The Lord’s marvelous work. Isaiah 29:13-24
Under the constraint of the reformations of- Judah’s God-fearing kings—Hezekiah and Josiah—the apostates were honoring God with an outward service but their hearts were far removed from Him. Their fear of God was superstition and not the true religion. For it was founded on the precepts of men and did not rest upon the word of God, (vs. 13). Therefore the Lord will perform a marvelous work in their midst, a wonder of grace. He will cause to perish the wisdom of their wise men, who seek to hide their evil counsel from the Lord and in secret attempt to realize it. “Who sees us and who knows us,” they say (vss. 14, 15).
They were the counselors that surrounded Hezekiah. Making flesh their arm, they were secretly promoting a covenant with Egypt as a means of deliverance from the Assyrian world-power.
Their turning of things upside down, i.e., their imagining that the Lord is ignorant of their doing, shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay, meaning that their behavior toward the Lord is that of a thing formed of clay that, supposing this were possible denies its maker and accuses him of being without understanding. And clay they are. And the Lord is the potter. And that is their sin (vs. 16).
Within a short time Lebanon shall be turned into Carmel, and Carmel shall be esteemed as a forest (vs. 17).
This verse has been variously explained. If Lebanon, a lofty mountain wooded with cedars, is meant to be taken as a wilderness, nature in the raw, and if this mountain, as so taken, symbolizes the elect apart from grace, and if Carmel, a cultivated and fruitful region, designates the Spirit-filled church, then what we have here is the promise of the gathering of the church from the four corners of the earth in the gospel period, and her exaltation with Christ. In the imagery of the text, the wilderness shall be changed into a fertile field, and the latter in turn shall be esteemed as a forest of stately trees. This interpretation is in full harmony with the sequel.
For the prophet goes on to say that the deaf shall hear the words of the book, the prophecies of the Lord in that day, that the blind shall see out of their darkness and that the meek and the poor among men, such as put their confidence in the Lord, shall rejoice exceedingly in the holy one (vss. 18,19).
But as this can only be made to come to pass through the destruction of the enemies of God’s people, the prophet also announces that the terrible one, the scorner and all such as are wakeful with regard to mischief, always, watching for it, shall be brought to naught, consumed, cut off (vs. 20).
The prophet describes the behavior of such men. They wrest a man’s word, lay a trap for him that reproveth in the gate, the preacher of righteousness, and by their deceit mislead the just (vs. 21). Therefore the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, has this to say regarding the house of Jacob. Jacob shall not be ashamed, but his confidence in the Lord shall be fully vindicated. For when in his midst he sees his children, the work of the Lord’s hand, they shall sanctify the holy one and fear Israel’s God. And the erring ones in spirit shall know understanding and the murmurers shall learn doctrine (vss. 22-24).
The Third Woe. Isaiah 30
The Full Exposure and Denunciation of the Doing of the Apostates that consisted in their seeking help from Egypt. Isaiah 30:1-14.
The apostates, as appears from these verses, are past deliberating on the idea of an alliance with Egypt. A decision has been reached, and the plan is now being carried out. Again introducing the Lord as the speaker, the prophet directs another (the third) woe against this people. He characterizes them as rebellious children. In taking counsel together, the Lord is not in all their thoughts. They make an alliance, but not of the Spirit; the conception has originated with them, that they may add sin to sin (vs. 1).
In a word, their rebellion is willed of God in that it is in His heart to destroy them.
And so, without inquiring of the Lord and despite the fact that the venture is forbidden, they go down into Egypt with a view to inclining Pharaoh by their gifts to protect Israel with his strength in order that they may put their confidence in Egypt’s shadow (vs. 2). Therefore Pharaoh’s strength shall be their shame and their trust in the shadow of Egypt their confusion (vs. 3). But they might want to change the prophet’s threatenings into his disgrace by denying that any such league was being negotiated or had ever been contemplated. To shame them into keeping silence, the prophet discloses that their envoys have been at Zoan and have come to Hanes, that, in a word, they have already arrived in Egypt and accordingly must have already been on the way for weeks and perhaps months as sent and commissioned by the apostates (vs. 4). And therefore the prophet repeats his doleful prediction: when eventually it will have appeared-that Pharaoh can be of no real help or profit to them but only a disgrace they will be ashamed of Egypt (vs. 5).
