Isaiah and the 12 Steps

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

When I read Isaiah’s argument with the people of Jerusalem, I was reminded of the first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

If Isaiah were to use the language of the Twelve Steps, he would have told the people that God was allowing them to hit rock bottom. At that point, they would be willing to turn their will and lives over to his care.

Your Own Best Thinking

A friend of mine in recovery once said, “My own best thinking is out to kill me.” Isaiah easily could have used those words to describe the effect of the bad leadership decisions of the nation’s leaders.

Isaiah’s message can be summarized like this:

Verses 1-2 – The leaders are committed to their own best thinking, in opposition to God’s guidance.

Oh, rebellious children, says the Lord,
who carry out a plan, but not mine;
who make an alliance, but against my will,
adding sin to sin;

Who set out to go down to Egypt
without asking for my counsel . . .

The mind that is committed to our ideas cannot see the wisdom of God’s ways.

Verses 2 and 5 – The shame and humiliation that falls to rock bottom is the result of living by our earthly wisdom separate from God’s guidance.

Therefore the protection of Pharaoh shall become your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt your humiliation.

Everyone comes to shame
through a people that cannot profit them,
that brings neither help nor profit,
but shame and disgrace.

What is true of the addict’s rock bottom is also true of nations that forget God.

Think of the shame, disgrace, and humiliation of the military and economic defeat of nations.

The “My Own Best Thinking” Attitude

What kind of attitude is the foundation of people who refuse to surrender their idea of life to the direction of God?

This is the way Isaiah described the people of his day. Let’s ask ourselves if it applies to us today.

For they are a rebellious people,
faithless children,
children who will not 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 30.9-11)

It is nearly impossible to reason with someone who has already made up their mind. If they won’t listen to God’s word, what makes us think they will hear the prophet?

They will accept “smooth” words that confirm their preconceived ideas. Yet, they reject what is right.

They are walking a crooked way and won’t tolerate the message of a straight path. The holiness of God is far from their minds.

Rock Bottom to Redemption

If we won’t learn from sponsors, pastors, teachers, and wise guides, then God will ensure that we learn from painful experiences.

Isaiah’s words are still appropriate 2700 years after he first spoke them.

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
Because you reject this word,
and put your trust in oppression and deceit,
and rely on them;

Therefore this iniquity shall become for you
like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse,
whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant . . .
(Isaiah 30.12-13)

Like a retaining wall that bulges and leans under the weight of the earth, behavior that disregards God’s direction will crash in an instant when the time is right.

We may believe that God doesn’t care about the actions that rely on ourselves and not on his leadership. We may exist for quite some time with nothing wrong. Then, in an instant, the “wall” of our lives will come crashing down.

The only way to prevent such destruction is to be willing to follow God’s direction.

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it well in Steps 2 and 3.

Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Isaiah counseled the people to surrender to God, but they placed their trust in other places.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

But you refused and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses.”
(Isaiah 30.15-16)

The blindness of prideful self-will couldn’t be described more dramatically. God offered to help the people, but instead, they chose horses.

God Waits

It is an act of God’s grace that he waits for us to reach a place where we are willing to receive his care.

I expect it breaks God’s heart to see his beloved children reach rock bottom before they turn to him.

Isaiah proclaimed this blessed truth.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 30.18)

This is the truth of Isaiah’s book. God waits for people to reach a point where we will trust his guidance. When we do, he is able and willing to bless us.

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 or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.

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