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Lowell Brueckner

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God Waits to be Gracious


29. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 30

Please be sure to have your Bible open, as we begin, so that you can directly refer to the Scripture throughout our study.

Symptoms of rebellion

This chapter begins with a woe, pronounced against stubborn and rebellious children: “Woe to the rebellious children, says the Lord” (v.1). I notice it is translated in my Spanish version, “children who separate themselves” and the Hebrew word can be defined in that way. Here are the definitions: to turn away, be refractory, backsliding, rebellious, revolter, stubborn, to withdraw.

I think, then, that we can judge a separation from God as an important and sure sign that someone has turned rebellious. Therefore, the first error of rebellion is a refusal to walk with God and consists in making a decision to take an independent pathway. Independence sings a sweet song and many are attracted by it, follow it and leave the heavenly highway.

What follows a separation from God, naturally, is an attempt to carry out a plan apart from the plan of God: “… who carry out a plan, but not mine…” Some would have us think that everyone is free to devise and promote his particular ideas about doing the work of God. The theory is that God has given us the general purpose and now we must make our best efforts to bring it to pass. Of course, this does not only speak to the individual and his personal life, but this hypothesis can be followed in the affairs of the church. God speaks through the prophet that this is a mistake. God will have none of the ways of man worked into His will, and man shows, by his alienation from God, that he will have none of God in his plans. It’s amazing that this should be true of those who pretend to be leaders in church affairs. As individuals and as a body, we do not have the right to plan our own way.

“And who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin…” We have a precise example of this circumstance in the time of Joshua. Seeing the destruction that Israel worked upon Jericho and Ai, the Gibeonites devised a cunning deception in order to make a peace treaty with the Israelites. They met together and a treaty was reached between them, but here is the sad commentary on the entire situation… the leaders of Israel “did not ask counsel from the Lord” (Josh.9:14). The consequence of this alliance was that now Gibeon’s enemies became Israel’s enemies. Soon Israel was forced to go to war as protectors of Gibeon.

Sin is to walk outside the will of God

According to this Scripture, this kind of action is considered sin by God. To err from the plan and will of God is to fall into sin. When God’s people are not led by the Spirit they sin. The Lord never intended that His people should operate in any other way outside of the direction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Father would send through the Son a Paraclete and said of him, “He will teach you all things… He will bear witness of Me… He will guide you…” (Jn.14:26, 15:26, 16:13). It is expected and imperative that every child of God walk in the Spirit.

By the way, Egypt is a type of sin and to go down to Egypt means to choose to live under its slavery. Notice what happens: When the people of God distance themselves from Him, they immediately attempt to find refuge in man, that is, from a fellow human being. They aim “to go down to Egypt” (which means to fall into sin), “to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!” (v.2). No gross action is needed to fall into sin… “whatsoever is not of faith (in God) is sin” (Ro.14:23). Israel had separated from God and was making plans and alliances without Him. They were finding protection in man and his system.

For those who are willing to humble themselves “under the mighty hand of God” (1 P.5:6), public humiliation is not necessary. Israel’s arrogance in acting independently would bring consequences that would end in shame and humiliation (v.3). Representatives of Israel have descended to the important Egyptian cities of Zoan and Hanes (v.4), in an earnest quest to gain the advantages already mentioned, but the God of Israel is declaring the futility of the effort. There will be nothing gained by it, “neither help nor profit”, but rather “shame and disgrace” (v.5) Turning from God is not only useless, it is detrimental.

The road to Egypt was risky, through the Negeb, the land of lions, adders, and “flying” venomous serpents that spring from tree to tree. Isaiah in vision sees his people, in caravans of donkeys and camels bearing treasures, venturing through dangerous territory in a worthless and empty cause (v.6,7). As in Psalms 87:4 and 89:10, God calls Egypt Rahab meaning one who sits still. She will provide no help. The Lord instructs Isaiah to write this prophecy and put it in a book, as a lasting, written witness to the people’s rebellion. The Bible is the work of one Mind, from beginning to end. It was Jesus who, for the same purpose, put His teaching in writing: “The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (Jn.12:48). It’s in writing; no one will have an excuse (v.8).

They risked their lives and treasures to go down to Egypt, a kingdom whose glory was in the past, but preferred ignorance concerning the ways of the all-wise, unchanging God (v.9). “Who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions’” (v.10) When Bibles lay closed on the shelf, collecting dust, they are witnesses to the same petition. When people fill stadiums to hear smooth illusions, instead of turning to a serious study of the Word, they are fulfilling the prophecy of Paul: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passion, and will turn away from listening to the truth…” (2 Ti.4:3). In the Old and New Testaments people are the same. Call them Israelites or call them Christians, they have the same characteristics.

The Holy One of Israel demands repentance

Isaiah was given a specific message from the beginning of his ministry. His message was a Person, the Holy One of Israel. He is the One, whom the people reject. Give them smooth illusions of God, but leave out the message of holiness (v.11). Reject the Holy One of Israel and the next One, from whom you will hear is the Holy One of Israel.  You will never get God to back down or work out a compromise. He simply states the consequences of rejection (v.11,12) and to drive His point home, he gives them allegories. A breach in a high wall deforms and weakens the wall gradually, but its fall is sudden (v.13). He first shows the suddenness and then the ruthlessness of the fall (v.14), like that of a potter’s vessel, which leaves no piece big enough to carry a hot coal or to scoop water.

An excellent translation of verse 15
The Holy One of Israel spoke of repentance, returning from their rebellion, of rest and salvation: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (v.15).  As always, salvation comes through the way of faith and trust, quietly waiting upon God to manifest His strength. It is never achieved by the exerting of human strength. In this case, they would seek their salvation by fleeing on horseback.

