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We should not be surprised at the level of mocking and scoffing that Christians are subjected to today. It is the height of arrogance for the Creature to exalt himself and imagine that he is smarter than his Creator – but such is mindset of those in positions of power today – those in the media, in our universities, in our government. Mocking Christians and God and the Bible has reached new levels of abuse in our society.

– Some representative quotations: starting with a very recent quote from a week ago

Andrew M. Cuomo: [Gov. of NY state] — “extreme conservatives . . have no place in the state of New York,” Cuomo — radio interview Jan. 17. Cuomo defined “extreme conservatism” as being “anti-gay” by opposing same-sex marriage rights, opposed to abortion rights and favoring legalization of assault weapons. [look at the biblical views which he mocks here].

God turns this mocking around and says that His redeemed earth will have no place for such arrogant scoffers who want to reject God’s standards and replace His truth with their own perversity

Frank Lloyd Wright: [famous American architect] — I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. [sounds like Romans 1 doesn’t it? With the worship of creation substituted for the worship of the Creator]

Rex Murphy: To be a serious Christian in modern Western culture is to be the favoured easy target of every progressive thinker and every half-witted comedian. It is to have your sensibilities and your deepest beliefs on perpetual call for taunts, mockery and desecration. At a time when all progressives preach full volume for inclusivity and sensitivity, for the utmost care in speech when speaking of others with differing views or hues, Christians, as Christians, are under a constant hail of abuse and disregard. There is nothing too low or too vulgar.

S. E. Cupp “ Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity, 2010, not even an evangelical believer herself but could still perceive the media’s bias

The media has a “covenant” with five tenets:

1. The Judeo-Christian values that form the basis of American democracy should be overthrown entirely—because a minuscule disgruntled minority finds them objectionable.

2. Religious tolerance is crucial to the success and health of any democracy—but not when it is applied to the vast majority.

3. A robust, fair, and objective press is better for freedom than a hostile, biased, and corrupted one—but not if being objective competes with the media’s ideological impulses.

4. The spokespeople for our culture should commend good works, not mock them—unless those good works are being done by Christians.

5. Civility and decency are disposable commodities when the values of citizenry compete with secular values of the press.

It won’t always be this way:


Quick Review:

Woe #1 – Against Ephraim in the northern kingdom spilling over to the southern kingdom – The Only Sure Foundation is the Precious Cornerstone

Woe #2 – Against spiritual hypocrisy of leaders in Jerusalem – The Lord judges rote religious tradition with spiritual blindness



Those who imagine that they know better than God; Who make their independent plans in the perversity of their human wisdom without any regard for the will of God

A. (:15) Three Damning Declarations of the Supremacy of Man

1. Declare themselves to be Independent of the Lord’s Governing

“Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD,”

Constable: “Woe” announces divine condemnation of another trait of the Jerusalemites: their habitual and determined decision to try to hide from God (cf. Gen. 3:8). The political strategists seem to be particularly in view. They tried to hide their plans from the Lord so they could be their own masters, as they thought, to live as they pleased rather than as He instructed them. Previously King Ahaz had tried to hide his appeal to Assyria for help (ch. 7).

Van Parunak: The specific case that Isaiah has in mind is the plan of the Jerusalem department of state to seek an alliance with Egypt (30:1-2; 31:1). But Isaiah begins with the general principle rather than the specific instance. The problem is not just the specific nature of Egypt, but the attitude of heart that tries to plan one’s course of life without consulting the Lord.

This behavior is a manifestation of serving the Lord outwardly but removing one’s heart from him (v. 13). The rulers of Jerusalem thought that they could worship God in the temple services while excluding him from their daily thoughts and plans. Such compartmentalization always brings God’s solemn declaration, “Woe.”

They don’t seek counsel from the Lord and they don’t advise others to seek such counsel; they act on their own initiative; they rely on human wisdom; they make their own plans and try to carry them out as if they are sovereign – constitutes a complete denial of the sovereignty of God

This spirit of independence is characterized as arrogant and evil in James 4:13-17

Prov. 27:1 “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

Takes humility to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ; to make it your will to do His will

Oswalt: your plans are stupid and corrupt because you will not believe the simplicity of God’s promises.

How are you making your plans for this week’s activities? Are you a servant of Christ or a free agent? Are you open and transparent before the Lord or trying to hide your plans?

