Isaiah 28

Condemnation of Ephraim’s Drunken Leaders

What word did Isaiah share regarding the fate that awaited Ephraim’s leaders?
Isaiah’s oracle concerning Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom of Israel) was uttered prior to the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. Isaiah denounced the attitude of Ephraim’s leaders who were living in drunkenness (28:1), unaware of the fact that God’s judgment was imminent (28:2). Isaiah prophesied that God’s judgment would come upon Ephraim at the hands of “a strong and mighty agent” (28:2), a reference to Assyria.

God’s agent of judgment would trample under foot “the proud crown of the drunkards” (28:3), a reference to Samaria, and devour it as one would devour a piece of fruit (28:4). Verses 5-6 are a parenthetical thought regarding the eschatological age when the Lord Himself would “become a beautiful crown” (28:5) to His people as opposed to the fading crown of Ephraim. This oracle was spoken in the hope that the fall of Ephraim would serve as a warning to Judah.

Isaiah 7-13 records an encounter between Isaiah and the drunken leaders (prophets and priests) of Judah. Isaiah accused these leaders of being too drunk to properly execute their office (28:7) and described their tables as full of vomit (28:8). The sarcastic response of the drunken leaders is recorded in verses 9-10. They, in essence, replied, “Who do you think you are talking to us like that? Do you think we are school children who need to be taught the alphabet?”

Isaiah replied by turning their own words on them. He told the drunken leaders that because they had refused instruction in their own language, they would soon be taught in the foreign language of their captors (28:11). Because they refused to live up to God’s expectations (28:12), they would be carried into captivity (28:13).

Denunciation of Judah‘s Foreign Treaties

What word did Isaiah share regarding Judah‘s foreign treaties?
Isaiah 28:14-22 is set against the background of 2 Kings 18-19. After the death of the Assyrian king Sargon II, Assyria’s vassal states attempted to throw off their Assyrian yoke. Judah, under the leadership of Hezekiah, also “rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him” (2 Kings 18:7).

Hezekiah rebelled against Sennacherib, the son and successor of Sargon II. Judah’s confidence in rebelling against Assyria came largely from the hope that Egypt would stand with them against the Assyrians. Judah’s leaders were negotiating a secret alliance with Egypt (see also Isaiah 29:15-16).

Isaiah was furious that Judah would trust in anything other than God’s power, especially a nation like Egypt that was too weak to defend itself. Judah’s leaders “made a covenant with death, and with Sheol. . .” (28:15), a reference to the alliance with Egypt, and felt that this would be sufficient to deal with the Assyrians (under the leadership of Sennacherib).

The people’s optimism regarding their security was false. Isaiah pointed out that the only security lay in trusting the Lord (28:16-17). He is the only sure foundation. God’s people had no business trusting in or trying to find security in anything or anyone other than God. Only those who trusted in God would be able to stand firm in the face of threatening difficulties (28:16). In addition, those who trusted in God were required to live lives of justice and righteousness (28:17).

Practical Consideration: Haste is present where there is no confidence in God.
Judah’s leaders chose to negotiate a treaty with Egypt rather than trust in God for protection from the Assyrians. They loaded their treasures on donkeys and camels and made a difficult journey to Egypt in an effort to secure the help of the Egyptians (under the leadership of king Shabako, 710-696 B.C.). They chose to put their trust in an earthly ruler rather than in the God of the universe. They wasted untold wealth and time in an enterprise that would prove futile and vain.

When men fail to trust God they run to and fro in an effort to deal with life’s threats and difficulties. When men fail to trust God they waste time, money, and energy seeking solutions that will not work. Isaiah told the people of Judah that those who trust in the Lord do not make haste. Psalm 46:10a states, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” It is always better to trust God than men. God does not disappoint.

Isaiah 17-22 describes the judgment that will overtake Judah. God’s judgment at the hands of the Assyrians will come upon the land like a hailstorm and a flood (28:17) which will sweep away their false trusts (28:18) and strike terror into the hearts of the people (28:19). Using a proverb, Isaiah told Judah that she had made her bed, and now she must lie in it (28:20). The Lord, unlike the days when He fought on behalf of His people, would now do an unusual thing, He would fight against His people (28:21-22).

A Parable of How God Works with Judah

What does the parable of the farmer teach about how God works with Judah?
The parable of the farmer who wisely managed his crops because he followed God’s instructions (28:26) teaches that God can instruct His people regarding how to manage their lives. Some interpret the parable to say that God, the farmer, knows exactly what tool to use, how to use it, and when to use it. In the case of Judah, the time was fast approaching for God to use the tool of judgment.

Practical Consideration: God employs various methods in dealing with men.
The parable of the farmer teaches that God employs various methods in dealing with men. He knows exactly which tools to use to accomplish certain ends in our lives. When we stubbornly refuse to turn from sinful ways, God will select the proper tool to get our attention and correct our course. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). We can be sure that God will employ the proper tools at the proper times in the proper ways to accomplish His purpose.

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