THE ONLY SURE FOUNDATION = THE PRECIOUS CORNERSTONE =
Outward physical circumstances can be so deceiving. The wicked can have that Hollywood glitter attached to them. They look so successful and so beautiful. But inside they are no different than the white washed sepulchers like the Pharisees which Jesus lambasted. That is why we make a huge mistake when we try to wrestle with the age-old question: “Why do the Wicked Prosper?” If you were able to get inside the hearts and minds of the rich and famous who have rejected the rule of God and rely on their own abilities and wisdom – you would find nothing but rottenness and moral failure. That’s just the human condition apart from the righteousness which only the Lord Jesus can supply. God’s judgment will quickly sweep away all superficial aspects of false hope and security.
Is your life built on the sure foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ? As we head into this New Year, let’s examine our life’s foundation. Will your anchor hold in the tumultuous days that lie ahead in the year 2014?
THE ONLY SURE FOUNDATION IS THE PRECIOUS CORNERSTONE = THE MESSIAH
Chaps. 28-33 – New section of six woes — (28:1; 29:1; 29:15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1) – mainly against Israel and particularly Jerusalem – last is against Assyria.
Parunak: They immediately follow the vineyard song of ch.27, just as the vineyard song of ch. 5 is followed by a series of six woes (5:8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22).
Oswalt: In the intervening years between Samaria’s fall (721 B.C.) and Sennacherib’s attack on Jerusalem (701 B.C.), it appears that Judah’s foreign-policy makers turned more and more toward alliance with Egypt (30:3; 31:1). To Isaiah, this alliance was just as stupid as the earlier one with Assyrian had been. Egypt might not someday seek to devour Judah, but any help she could give was distinctly unreliable.
I. (:1-13) WOE ON THE DISORIENTED DRUNKARDS OF EPHRAIM
A. (:1-4) Destruction Directed Against the Self-Reliant Proud and Beautiful Rulers
1. (:1) Causes of Destruction
a. Pronouncement of Woe
“Woe” = Watch Out Earthlings!
Constable: The prophet began by exposing the folly of the leaders of the Northern Kingdom. He condemned them for their proud scoffing. The “woe” appears at first to be against them alone, but as the chapter unfolds it becomes clear that Isaiah was pronouncing woe on the leaders of the Southern Kingdom even more.
b. Two Moral Indictments of the Self-Reliant
1) Moral Indictment of the Self-Reliant Proud
“to the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim,”
Van Parunak: Why would one call people a “crown of pride”? Compare two expressions in Proverbs, a book that Isaiah has already quoted extensively:
Pro 17:6 Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.
Pro 12:4 A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband:
People are called a “crown” when others treasure them, think highly of them, and are proud of them. The “crown” here is the leading citizens of Samaria. Compare the fate predicted in ch. 3 on the proud men and pampered ladies of Jerusalem. The rest of the citizens look up to them, lionize them, boast of them as a king boasts of his crown. But in reality they are drunken sots, like yesterday’s flower withered and faded.
Ecc 10:16-17 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! 17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
Isaiah condemns those who enjoy this blessed site with a sense of entitlement and self-gratification. Cf. Amos 4:1-2 . . .
Ephraim and Israel = the ten Northern Tribes= Samaria.
2) Moral Indictment of the Self-Reliant Beautiful
“and to the fading flower of its glorious beauty,”
Culture in decline
c. Place of Distinction Compromised by Indulgence
“which is at the head of the fertile valley
of those who are overcome with wine!” cf. Ephes. 5:18
Jim Bomkamp: The Treasury Of Scripture Knowledge has the following entry concerning the city of Samaria and it’s beauty and desirableness, “The ancient Samaria being beautifully situated on the top of a round hill, and surrounded immediately with a rich valley, and then a circle of other hills around it, suggested the idea of a chaplet, or wreath of flowers.”