2. Declare themselves to be Lovers of Darkness rather than the light

“And whose deeds are done in a dark place,”

John 3:19-21

1 John 1:5-7

Internet can be a very dark place – cesspool of pornography – lures you in because you think that no one can see or know what you are doing – at the end of the day I will just delete the browsing history with a click of the button and no one will know where I have been

We need to live as children of the light

Col. 1:13-14 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Are your deeds characterized by light or by darkness? Do you have some secret sins where you are still living on the dark side? Feeding your pride or your bitterness or your selfishness or your lusts

3. Declare themselves to be Free from Divine Accountability

“And they say, ‘Who sees us?’ or ‘Who knows us?’”

Psalm 139

B. (:16) Three Damning Denials of the Supremacy of God

1. Denying the Distinction Between the Creator and His Creation

“You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay,”

Beall: The first part of v. 16 is striking: it should be translated, “Your perversity!” . . . These leaders have turned things upside down. The clay is trying to disown the potter, or act as if He has no understanding! What foolishness!

Perversity of human wisdom — involves a reversal; a turning things on their head

What an absurdity to so reverse this simple imagery of the potter and his clay

Remember how the prophets love to make fun of the lifeless, wooden idols – how can you worship that which you have carved from a tree?

Here the irony and sarcasm go even deeper – How can the creature consider himself equal to God the Creator?

2. Denying the Accountability that Derives from Creation by Denying Creation Itself

“That what is made should say to its maker, ‘He did not make me’;”

Going a step further and denying Creation itself – this is where the world is today – people placing their faith in the ridiculous so-called scientific theory of Evolution

Oswalt: It is the forgetting of God’s right as Maker that leads to ethical relativism.

He didn’t make me so He cannot tell me what to do; I am the master of my own life – an attack against God’s sovereignty

3. Denying the Superiority of the Perspective and Wisdom of the Eternal One

“Or what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?”

Who knows what is best for man?

Constable: These politicians turned things upside down. They denied the Lord’s distinctiveness, sovereignty, and wisdom—and attributed those characteristics to themselves (cf. v. 14; 45:9; 64:8; Gen. 2:7; Jer. 18:1-6; Rom. 1:25; 9:19-21). They told the Lord what to do rather than trying to discover what He wanted to do.

Supremacy of God has been replaced with the Supremacy of Man —

Examine current Christian trends in the church to see where this critical error is taking root

– In our preaching – We are bored with the deep truths of God’s doctrines from His Word; we want simplistic, man-centered solutions to whatever is bugging us today

– We value entertainment over worship – over standing in awe of the God who made us

– In our counseling – God’s Word can’t handle the complexities of our modern behavior issues; we have come to rely on the human wisdom of psychologists


A. (:17-19) Restoration

1. (:17) Reversal of Roles and of Fortunes

“Is it not yet just a little while before Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field,

And the fertile field will be considered as a forest?”

Difficult verse –

“Lebanon” – heavily forested, mountainous area

“fertile field” – orchard, plantation, garden

MacArthur: In the future, a reversal of roles between the mighty and the weak will transpire, when God intervenes to bless Jerusalem. The moral change in the Jewish nation will be as great as if the usually forested Lebanon were turned into a field and vice versa.

Oswalt: a coming reversal in the positions of the noble and the common. In several places in the book the forest of Lebanon is used as a symbol for the mighty (2:13; 10:34; 33:9; 35:2; 60:13), and the cutting down of the forest a symbol of humiliation (2:13; 10:34; 37:24). Therefore, it seems likely that the same imagery is in force here: the forest will become a plowed field, whereas the fields will grow up in such a luxurious tangle as to be called a forest. So the mighty of Judah and of the world will fall, but God’s common people will flourish. (Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, Matt. 5:5.)

[The alternative interpretation would be that of the Renewal of the Physical Creation – Is. 32:15]

Van Parunak: The significance of the coming of the Messiah is the inauguration of the millennium, his physical dominion over all the earth, succeeding as the second Adam where the first Adam failed. The first advent foreshadowed the second, and prepared for it, by providing the redemptive work that allows sinful people to be citizens of the renewed earth. If the millennium is a movie, the first advent is the trailer. Like a trailer, it should excite our interest in what is yet to come. Our Lord’s first coming should stimulate us to “love his [second] appearing,” 2 Tim 4:8.

Isaiah’s vision encompasses three aspects of God’s counsel for this coming age: renewal of the creation, healing of human frailty, and punishment of evildoers. Our Lord’s earthly ministry anticipates all three.

