REJECTION OF GOD’S WORD DOOMS RELIGIOUS FRAUDS TO COMPLETE COLLAPSE
The world is full of religious frauds. These are folks that profess to be Christians; they claim to love the Lord Jesus Christ; they speak highly of His moral example; they want others to view them as religious and spiritual. They get together in churches on Sunday just as we are doing and listen to messages on Sunday and say a bunch of prayers and even give some money to good causes. But they can’t stomach the hard truths of divine revelation. In our passage today, Isaiah calls these people false sons because they take the name of God as their Father when in reality they refuse to submit to His Word and obey His teachings.
(:1-7) THE WORLD’S WAY IS THE WRONG WAY – BECAUSE IT LEADS TO SHAME AND FUTILITY
(:8-17) REJECTION OF GOD’S WORD FORSAKES GOD’S WAY FOR THE HIGHWAY
When tyrants and egomaniacs try to govern from the perspective of “My Way or the Highway” we resent their arrogance and narrow mindedness; but when the righteous God reveals His exclusive gospel pathway – it truly is God’s Way or the Highway
The road is narrow that leads to salvation; broad is the way that leads to destruction
REJECTION OF GOD’S WORD DOOMS RELIGIOUS FRAUDS TO COMPLETE COLLAPSE
I. (:8-11) REJECTION OF GOD’S WORD IS THE CHARACTERISTIC MARK OF RELIGIOUS FRAUDS WHO SUBSTITUTE SMOOTH SAYINGS FOR HARD TRUTH
A. (:8) Permanent Public Indictment
“Now go, write it on a tablet before them and inscribe it on a scroll,
That it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever.”
You can’t rewrite history once that history has been recorded and preserved as a witness to all; people like to have selective hearing … claim that God never said that …
God’s Word abides forever … bears witness forever
John 12:47-48 “And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”
What exactly was Isaiah charged to write down? God’s words of warning and impending judgment.
God will say “I told you so” in the last day.
B. (:9) Against Rebellious Religious Frauds (rejecting divine instruction)
“For this is a rebellious people, false sons,
Sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the LORD;”
Motyer: The versions are unanimous in translating “lying.” While this is a technically correct translation of khs, it is not so much that the sons tell lies as that they are lies. They are untrue to what a son should be, which is respectful and obedient.
Matt. 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
James 1:22-24 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”
John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil” – only the truth can make you free; you are enslaved to sin; you are religious frauds because you claim to be of the same spiritual family as Abraham when you are really far removed from God
John 8:31 “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;”
C. (:10-11) For Their Substituted Smooth Sayings
(in place of the hard truth of the Word of God)
1. Rejection of Divine Revelation
“Who say to the seers, ‘You must not see visions’;
And to the prophets, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right,’”
Deut.. 18:18-20 “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”
– Possibility of prophets being bought off
– Possibility of prophets being physically threatened
– Possibility of prophets being man pleasers to enhance their numbers and importance
Motyer: They did not ask that preaching should cease but only that it be innocuous, void of moral imperatives and without the backing of the ultimate moral absolute of the nature of God.
2. Preference for Smooth Sayings / Pleasant Words
With no regard for truth; we would rather have illusions
“Speak to us pleasant words, Prophesy illusions.”
2 Tim. 4:2-4 “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”
Young: What the people desired to hear were smooth things and deceits. Luther brought out the basic thought by his translation, Preach soft to us. Smooth things were flattering things which did not point out the sinfulness and unworthiness of the nation but rather commended it.
Illustration: 2 Chronicles 18 – Micaiah the prophet
3. Hatred of Holiness
“Get out of the way, turn aside from the path,
Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
Van Parunak: This tendency is reflected in the tone of many modern churches, which try to “major on the positive” and be “seeker-friendly.” The gospel starts with the wrath of God against sinners, which is about the most seeker-unfriendly thing one can imagine. But to omit this part of the message in an effort to make the message “smooth” and palatable is to “prophesy deceits.”
Motyer: They did not want a supernatural message (10ab), nor a message of moral demand (10cd), but a ministry that left the surface of life unruffled (pleasant, smooth), a ministry of trifles . . . They did not want holiness, in a life that follows “the way . . . the path” (11ab); and certainly not the holiness of God himself (11cd). Leave this way requests the preachers to pioneer a new morality. . . They did not ask that preaching should cease but only that it be innocuous, void of moral imperatives and without the backing of the ultimate moral absolute of the nature of God.
II. (:12-14) BAD CHOICES (REJECTION OF GOD’S WORD) LEAD TO BAD CONSEQUENCES (YOUR WORLD COLLAPSING AND SHATTERING)
“Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,”
Van Parunak: Re. vv. 12-17
This section is an alternation of two panels (:12-14 and :15-17), each with the same five elements:
• an introductory formula,
• a word from the Lord,
• the rejection of that word
• their confidence in some alternative authority
• a warning of sudden judgment
A. (:12) Bad Choices
“Since you have rejected this word,
And have put your trust in oppression and guile,
and have relied on them,”
Why would someone ever choose bondage and deceit?
Why would Israel ever consider returning back to Egypt for help?
Why would believers reject the gospel in daily living and turn back to sin and bondage?
B. (:13-14) Bad Consequences – 2 Images of Brokenness
1. Destruction by Way of Collapse – Comes Suddenly
“Therefore this iniquity will be to you like a breach about to fall,
A bulge in a high wall, whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant.