2. (:2-4) Three Images of Destruction
a. (:2) Forces of Nature – Powerful Storm Event
1) Strong Agent of Judgment = Assyrian Invasion
“Behold, the Lord has a strong and mighty agent;”
2) Sweeping Intensity of Destruction
“as a storm of hail,”
“a tempest of destruction,”
“like a storm of mighty overflowing waters,” tsunami imagery
3) Sovereign Hand of the Lord Administering the Destruction
“He has cast it down to the earth with His hand.”
Constable: Ephraim was in danger because the Lord had an irresistible agent who would humble her pride, as a storm overwhelms the unprepared. Assyria was that agent, but the prophet did not name it, perhaps because he wanted to emphasize the principles involved in the judgment.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel, in particular the city of Samaria, would be destroyed by Assyria in 722 BC.
b. (:3) Feet of Invading Army Trample the Unsuspecting Self-Inflated Drunkards
“The proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim is trodden under foot.
c. (:4) Fruit Devoured Hastily
“and the fading flower of its glorious beauty,
which is at the head of the fertile valley,
will be like the first-ripe fig prior to summer;
which one sees, and as soon as it is in his hand, He swallows it.”
Constable: With prophetic perfect tenses, Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Ephraim and its leaders.
Brian Bell: It was a confident time in Israel but their prosperity would fade like:
 A fading flower(1,3,4)
 Be carried away in a storm & flood(2)
 Be swallowed swiftly like fresh fruit(4).
Rich Cathers: fig trees produce most of their ripe fruit around August, but a few pieces of fruit would ripen around June and were considered a delicacy. Quickly eaten. The beauty of the Northern Kingdom will soon be gone.
B. (:5-13) Justice and Rest Can Only Come from the Reign of the Lord – Who Alone is Beautiful and Glorious
1. (:5-6) Futuristic Insight Into the Lord’s Majestic Reign
“In that day the LORD of hosts will become a beautiful crown
and a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people;
a spirit of justice for him who sits in judgment,
a strength to those who repel the onslaught at the gate.”
– administering justice
– providing strength and protection
Jer 9:23-24 “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”
Oswalt: In every age there is a remnant which is a part of that great final one. They are characterized by the ability to see through the tinsel of life, beyond the trappings of appearances, to those truths which are eternal, which will prevail.
2. (:7-8) Further Indictment of the Priests and Prophets
“And these also reel with wine and stagger from strong drink:
the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink,
they are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink;
they reel while having visions,
they totter when rendering judgment.
For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, without a single clean place.”
– characterized by a drunken stupor
– disoriented and devoid of any self control
– incapable of performing their leadership tasks
– delivering visions – messages from God
– rendering judgments
– degraded by their own immoral filth – image of vomit is not a pretty picture
Beall: In vv. 7-13, many commentators think that the subject has switched from Samaria to Judah, but in all probability the switch is in v. 14. The accusations of vv. 1-4 are expanded: the priests and prophets are in just as sad shape as the rulers of Samaria–they too are inebriated and are staggering around (the repetition in language helps emphasize their staggering–turning this way and that), even in giving their visions (the prophets) and making judgments (the priests). The prophets in Ephraim were simply telling people the things they wanted to hear (see Isa 30:10). v. 8 continues the scene, showing the horror of the depths the drunkenness had gone–not a clean table in the place! All is vomit and filth, the natural result of their own sin.
Rich Cathers: A Japanese proverb says: “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man.”
Oswalt: Now self-indulgence has fully shown its ultimate end in degradation. These who should lead the nation in commitment to God’s ways wallow in their own filth and think it amusing.
3. (:9-13) Futility of Instruction in Righteousness to Such Self-Deceived Simpletons
“To whom would He teach knowledge? And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? For He says, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’ Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, ‘Here is rest, give rest to the weary,’ And, ‘Here is repose,’ but they would not listen. So the word of the LORD to them will be, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,’ That they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared, and taken captive.”
They had an unteachable spirit
Mt.11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Constable: These drunken leaders mocked Isaiah for the simplicity and repetition with which he presented the Lord’s messages (cf. Acts 17:18) . . . They accused Isaiah of proclaiming elementary teaching and of speaking to them like small children (cf. 6:9-10). What Isaiah advocated was trust in the Lord rather than reliance on foreign alliances for national security.
