refuge in will be swept away as if by hail. Your hiding places and shelters will be washed away as if in a flood.
The “measuring line,” is for horizontal measurement. The “plumb line” (mishqaleth in Hebrew) was actually a level used to check vertical. It is not a modern plumb line. It was a piece of string with a stone tied at the bottom. The principle and lesson always remains the same. When a wall is tested by the measuring line and the level is crooked, the wall must be torn down. The lies and schemes of the Jerusalem princes, who planned rebellion against Assyria and trusted in Egypt, will be tested by God’s justice and righteousness. They will find out how fragile their refuge of lies is.
18. Your covenant and treaty with death will be erased and annulled; your contract with death and the grave; will not help you stand or last any length of time. When terrible punishment comes, you will be crushed and beaten down by it
Their “covenant with death” and secret “agreement with the grave” (hell, not the grave; see v. 15) will not stand when the scourge of Assyria overflows their land. All will be swept away and the scoffers will be defeated.
19. Whenever punishment comes, it will take you away. It will come morning after morning; it will defeat you, sweeping through by both day and by night. Those who understand this punishment will be terrified.”
The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror. The Assyrians will repeatedly pass through the land and will bring dread to those who derided Isaiah’s dispatch of rest and refreshing. This will bring an end to their mocking, for God’s word. This message will prove true. Its fulfillment will terrify them.
20. You will be like the person who tried to sleep on a bed that was too short and with a blanket that was too narrow to wrap around himself.
They disallowed God’s offer of a quiescent place for the fatigued (v. 12). The bed and the blanket they chose for rest and refreshing refer to the lies and falsehood of verse 15. They were under a dark cloud of judgement and were culpable for breaking the treaties they had made. They trusted in Egypt, but Egypt’s help would not be sufficient to protect Judah from Assyria.
21. The Lord will fight. He will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim. He will be angry and rouse himself as he did in the Valley of Gibeon. He will do his work, his strange, peculiar work. He will finish his job, his strange, unusual job.
Yahweh is the same God who gave David victories over the Philistines “at Mount Perazim” (see 2 Sam. 5:17–23; 1 Chron. 14:11–16). These were triumphs that secured David’s control over Jerusalem that was, then, the new national capital. He is the same God who made the sun stand still “in the Valley of Gibeon” so Joshua could have victory over the Amorites (Josh. 10:10–14) and continue the conquest of the Promised Land. Now God will do something “strange.” This will be a completely “alien task”- He will bring judgment on the same people He gave victories to.
22. Now, you must not make fun of these things. Do not mock. You must stop your contemptuousness. If not, the ·ropes, chains and/or bonds around you will become tighter and heavier. The Lord God Almighty – Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies has told me and decreed to me how the whole earth will be destroyed. The Lord Punishes Fairly
Isaiah pleads with the people not to show themselves to be mockers, scoffers, or scorners (see verse 14) lest their chains become even more constrictive. God has decreed destruction on “the whole land,” or “the whole earth”. The Hebrew may mean either.) The destruction will come. It was too late to change that. Nevertheless, they could still turn to Yahweh and stop its gathering force.
In similar manner, the destruction of the Great Tribulation will come at the end of this age. It is seen as a fact in Isaiah chapters 24 – 27. That cannot be changed. But believers need to be issuing a last call to repentance, just as Isaiah was with his vision of the gathering holocaust becoming clearer and clearer, and more ominous.