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In Isaiah 29, the Lord indicts his people for saying the right things while their hearts are far away from him. They profess faithfulness to God, but their desires are selfish and idolatrous. Rather than seeking God’s glory, they live for themselves. Their worship is “by the book,” but not “by heart.” They do the right things but don’t do them as a genuine act of self-offering to God.
In the midst of foretelling his judgment of his people for their unfaithfulness, the Lord offers a surprising word of hope. He is laying “a stone in Zion” (28:16). This “tested stone” is “a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation” on which one can build without fear that one’s structure will come tumbling down.
Isaiah 27 foresees the exile of Israel and, beyond that, the time in which God will gather his people once again. Though they have been scattered throughout the world, the Lord will bring them back to their land and to himself.
Do you know what it’s like to wait for God? I expect you do if you’ve walked with the Lord for even a little while. We all experience the desire for God to act. We pray with expectation and hope, even fervor. Yet sometimes nothing happens. We pray again, trying to have faith that moves mountains. But, still, nothing happens. We begin to wonder if God is listening. We wonder why God doesn’t act, why he seems to be so frustratingly slow.
I can still hear echoes of my Sunday School teacher quoting Isaiah 26:3 in the classic language of the King James Version: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” What an amazing, alluring promise! “Perfect peace” accurately renders the Hebrew original, which reads literally, shalom shalom. Don’t you want to be kept in perfect peace?
In Isaiah 25 we catch a glimpse of the ultimate international banquet, the most lavish feast of all. It’s a meal prepared by the Lord himself for peoples from all nations. The food will be exquisite, plentiful, and delicious. The celebration will be unsullied by gloom and tears, not to mention national or ethnic conflicts. All peoples will gather to share together in the Lord’s banquet.
When we look at the state of our world today, we see evidence of human sin everywhere. It might be in a park filled with litter, or a bay filled with sewage, or a sky filled with deadly haze. We see the reality of Isaiah 24:5, which, in the NIV, reads, “The earth is defiled by its people.” The Hebrew verb translated here as “defiled” is often rendered as “polluted” (chanef).
Last week we saw how God judged Shebna, the temple administrator, for his pride and for trying to use his authority for his own glory. Today, the Lord, through Isaiah, condemns human pride once again. But, whereas in Isaiah 22 the pride of a single leader was indicted, this time it’s the pride of a nation.
Shebna serves as a powerful reminder of the folly of seeking our own honor above that of the Lord. It’s natural for us to want others to think well of us, and to an extent this is consistent with our Christian discipleship (for example, 1 Tim 3:2). But if we become preoccupied with our own glory, we dishonor the Lord and risk our own demotion.
We tend to think of Isaiah as the prophet of Israel who brought God’s word to the Israelites. Indeed, this is true. But, through Isaiah, the Lord often addressed other nations as well. In Isaiah 21 he spoke to Babylon, Edom, and various peoples in the region of Arabia.
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