The prophet’s public disclosures of their secret doings must have amazed as well as sorely provoked them. Especially his proclamation of things about which they themselves as yet could have no knowledge such as the arrival of the envoys in Egypt and their precise movements in this land. That all is known to the prophet can have but one explanation: the Lord has told him all including the total of their deliberations that had been carried on behind the closed doors of their private chambers. Their whole plan, at which at first he had only hinted, but now fully exposed, was known to him long before its execution.
In his vision the prophet beholds the embassy on its way. Though Egypt is a land of trouble and anguish, the home of the young and the old lion, the viper and the fiery flying serpent, the envoys do not allow themselves to be restrained by these perils. On the contrary, they pursue their way undaunted, their camels and asses carrying the rich gifts by which they think to purchase Pharaoh’s assistance. But they come to a people whose help shall not profit them (vs. 6). Egypt’s help will be vapor and vanity. Therefore the Lord cried to His people that they are strong when they exercise quiet confidence in Him as believing that He will save them in His way (vs. 7).
Literally: “Therefore have I cried concerning this, strong are they, sitting still.” The text is difficult here. If the antecedent of the demonstrative “this” is Egypt and not Israel, and if the Hebrew word translated strong never has this meaning but always signifies proud, insolent, boasting, rage, then we must read here: insolent, proud, boasting are the Egyptians, sitting still, inactive. Such being their character, they are unreliable, untrustworthy, a disgrace.
The prophet is mandated to inscribe this particular vision on a tablet that it may be preserved for all the time to come and forever and ever as a witness against the apostates, meaning that their iniquities will never be blotted out in His sight (vs. 8). For they are a rebellious people (in the sense of reprobated), a living race that will not hear the law of the Lord (vs. 9). This they show by demanding of the prophets that they shut their eyes to the Lord’s visions and speak to them not the truth but things agreeable though they be deceits (vs. 10), and further that the prophets turn aside out of the right way and remove from before their eyes the holy one bf Israel (vs. 11).
Seeing that they trust in oppression at home and perverseness, i.e., a perverse alliance with heathen people and lean thereon, this their iniquity shall be to them as a rend in a wall high and bulging and that at any moment may crash (vss. 12, 13). And the Lord shall break it with the breaking of a potter’s vessel, meaning that He shall reduce it to fragments so completely that there shall not be found among the ruins a sherd large enough to take fire from the hearth or to draw water out of the pit (vs. 14).
This is a prediction of how, through the wickedness of the Jews, Israel’s typical commonwealth will be destroyed beyond repair; it will be made to pass away permanently. For it was but a shadow.
Israel’s strength. Isaiah 30:15-19.
Israel shall be saved in returning to the Lord and in His rest; Israel’s strength consists in quietness and in the exercise of confidence in the Lord and not in forbidden military and political measures. But Israel refuses to follow this right way of deliverance. They put their trust in Egypt’s horses. They said, No, for we will hasten upon horses, ride upon the swift. But instead they shall flee and be pursued by the swift (vss. 15, 16).
The use of Egypt’s horses in battle was forbidden in Israel’s law, Deut. 17:16.
In great numbers the Israelites shall flee from an insignificant number of enemies. Their whole army will be reduced to a remnant so small as to be comparable to a pole on the top of a mountain—perhaps a pine bereft of branches—and a banner on a hill (vs. 17).
Such will be the miserable condition of Israel because they declined to give attention to the Lord’s warnings. But He will have compassion on His people, the Israel according to the election of grace, however ill-deserving also this remnant. The Lord waiteth to be gracious unto them. For that very purpose will He (the Christ) be exalted to the cross and lastly to the highest heavens that He may have mercy upon them. For the Lord is a God of judgment, meaning that He redeems Zion with judgment and her converts with righteousness (Isa. 1:28). And therefore: Blessed are all they that wait upon Him (vs. 18). For Zion at Jerusalem shall be their dwelling place. And they shall no more weep. And He will be exceedingly gracious unto them at their cry, answering them instantly, when He hears it (vs. 19).
This prophecy was progressively fulfilled. We discern the following stages: 1. The turning of Judah’s captivity. 2. Christ, crucified and resurrected, exalted into the highest heavens with His people. 3. The appearance of Christ in glory with His people.