The three categories move from physical restoration, to a restoration that is both physical and spiritual, to a justice that is completely spiritual.

Van Parunak: This verse must be interpreted consistently with 32:15,

Isa 32:15 Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.

The two main interpretations are contrast and climax.

In the contrast interpretation, the two halves of the saying present a reversal. In the first, that which is wild and untameable (Lebanon, the wilderness) is turned into something good, while in the second half, that which is good (the garden) is turned back into something wild (the forest). This interpretation is often applied (e.g., Alexander in 29:17) to the replacement of Israel by the church. It’s worth noting that Paul in Rom 11 uses the contrast of wild and cultivated plants in discussing this change.

In the climax interpretation, the first half anticipates the beneficial transformation of something wild (Lebanon, the wilderness) into a garden. The second half then says that in comparison with that coming garden, what you now consider a garden will be thought to be no more than a forest.

Most commentators apply the contrast to 29:17 but the climax to 32:15.

2. (:18) Reversal of Human Brokenness – resulting in Spiritual Discernment

“And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book,

And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”

Constable: The Lord would demonstrate His distinctiveness, sovereignty, and wisdom soon by reversing the conditions of the proud and the humble, symbolized by the forest and the field (cf. 2:13; 10:34; 33:9; 35:2; 37:24; 60:13; Matt. 5:5). This change will be literal in the Millennium. Note the mention of “just a little while” and “on that day,” phrases that often introduce eschatological conditions. The deaf would hear and the blind would see (cf. vv. 9-12; Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:4). Isaiah’s point was that only God could do these things, not man. The fact that Jesus Christ was able to do this shows that He was God.

Isa 9:2 “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

2Co 4:4,6 “… the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. … 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

3. (:19) Restoration of Joyful Worship – resulting from Deliverance

“The afflicted also shall increase their gladness in the LORD,

And the needy of mankind shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”

B. (:20-21) Retribution

1. (:20) Description of Their Demise — Threefold

a. Ruthless

“For the ruthless will come to an end,”

Oswalt: the oppressors who heartlessly squeeze the weak to extract what they can from them (13:11; 25:3, 4, 5; 29:5; 49:25).

Motyer: unsparing in their use of power

b. Scorner

“and the scorner will be finished,”

Oswalt: the scoffer is the one who mocks the normal standards of truth, honor, and decency and delights to serve himself at the cost of others (28:15; cf. also Prov. 1:22; 13:1; etc.).

Motyer: those who recognize no moral absolutes

c. Intent on doing evil

“Indeed all who are intent on doing evil will be cut off;”

Oswalt: all who watch to do evil are especially defined by v. 22 as those in political and judicial authority who are ever on the alert for ways to use their power to prey on the innocent (cf. esp. Jer. 5:6, where the verb in applied to the leopard watching its prey).

Motyer: those whose interests are served by the breakdown of law and order.

Van Parunak: Isaiah presents two pairs of offenses, each using the figure of speech known as a merism (representing a totality by naming its extremes. . .)

The first pair contrasts an irresponsible attitude toward the weak and lowly (being terrible) with an irresponsible attitude toward those in authority (scorning). Often the two go together: those who oppose the weak do so in flagrant disregard of the law.

The rest of v. 20 and v. 21show two contrasting forms of this arrogant oppression: condemning the innocent, and justifying the wicked.

2. (:21) Denunciation of Their Deception — Threefold

a. False Testimony

“Who cause a person to be indicted by a word,”

b. Corrupt Judging

“And ensnare him who adjudicates at the gate,”

c. Confusing Argumentation

“And defraud the one in the right with meaningless arguments.”

Van Parunak: The first clause of v. 21 is understood by most modern translations as parallel to the second and third, and thus to be understood as bearing false witness, “making a man an offender with a word.” However, the first clause is a ptc, parallel to the closing ptc in v. 20 and distinct from the finite verbs in the last two clauses. The resulting division gives a very nice contrast between two extremes of evil-doing: false accusation and false justification. With this division, it really doesn’t matter whether we translate 21a “for a word” or “with a word,” since in both cases the point is accusing the innocent.

Constable: God will destroy the mighty as well as elevate the helpless (cf. v. 17). He will correct social ills. The samples of wicked behavior that Isaiah offered have been all too prevalent throughout history. The ruthless are unscrupulous in wielding their power (cf. v. 5; 13:11; 25:3-5). Scorners deny moral absolutes (cf. 28:14, 22). Those intent on doing evil bend law and order to achieve their ends. Specifically, those who abuse the legal system by committing perjury, tampering with witnesses, and withholding protection from the innocent will come to an end. The prophet pictured false witnesses, crooked lawyers, and corrupt judges (cf. Hos. 4:1-2; Amos 2:6-8; 5:10-11; Mic. 2:1-2).