Isaiah built his hearers’ knowledge bit by bit, adding a little here and a little there. This is, of course, the best method of teaching, but it has never appealed to proud intellectuals who consider themselves beyond the simplicity of God’s truth. Similarly, today, many modern university professors of religion ridicule those who believe we should take the Bible at face value. . . Isaiah turned his critics’ words back on themselves; what they had said about his words in mockery would overtake them. If God’s people refused to listen to words spoken in simple intelligibility, He would give them unintelligibility as a judgment (cf. Matt. 23:37). Since they refused to learn from a prophet who appealed to them in their own language, He would teach them with plunderers whose language (Akkadian) they would not understand, but whose lances they would take in. They would learn to rest on Yahweh from their foreign foe’s treatment of them if they refused to learn that lesson from Isaiah.
Sounds like gibberish
Van Parunak: On the whole, it’s preferable to understand the line as gibberish, in imitation of a toddler’s immature and often incomprehensible language. The Lord is working out the consequences of the question in v. 9. “Who is left to be taught? The toddlers? Then I will have to communicate with them in baby talk.”
Lord’s message should be designed to provide peace and rest and security; instead to these recalcitrant rejecters of truth, the Lord’s message would harden their hearts and confirm them in their rebellion as they are led away in bondage – “stumbling backward, broken, snared, and taken captive.”
Jim Bomkamp: People today often don’t want to become Christians because the gospel message seems to them to be too simplistic. Just trusting in the finished work of Jesus upon the cross for their sins doesn’t seem like it would be enough to save them from their sins and get them to heaven.
Vine: Instead of being so superior in knowledge and attainment, as they imagined they were, in reality they were like tiny children, who must be taught the very elements of knowledge. Just as with children, precept must be upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little.
II. (:14-29) WOE EXTENDED TO THE SECURITY-SEEKING SCOFFERS OF JERUSALEM (SOUTHERN KINGDOM)
A. (:14-22) Destruction Directed Against the Security-Seeking Scoffers
1. (:14) Take Heed to God’s Message
“Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, O scoffers,
who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,”
2. (:15) Fear the Scourge of God’s Judgment — Naïve Security Alliances Rooted in Falsehood and Deception
“Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, for we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.’”
Constable: The rulers in Jerusalem scoffed at the Lord’s Word, but Isaiah called on them to listen to it. “Scoffer” is the strongest negative term that the Old Testament writers used to describe the wicked (cf. Ps. 1:1-2; Prov. 1:22; 13:1; 14:9; 21:24; 29:8). A scoffer not only chooses the wrong way, but he or she also mocks the right way. He or she is not only misled, but he or she delights in misleading others. The rulers had made a covenant with some nation (probably Egypt) that involved deception and falsehood (probably against Assyria). Israel had already made a covenant with Yahweh that guaranteed her security (Exod. 19—Num. 10). Why did she need to make another? The rulers thought that as a result of their covenant, the scourge of their dreaded enemy (Assyria) would not touch them. But Isaiah sarcastically told them that their covenant was really with Death and Sheol; death would be the outcome of their pact. They were the naïve ones, not he (cf. vv. 9-10).
3. (:16-17a) Justice and Righteousness Can Only Come from the Rock Who is the Messiah – Who Alone is Proven, Precious and Positioned for Our Faith
“Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. And I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the level;’”
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Year Verse for Solid Rock Community Church for 2014:
Five Characteristics of This Solid Rock Who Alone Offers True Peace:
I. A Prominent Stone — “Behold I am laying in Zion a stone”
– Prominent because of the attention the Lord draws to it — “Behold“
– Prominent because of who is setting it in place
– Prominent because of its choice location in Zion
– Prominent because of its nature = solid, firm, impenetrable, trustworthy
II. A Proven Stone — “a tested stone”
– Proven holiness of character — perfect in all His attributes — “One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin“ Hebrews 4:15
– Proven life of obedience to the Father — come to fully do His will
– Proven ministry of effective teaching and healing and discipling
III. A Precious Stone – “a costly cornerstone”
– Precious in terms of costly
– Precious in terms of unique and rare
– Precious in terms of function as the cornerstone
IV. A Purposeful Stone — “for the foundation”
V. A Positioned Stone – “firmly placed”
Application: “He who believes in it will not be disturbed.”
