This is part one of three in a series on Isaiah 30.
Before I write anything at all, I must admit that I am utterly indebted to Tom Henry, a member of the staff at Christ Central Church in Charlotte, NC, for my knowledge on this Scripture. Each time I listen to Tom preach, the Word of God pierces my soul by the Holy Spirit with such penetrative depth that I am reduced to nothing and compelled to thank Tom with a joyful hug.
Tom, if you read this, thank you. You have changed my life forever.
“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation. For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; 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, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 30:1-3, 9-11
Every Scripture, which includes Isaiah 30, speaks to both judgment and grace. No one understands the weightlessness of grace apart from the heavy burden of a life under judgment. Eventually, we will spot the LORD’s noticeable grace in latter parts of this Isaiah 30 series. But, I hope that you discover the LORD’s peculiar grace that comes through judgment in the above Scripture. Though judgment and grace seem irreconcilable, we will miss out on the LORD’s sweetness should we choose to dismiss the opportunity to receive his grace through affliction, discipline, and humiliation.
God directs this passage of Isaiah towards Israel – his chosen people. Israel, however, departs entirely from the LORD. As Hezekiah reigned, the Israelites awaited inevitable attack from Assyria. Rather than wait on the LORD and put their trust in him (Isaiah 64:4, Psalm 56:3), they carry out their own plans, they make their own alliances, and worst of all, they grieve the Holy Spirit and wound the heart of their God, for they fail to consider his desires for their life, and they merely concern themselves with self-preservation.
Are we much better? We are worse. The western church places no trust in the LORD and ignores the Word of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit with stubbornness. We think we know the way. We desire enslavement to idols, rather than becoming a slave to Christ (1 Corinthians 7:22). As slaves to idolatry, we stuff ourselves with ourselves until we burst with boredom and discontentment with God. We accuse God of silence, unrighteousness, and injustice. Truly, we are “stubborn children” (Isaiah 30:1).
The Israelites return to the land of their enslavement when they decide to seek refuge in Egypt apart from Him. In Egypt, they place their hope in “the protection of Pharaoh,” and “seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt.” Egypt oozes comfort, security, and affluence to the Israelites. But, the LORD decrees that “the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation” (Isaiah 30:3), for the LORD is sovereign over Egypt. What is Egypt, or Pharoah, apart from him? Indeed, that which we place our hope in aside from the LORD leads to disgrace, shame, and unfulfillment, for we trust in that which cannot give, nor deliver.
A true spirit of rebellion, which I see in myself and I see in Christians in America, wants nothing of the LORD apart from his blessings. We “are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord” (Isaiah 30:9). We live for ourselves. When we do pray, we simply pray to ourselves, that “my will be done,” for we ask of him “to spend it on our passions” (James 4:3). And we wonder why we do not see him! How often do we, like Israel, “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, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 30:10-11).
We set out for Egypt every day. We do not want to know and live the things of God. That costs something. It means we must give our lives up entirely and become like clay in the hand of a Potter (Isaiah 64:8). But, we would rather occupy our minds and hearts with the numbing injections of TV, Netflix, phones, food, shopping, and materialism. We hope God will leave us to our own devices and stay out of our lives that we love so much and hold so dear. We do not want to hear “what is right,” for we desire the “smooth things” and “illusions.” In order to escape our current reality, we seek to create our own.
And yet, though we engage alongside Israel in such a severe spirit of rebellion, the LORD pronounces righteous, deserved judgment on us in love. Discipline, humiliation, and shame may certainly wound us, but not fatally, for they lead us home to a Physician who restores and heals and makes us like himself. When affliction comes, we proclaim with Charles Spurgeon “I have learned the kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Apart from the judgment and discipline of God, we would fail to discover the preciousness and savor the sweetness of Him that we experience through the grace he lavishes on us, undeserving, by the Holy Spirit.
Though we insist on our own way through the easy and wide gate (Matthew 7:13), he does not reject those who seek reconciliation and repentance with him and return to the hard road that passes through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:14). Day by day, as you decrease, he will increase (John 3:30). As you lose your life, you will find it (Matthew 10:39). As we lay aside the weight and sin that clings to us, let us run – by him, for him, and with him – and discover all that he is for us and all that we have in him (Hebrews 12:1).
Next time, we will examine the implications of Isaiah 30:15-17.