Beall: Vv 20-21 explain that the reason for the rejoicing would be that the ruthless (lit., awe-inspiring–the same word is used in 13:11 [Babylon] and 29:5) one, the scorner (same word as in 28:14), and those with an eye for evil would be cut off. The ruthless one may well refer to outside persecutors, while the scornful one may refer to the evil leaders of Judah. v. 21 explains the last clause of v. 20 further–those evil men seek to trap an innocent man through one false word, or ensnare him as he pleads his case before the judges, or turn aside a just claim by legal twisting or maneuvering.


“Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob,”

Van Parunak: It is curious that Isaiah describes the Lord as redeeming Abraham. To redeem someone is to deliver them from bondage by paying a price. The word is very commonly used often describes Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and some think that the reference here is to the nation rather than individual, much as the personal names Jacob and Israel sometimes represent the entire people. But I can’t think of any text where the name “Abraham” is used collectively.

God’s point is that even Abraham, the prototype of justification by faith, had to be delivered from bondage. Joshua reminded the people of Abraham’s origins:

Jos 24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.

In calling Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, the Lord was delivering him from bondage to false gods. In addition, throughout his pilgrimage the Lord repeatedly delivered him from the oppression of other powers, an oppression that often resulted from sin: Pharaoh in Gen 12 (after Abram denied Sarah), the kings of Gen 14 (a consequence of strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s), Abimelech of Gerar in Gen 20 (Sarah again). And our Lord taught that Abraham looked forward to his coming as the ultimate redeemer:

Joh 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Abraham was not a sinless patriarch. Like all of his children, he needed to be redeemed. So Israel should not think it strange if God takes them through chastisement into deliverance

A. (:22b) Freedom From Shame and Fear

“Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now turn pale;”

B. (:23) Genuine Worship and Appreciation

“But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst,

They will sanctify My name; Indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,

And will stand in awe of the God of Israel.”

Grogan: It is awe inspired by wondering gratitude that will bring about this profound sense of ‘the godhood of God.’ It is this deep awareness of God’s goodness to them as a nation that will produce a penitent and receptive spirit in those formerly wayward and complaining.

Oswalt: As indicated by Ezek. 36:19-26, to defile God’s name is to make him appear less than God.

C. (:24) Hunger for and Reception of Spiritual Truth

“And those who err in mind will know the truth,

And those who criticize will accept instruction.”

It starts with the mind – receiving and loving God’s truth

Oswalt: The order of events is significant here: deliverance is followed by praise, which results in understanding

Motyer: Those who complain is found only at Deuteronomy 1:27; Psalm 106:25, and is used of bitter refusal of the Lord’s word, self-pitying determination to put the worst construction on things, paranoic inflexibility in the understanding of life

Constable: Those who are the work of God’s hands, the Israelites, will demonstrate steadfastness in their lives. Their formerly incorrect understanding will be straightened out. Those who have been critical, feeling superior, will accept instruction. Deliverance leads to praise, which results in understanding, just as lack of understanding leads to pride resulting in judgment.

Beall: Vv 22-24 provide the conclusion to all of chaps. 28-29, as well as the conclusion to the immediately preceding verses. The Lord is introduced as the One who redeemed Abraham–as if a reminder that He would not ultimately forsake Abraham’s descendants (despite their unfaithfulness so clearly seen in these chapters), but would be faithful to the Abrahamic covenant. The Lord tells Jacob that he will not be ashamed of his descendants, but indeed they would ultimately sanctify the Lord’s name, and fear Him. Those who were erring in spirit (i.e., the deaf and blind of v. 18) would “know understanding,” and those who murmured would “learn teaching” (the noun in both cases reinforcing the meaning of the verb). A similar picture of the national repentance of Israel is given in Zech 12:10 (“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn”). Israel, in the Millennium, will indeed come to know the Lord. As seen both in this passage and in Zech 12:10, however, the basis will not be her wisdom, but rather the redemptive grace of the Lord. The Lord will then give wisdom to the erring nation.


Motyer: Life must be lived in the light of the wisdom of God. The proper course is to submit to his designs and his timetable, to eschew self-will and a do-it-yourself approach to life’s problems.