– Rest in Peace
– Do Not Be Disturbed
* * * * * * * * * *
Beall: In the NT, both Paul and Peter combine this verse with 8:14 to refer to those who reject Christ: in Rom 9:32-33, Paul cites these verses to show that Israel stumbled over accepting Christ, while Peter (using these verses and Ps 118:22) writes that Christ is a precious stone to those who believe, but a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to those who are disobedient
(1 Pet 2:6-8). The image of Christ as the sure stone, or the Rock, is frequent in the Scriptures: for example, in Isa 26:4, the song of the redeemed of Judah proclaims that Yah, Yahweh is the everlasting Rock (see also Isa 8:14; 12:3; 17:10; and 30:29 for similar imagery; also, 1 Cor 10:4: “that Rock was Christ”). What folly for the leaders of Judah to forsake Him.
Van Parunak: Our text gives three characteristics of this stone, and then tells us how we should respond to such a foundation.
a tried stone,–The stone is tried, tested, proven. One does not use chalk or soft sandstone as the foundation of a building: it would crumble under the weight of the structure. Our Savior (Heb 4:15) was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He is tested and approved, and it is on this ground that the author to the Hebrews goes on to exhort us (4:16), Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
a precious corner stone,–Something is precious because it is rare, and the word often has that connotation. The Messiah is not only proven, but also unique. Most stones have only one finished face. They can go anywhere in the wall, but they cannot serve as the cornerstone. Only the cornerstone has two finished faces. By God’s grace, many of his saints have been tested and proven. Job could say, Job 23:10 he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Tested saints are the “lively stones” to which Peter refers (1 Pet 2:5), built into the temple of God. But they cannot serve as the foundation. The corner stone is rare and unique, the one who is both God and man.
a sure foundation:–Such a stone, proven and unique, is completely reliable. As a foundation for our faith, it will not let us down.
he that believeth shall not make haste.–When we understand the firm foundation that the Lord has provided for us in the Messiah, we will no longer feel a need to run hither and yon in anxiety and confusion. We will not run down to Egypt to seek human alliances. God has promised us rest, and we will enjoy that rest.
4. (:17b-21) Fear the Scourge of God’s Judgment
“Then hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the secret place. And your covenant with death shall be canceled, and your pact with Sheol shall not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, then you become its trampling place. As often as it passes through, it will seize you. For morning after morning it will pass through, anytime during the day or night. And it will be sheer terror to understand what it means. The bed is too short on which to stretch out, and the blanket is too small to wrap oneself in. For the LORD will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be stirred up as in the valley of Gibeon; to do His task, His unusual task, and to work His work, His extraordinary work.”
Motyer: Vv. 18-19 — point by point contradiction of their proud confidence. Their signed agreements will prove meaningless; their boast of immunity will be exposed as hollow, morning and night. They mocked a message of rest and by doing so embraced a message of terror. To the metaphor of flood and whip is added that of marauding beast.
Constable: Their signed agreements would prove meaningless. Their boast of immunity from catastrophe would prove hollow. They mocked a message leading to rest and chose to embrace a message resulting in terror. The scourge God would send would be like a marauding beast as well as a hailstorm and a flood.
S. Lewis Johnson: the bed is not long enough and the cover is not wide enough, and so is all policy that trusts in the flesh. That’s what he means. Any covenant made with Egypt is like a bed that’s too short. It’s like covers that are not wide not enough to cover you. It’s going to be a great disappointment and so any trust in the arm of the flesh if you are a non-Christian in this audience tonight, any trust in your good works for salvation is a bed that’s too short, covers that do not cover you.
Constable: Defeating the Israelites was strange work for the Lord because He customarily defended them. Judgment is His “strange work,” especially judgment of His own people, a work foreign to what He usually does, namely: bless.
