Today’s passage starts with a ‘’Therefore’’ (12). I have heard it said that whenever you find a ‘’Therefore’’ in the Bible ‘’you need to look back and see what it’s there for!’’ Looking at what immediately precedes these words (8-10) , you have to say that the rejection of God’s ‘hard-centred truths’ in preference for softer, gooey, sweet and mushy lies is going to land a person in big trouble! If we will not have God’s way we will end up having our own, and then find it’s not what we wanted after all. I have heard it said that people don’t ‘backslide’ from the Christian faith in a single moment, but they tend to gradually, and perhaps almost imperceptibly, drift away from their moorings over a long period. Tom Hale has pointed out that spiritual decay often goes unnoticed for a long time. The ‘cracks’ and ‘bulges’ are ignored, and then suddenly there is a great collapse. The people of Judah rejected Isaiah’s prophetic ‘’message’’ (12). Instead of walking in the way of God’s truth, they chose to ‘oppress’ the poor and needy, and they preferred to believe ‘deceitful’ words which bolstered them with false confidence. Therefore they were heading for disaster (12-14): ‘’This perverse way of life will be like a towering, badly built wall That slowly, slowly tilts and shifts, and then one day, without warning, collapses – Smashed to bits like a piece of pottery, Smashed beyond recognition or repair…’’ The Message. Isaiah saw that the wall would be destroyed so utterly that none of its fragments would be big enough to even use as a scoop (14).
But it did not have to be this way (15-17). As we have seen often, this is the central call of Isaiah’s entire prophecy: to a quiet, calm, peaceful trust in God: ‘’Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me- The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.’’ The Message. Instead they trusted in their ‘’horses’’ (16). But their enemies were going to pursue them. Even one enemy would make a thousand run away (see Lev.26:8; Deut.32:30). Isaiah could see that, sadly and tragically, in the end there would be nothing left of Judah but a lonely ‘’flagstaff’’ on top of a hill (17).
Then, suddenly, as so often happens in Isaiah, the tone changes; the tempo becomes more upbeat (18). Judgment is coming, but God doesn’t take pleasure in judging His people. He ‘’longs to be gracious’’. But sometimes we have to ‘’wait’’ for His grace and mercy to be manifested. In this case the punishment for sin had to come first. ‘’GOD takes the time to do everything right – everything.’’ The Message. ‘’ The people had to come to the end of themselves.
‘’As long as the people tried to help themselves, sending ambassadors to Egypt, and seeking an alliance against the invader, God could do nothing for them; He could only wait until they returned to simple reliance upon Himself… At first they said No. They were opposed to the idea of simple trust in God. It seemed impossible to believe that if they simply rested on Him He would do better for them than their most strenuous exertions could do for themselves. And all the time God was waiting till every expedient failed, and they were reduced to such a condition that He could step in and save them…all the while God has been waiting…till like a spent struggler in the water, you ceased from your mad efforts and cast yourself back upon his strong everlasting love…The soul that waits for God will always find the God for whom he waits.’’ F.B.Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.280
Prayer: Help me, Lord, to cease struggling and start clinging.