The problem with relying on the flesh is that the spiritual pursuer is always faster (v.16), therefore the people of God must rely on spiritual help. The lesson unfolds from the first verse of this chapter, where we began to see rebellious people carrying out their own plan. This is the way of the flesh and is no match for the opposition that God’s people must face. The ratio in spiritual warfare is one to a thousand in favor of the enemy. If the threat comes from five enemies, it will totally clear the battle field (see Dt.32:30). All that will be left on our side is the flag! This is why we cannot afford to walk in the flesh, but must be led into battle by the Holy Spirit (v.17). Take the lesson, please, from the Jews, as we are instructed to do in the New Testament (1 Co.10:6-11; Ro.15:4).

The graciousness of God revealed

We come to a turning point in the chapter; the warning aside, God uncovers His heart to His people, showing that it is His desire and will to be gracious. “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you… blessed are all those who wait for him” (v.18). He waits for the rebellious to repent and we must wait with Him, understanding for ourselves, as well, that there can be no expectation of a move of God without repentance. However, He is waiting to be gracious and respond to their slightest cry and bring comfort… “You shall weep no more” (v.19)
Also an accurate translation. He must wait for us to
come to Him, before He can be gracious to us. 
This is what we mean, when we say that the Bible is, above all, a revelation of God Himself. In fact, He declares in verse 20 that it is His will to reveal Himself to His people: “Your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.” Oh, He will teach through adversity and affliction, but through the pain, He will reveal Himself to you. He will speak clearly and guide you in His way. Now you see, don’t you, the folly of walking independently. This is the alternative and in this way, you cannot possibly get lost (v.21). Living in the reality of God is the highest privilege and thrill upon this earth and every idol will be gladly desecrated, in order to know Him. “You will say to them ‘Be gone!’” (v.22). It was not a high cost to the Thessalonians to turn from idols “to serve the living and true God” (1 Th.1:9), nor was it for the Ephesians to burn 50,000 pieces of silver’s worth of black magic books (Ac.19:19)!

Now, He mentions the fringe benefits, the blessings and gifts which He generously pours upon His people. The one, who has truly found God, is content with only food and clothing besides, and is not begging for the relatively cheap things of this world. However, God must be true to His nature and He is generous by nature. We will experience the full bounty of His nature during the time of the Millennium.

Read the description of that day (v.23). It is the time of the redemption of nature (Ro.8:19-21), of produce rich and plenteous, of livestock grazing in large pastures and even the animals will be blessed with the best and varied provender, winnowed from the shells (v.24). The towers of the enemies will fall (the great slaughter = Armageddon) and streams will flow luxuriously through the hills and mountains (v.25). The Solar System will function at its highest level and the physical capacity of humans will increase in order to function within it. All the weakness, which has fallen upon the race since the time of Adam, will be healed (v.26)

God prepared a burning place

God must of necessity deal with His enemies in order for the time of bliss to freely operate. In the book of Isaiah, God begins by bringing judgment upon the Assyrians, but it is only the beginning. Throughout the ages, they have fallen… Babylon, then Persia, the glory and culture of the Greeks, the Romans, and finally, the fall of the antichrist kingdom will put the final cap on the vengeance and wrath of God. That having been accomplished, the purity and righteousness of the Millennium will be ushered in. However, what follows here has to do primarily with God’s burning anger against the Assyrians.

The name of the Lord describes His character and leaves no doubt that He is a God of wrath. It is depicted in the strongest terms and He demonstrates His glory even in this terrifying attribute. We do well to meditate upon it, as upon all the aspects of His personality. He is a consuming fire, burning in His anger with rising, thick smoke. We have learned previously that His word is a sword and in these verses, his lips are full of fury and his tongue a devouring fire. His breath is as steam. A bridle that leads astray brings to mind 2 Thessalonians 2, where He is to send strong delusion, that all who do not receive the love of the truth, might be deceived and condemned (2 Th.2:11-12). This is a revelation of our God and there is no other God! We must accept Him as the Bible reveals Him. (v.27-28, 30)

He will bring fear to the Assyrians and the bravest of soldiers will be terror-stricken. Men speak bravely now, cursing and taking the Lord’s name in vain, but when they experience the reality of His judgment, openly seen and heard, their raw fear will be indescribably evident. How could we describe it? (v.31-32)

“A burning place has long been prepared, indeed, for the king it is made ready…” (v.33). This is a reference to the Valley of Hinnom, just outside of Jerusalem to the south. It was a garbage pit that was never extinguished. Jesus spoke of this place, Gehenna, as a symbol of hell. Jesus, in fact, spoke more of hell than He did of heaven, kindly warning the people of His day and ours to avoid its flames. He said that there was a place of “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt.25:41). I have often contemplated writing on this subject and titling it, “God Created Hell”. The Lord through Isaiah certainly means that the reader should look beyond Jerusalem’s constantly burning garbage pit, in the Valley of Hinnom, to a place long prepared for the king of darkness, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk.9:48). In preparing such a place, He was well aware that joining the devil and demons, would be an innumerable company of human beings, suffering everlasting torment.

The oppression of the enemy is devastating and it threatens our very souls, so that, when God brings deliverance and the enemy is destroyed, it is a cause for a feast. It was so in the time of Esther, when the whole Jewish race was in danger. A royal decree was raised for the purpose of their annihilation and the threat was imminent. Through a powerful divine intervention, the Jews were wonderfully spared and a feast was inaugurated, which continues to this day… the Feast of Purim. They determined, “That these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation… and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants” (Es.9:27-28). Celebration is proper and holy, when God liberates His people. Song and gladness of heart is due unto the Rock of Israel (v.29). 


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