Motyer: The Lord once masterminded theDavidic triumphs, which were a stepping-stone to national security and the foundation of Zion as the national capital (2 Sa. 6), but those who now reject the Davidic-Zion foundation of the divine promises will find that their portion is wrath on the same scale, a strange and alien task indeed!
5. (:22) Take Heed to God’s Message
“And now do not carry on as scoffers, lest your fetters be made stronger;
for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts,
of decisive destruction on all the earth.”
B. (:23-29) Give Heed to the Wisdom of the Lord – Call for Repentance
1. (:23) Take Heed to God’s Wisdom
“Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my words.”
Van Parunak: The farmer needs discretion in two phases of the process, sowing (24-25) and threshing (27-28). In both cases this discretion comes from the Lord (26, 29).
Motyer: Jerusalem’s lifestyle mirrors that of Samaria but will Jerusalem’s history follow the same immediate path? Samaria paid for its pride by overthrow; is Jerusalem similarly to fall?
. . . The harsh activity of ploughing, breaking, harrowing is not an end in itself; it is purposeful, aiming at sowing the carefully planned crop. This corresponds to verses 1-6, the harsh judgment on Samaria with the “fringe of hope” in view at the end. The second parable (27-29) is one of reaping. Each crop has to be gathered in a way appropriate to it; the wrong treatment would destroy the crop. . . what happened to Samaria is not necessarily what will happen to Jerusalem, for the farmer has learned his discriminating ways from God
2. (:24-28) Farming Parable Demonstrating God’s Wisdom in Natural Realm
a. (:24-26) Sowing / Planting
“Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground? Does he not level its surface, and sow dill and scatter cummin, and plant wheat in rows, barley in its place, and rye within its area? For his God instructs and teaches him properly.”
b. (:27-28) Threshing / Reaping
“For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; but dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club. Grain for bread is crushed, indeed, he does not continue to thresh it forever. Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it, He does not thresh it longer.”
Beall: Even an uneducated peasant knows better than to plow all year, or to thresh tiny cummin seeds with an oxcart. The key seems to be that in both examples, God teaches the uneducated peasant (vv 26, 29), with good, productive counsel; by contrast, the “wise” rulers do not have nearly enough sense.
Jim Bomkamp: The Lord knows how to reach each individual person, for He knows everything about them, and thus knows how to speak each person’s language and to avoid offending or pushing away each person. This is a wonderful aspect of God and reveals how wise and powerful He really is. This truth is illustrated by the fact that the Lord gives the farmer wisdom about how to prepare the land, sow, and harvest each different type of crop. Isaiah tells us that farmers know that:
– With some crops the ground is not plowed, but rather leveled.
– Dill and cumin seed are scattered.
– Wheat is planted in rows.
– Barley is planted in its place.
– Rye is planted in a general area.
– Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge as is corn.
– A cartwheel is not driven over cumin.
– Dill is threshed by being beaten with a rod.
– Cummin is threshed by being beaten with a club.
– Grain for bread is crushed, and you can’t just keep trying to thresh grain to get all of the grain otherwise it will be destroyed.
3. (:29) Take Heed to God’s Wisdom
“This also comes from the LORD of hosts,
Who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.”
Constable: Likewise a farmer threshes dill, cummin, and grain in different ways. This is also wisdom that Yahweh of armies teaches. A simple farmer learns how to plow, plant, thresh, and grind from God, by studying nature, and as he applies what God teaches, there is blessing. How much more should the sophisticated leaders of Judah learn from Him to trust Him.
Oswalt: God is the true counselor and his counsel is simple, straight-forward, and productive (v. 12). What the leaders are proposing is as stupid as a farmer plowing all year, or trying to thresh tiny cumin seeds with an oxcart. Even an uneducated peasant, taught by God, knows better than that.
Only those who have lost their ability to reason because of drunkenness or have stubbornly chosen to resist God’s counsel as scoffers would be foolish enough to put their trust in anyone but the Lord for their sure foundation in life. On Christ the Solid Rock we stand … all other ground is sinking sand!
Matt. 7:26-27 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall.”