A high wall that collapses suddenly;”
Young: In all probability the picture is that of a high wall of clay or mud. The dampness or moisture causes it to waken and a fissure begins to form. The rent begins as it were within the wall itself, and as it descends grows larger and larger, until finally the wall topples over. So the sin of the people within the nation itself increases in magnitude, until finally it causes the nation’s destruction. . . What actually caused the downfall of the theocracy was the sin within.
2. Destruction by Way of Shattering – Comes Completely
“And whose collapse is like the smashing of a potter’s jar;
So ruthlessly shattered that a sherd will not be found among its pieces
To take fire from a hearth, or to scoop water from a cistern.”
A clay jar that is totally shattered
Young: What a picture of the end of Judah!–a number of scattered, broken sherds, good for nothing.
Motyer: double figure of brokenness stresses completeness –
Two illustrations follow. First a wall collapsing under its own weight and secondly, a pot smashed by external force. Thus iniquity both destroys itself and also invites judgment. . .
Taking and scooping presumably refer to familiar practices: a fragment used to take an ember from a fire to light a fire elsewhere and the bottom of an old jar kept by the cistern to use for dipping.
III. (:15-17) REJECTION OF GOD’S WORD LEAVES NO WHERE TO TURN FOR DELIVERANCE
“For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said,”
Van Parunak: The repeated title reminds us again what is at stake: the fundamental relation of the trice-holy, infinitely separate God to his chosen people.
A. Repentance and Faith = Only Pathway to Salvation
“In repentance and rest you shall be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
Chiastic structure – A B B A – look how repentance aligns with trust
Constable: The second, more specific reason for Judah’s coming judgment (cf. v. 9), was her refusal to listen to a particular message from the sovereign Lord her God, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah had called the people to repent and rest in the Lord for their salvation. He had promised that their quiet trust in Him would prove to be their strength (cf. 7:4, 10-12; 28:12). He had commanded “not alliance but reliance.” Yet the people refused to obey.
Young: They were busy sending messengers and beasts of burden laden with goods to procure the favor of Egypt. They were active, busily occupied in the task of trying to save themselves. Such, however, was not the way of deliverance; but only in rest, in a ceasing from human activity and a resting upon the grace of God.
“Be still and see the salvation of the Lord.”
B. Reliance on Any Alternative Resources = Futile Rebellion and Self Will
“But you were not willing, and you said,”
1. Fleeing on Machinery of Warfare = Futile
“’No, for we will flee on horses,’
Therefore you shall flee!”
2. Even Most Powerful Machinery of Warfare = Futile
“’And we will ride on swift horses,’
Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift.”
C. Resolve Disintegrates Into Terrifying Panic
“One thousand shall flee at the threat of one man,
You shall flee at the threat of five;”
MacArthur: Similar figures elsewhere describe Israel’s victories (Lv. 26:36; Jos. 23:10) and defeats (Dt. 32:30).
Constable: The threat of only one man would so terrify a thousand Judahites that they would flee. The presence of only a few of the enemy would drive multitudes from their land (cf. Lev. 26:8; Deut. 32:30).
Thompson: What a change of events. When Israel was on her way to the Promised Land, it was the small numbers of Israel that caused the massive numbers of Canaanites to flee (Leviticus 26:8). The reason why this happened was because Jesus Christ caused it to happen (Deuteronomy 32:30). Now God was reversing this. Even when His people outnumber the enemy, God would see to it that the enemy would succeed.
D. Reduced to a Sign With No Substance – a Flag but no Nation
“Until you are left as a flag on a mountain top,
And as a signal on a hill.”
This is the sad image that the prophet leaves with these people:
Should have been a lighthouse to the nations – shining the light of God’s glory
Cf. the Olympics with each nation during Opening Ceremonies proudly entering the arena of competition behind their flag – what pride
Cf. Rin Tin Tin – when the Rangers ride onto the scene to save the day with the trumpets blaring and their flag out in front of the troops
2 Options: Positive or Negative Import??
– Positive: left with remnant in Jerusalem (some element of hope)
– Negative: left with empty flag and no people (no element of hope included here)
Motyer: A flagstaff on a mountaintop and banner on a hill are not natural features. They speak of human activity, but if they are all that is left, they only prove that people once lived there and are now gone. Doubled for completeness, the picture is of the end of the nation, the disappearance of the people (cf. 6:11-12).
Beall: v. 17 gives a picture of near total devastation and chaos, with a thousand fleeing when threatened by one. This is the opposite of what the Lord had promised Israel in their conquest of Canaan (“Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword” [Lev 26:8; see also Deut 32:30]). Judah would be left stripped and almost extinct, with only one pole left on a hill (perhaps a reference to Jerusalem?). They would be reduced to a pitiful remnant.
Van Parunak: Only a tiny remnant will remain. But here is a glimmer of hope: that remnant will be like a beacon or an ensign, a token of the Lord’s faithfulness to deliver and restore his people. And that hope is the transition to the next section, which describes this deliverance in more detail.
Transition: vs. 18 “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.”
Young: He must first complete His work of judgment before He can manifest that of compassion. . . He longs, however, to be gracious, and earnestly awaits the time when He may.
Oswalt: Thus, because Judah will not wait on the Lord (26:8) but insists on rushing off on horses, the Lord must wait to show his grace until they are in a position to receive it. So to the repeated cry of “How long, O Lord?” his answer is, “Whenever you are ready.”