Reading Time: 7 Minutes
A bit of ancient history will help our understanding of Isaiah 28.1-13.
After the reign of King Solomon, a civil war took place and the nation was divided into two countries. The Northern Kingdom was named Israel and sometimes Ephraim. Judah was the name of the Southern Kingdom.
Isaiah’s primary message was to the Southern Kingdom, and mostly in the capital city Jerusalem. In this instance, he used the Northern Kingdom (Israel or Ephraim) as an example for their southern neighbor.
Don’t Be Like This Nation
The Northern Kingdom was a prime example of how not to behave.
Ah, the proud garland of the drunkards of Ephraim,
and the fading flower of its glorious beauty,
which is on the head of those bloated with rich food, of those overcome with wine! (Isaiah 28.1)
A garland was a head-dress made of woven flowers that were worn to a party.
The leaders of the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim) were “fat cats,” who were drunk and bloated.
And the fading flower of its glorious beauty,
which is on the head of those bloated with rich food,
will be like a first-ripe fig before the summer;
whoever sees it, eats it up
as soon as it comes to hand. (Isaiah 28.4)
Isaiah used a word picture to describe the reality of the imminent defeat of the nation by the Assyrians.
The “fat cats” were destined to be picked off and destroyed as easily as someone plucks the early figs of summer.
Isaiah warned the leaders of Jerusalem and through them leaders of any nation to not imitate what took place in the Northern Kingdom. Bloated and drunken leaders with a party spirit are full of self-interest and make poor leaders.
God is a dramatic contrast to the “fat cats,” whose direction of a nation is a mixture of self-interest and pride.
In that day the Lord of hosts will be a garland of glory,
and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people;
and a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment,
and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. (Isaiah 28.5-6)
God’s garland is not the “party hat” of the indulgent, bloated leaders. His is the crown of the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
When God sits in judgment over the people, justice is the hallmark of his character.
It appears that true justice is a rare commodity among nations. Justice always takes a back seat, when leaders seek their own financial and social advantage over the less fortunate.
God is not so. He is the most joyful Being of all but doesn’t get bloated with food or drunk with wine to find joy.
God rejoices in justice and the ability to strengthen people for what is right.
Prophets for Pay
Isaiah had to contend with prophets, who were paid by the drunken “fat cats.” To keep their position and rich lifestyle, the prophets told the leaders what they wanted to hear.
The result was that the priests and prophets were just like the bloated and drunken leaders of the nation.
These also reel with wine
and stagger with strong drink;
the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink,
they are confused with wine,
they stagger with strong drink;
they err in vision,
they stumble in giving judgment. (Isaiah 28.7)
The prophets were insulted by Isaiah’s message. They told him that he was talking down to them. Here’s what they said to the prophet.
“Whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from milk,
those taken from the breast?
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.” (Isaiah 28.9-10)
They viewed Isaiah’s message as simplistic and what someone might teach a children’s Sunday School class.
The truth is that what is taught to children contains quite enough knowledge for a good life. The issue isn’t what we know. It is what we do with what we know.
Many people are educated beyond their obedience. The priests and prophets used what they knew to skirt around God’s clear direction.
Isaiah informed the leaders that God had a school. Unfortunately for them, it was the school of experience or of “hard knocks.”
He will speak to this people,
to whom he has said,
“This is rest;
give rest to the weary;
and this is repose”;
yet they would not hear.
Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them,
“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little;”
in order that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isaiah 28.12-13)
God offered the “fat cats” of government and religion an opportunity to find rest and safety.
However, they were so ingrained in self-sufficiency and self-interest that they were unwilling to hear how to experience God’s peace.
On the horizon of their existence would be the basic commands of a slave master, as they were conquered and enslaved by the Assyrians.
Intellectual arguments and entertaining messages are not used by slave masters. Rather, commands like “Do this,” or “Do that” are the simple directives of a broken life.
Responsibility of Leaders
The brother of Jesus warned prophets, priests, and other leaders with this word:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3.1).
Leaders of all kinds have a responsibility to know and do God’s will. The welfare of the people they serve is at stake.
Let’s pray for our leaders that they will align their lives with God’s guidance.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.
Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.
I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.