8 And now, go, write it before them on a tablet
and inscribe it in a book,
that it may be for the time to come
as a witness forever.
9 For they are a rebellious people,
children unwilling to hear
the instruction of the Lord;
10 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,
11 leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,
“Because you despise this word
and trust in oppression and perverseness
and rely on them,
13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you
like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse,
whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant;
14 and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a shard is found
with which to take fire from the hearth,
or to dip up water out of the cistern.”
15 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 were unwilling, 16 and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill. – Isaiah 30:8-17 ESV
God commands Isaiah to make a permanent record of all that He has said against Judah. He wants it all in writing so that the people of Judah cannot disagree with the words that Isaiah spoke to them, or deny that they ever heard them. It seems that Isaiah is commanded to use two different mediums upon which to record God’s words against Judah. One was a tablet, on which he would inscribe the words and place in the public record. The second was a book or scroll, made of papyrus, on which he would record the very same words, but for future use. This scroll would be set aside and kept safe so that Isaiah could bring it out at a later date and remind the people of their refusal to listen to God. It would act as a permanent witness against them.
And all of this was necessary because the people were stubborn. God describes them as “a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord” (Isaiah 30:9 ESV). Like immature children, who think they can avoid anything bad by simply refusing to acknowledge its presence, the people of Judah begged their seers and prophets to stop giving them bad news.
They tell the seers,
“Stop seeing visions!”
They tell the prophets,
“Don’t tell us what is right.” – Isaiah 30:10 NLT
They truly thought the could just escape the bad news by denying its reality. If they covered their ears, they wouldn’t hear. If they closed their eyes, they wouldn’t have to see what was happening around them and to them. And if the could only get everyone to stop talking about all this doom and gloom, they could go on with their lives. They could get back to business as usual. They even demanded that Isaiah change his message and tell them what they wanted to hear.
“Tell us nice things.
Tell us lies.
Forget all this gloom.
Get off your narrow path.
Stop telling us about your
‘Holy One of Israel.’” – Isaiah 30:11 NLT
This reveals just how bad things had gotten in Judah. They were tired of hearing about God and His holiness. They even distance themselves from Yahweh, describing Him as Isaiah’s God, not their own. This desire to ignore God’s holiness and escape His judgment is nothing new. Remember, they had convinced themselves that God couldn’t see what they were doing anyway.
“The Lord can’t see us,” they say.
“He doesn’t know what’s going on!”
How foolish can you be? – Isaiah 29:15-16 NLT
This tendency among God’s people has always been around. Paul warned Timothy that the day would come in his own ministry when people would want their preachers to tell them nice things.
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT
For some reason, we think we can escape the truth by simply redefining it. In our day, we deny the reality of hell, by turning it into nothing more than the earthly results of our bad decision-making. Hell becomes figurative, not literal. But denying hell or redefining it, does not make it go away. Another major trend in modern evangelicalism is the emphasis being placed on the love of God, at the expense of His holiness. It goes something like this: A loving God would not send condemn anyone to an eternity in hell. Or another manifestation of this redefining of God shows up in a message of tolerance. We demand that a loving God is accepting of everyone and everything. He is all-loving. But in reaching this seemingly correct conclusion, we leave out the very important doctrine of God’s holiness and His hatred of sin. God does not tolerate sin. He sent His Son to pay the penalty for sin with His own life.
And God would tell us the same thing He said to the people of Judah:
“Because you despise what I tell you
and trust instead in oppression and lies,
calamity will come upon you suddenly.” – Isaiah 30:12-13 NLT
They didn’t like what God had to say. His words of condemnation and the constant call to repentance were not what they wanted to hear. So, they trusted in lies and half-truths. They changed the rules of the game. But their denunciation of Isaiah and their denial of his message would do nothing to alter the outcome. Their calamity was going to come – suddenly. Like a bulging wall that is on the brink of failure, their demise would take place quickly, and the consequences would be devastating. Their wall of lies and self-constructed truth was not going to stand the onslaught of God’s judgment. And God warns them, “You will be smashed like a piece of pottery—shattered so completely that
there won’t be a piece big enough to carry coals from a fireplace or a little water from the well” (Isaiah 30:14 NLT).
But it didn’t have to be this way. Their inevitable destruction could have been avoided. And God makes it clear how they could have escaped what was about to happen.
This is what the Sovereign Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15 NLT
And it’s essential that we not miss how God refers to Himself in this passage. He is the “Holy One of Israel.” Remember, they had refused to recognize Him as such. But here, God is letting them know that He is their God, not just Isaiah’s. And He is holy. He is also sovereign. He is in complete control of all things, whether they want to admit it or not.
As the Holy One of Israel, He lets them know that remedy for their coming fall was simple. All they had to do was return to Him and rest in Him. Repent of their sin of trusting in Egypt, and rely upon Him instead. It was that easy. And God lets them know that it was the only way they would find salvation. He uses two Hebrew words to describe what they had to do: shaqat and bitchah. The first refers to a state of rest or inactivity. It’s the thought conveyed by the psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NLT). It carries the idea of tranquility, even in the midst of trouble.
The second word has to do with a confidence that is a direct byproduct of trust. It is the same idea expressed by Isaiah earlier in this book.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
– Isaiah 26:3 NLT
God spells out the remedy for what ailed them. But He also sadly states, “But you would have none of it” (Isaiah30:15 NLT). Rather than repenting and returning to God, they had made the decision to trust and find confidence in Egypt.
“No, we will get our help from Egypt.
They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.” – Isaiah 30:16 NLT
But God breaks the bad news to them that their so-called savior was going to prove completely unreliable. The only swift horses they were going to see would be the ones their enemies rode. It would be a lopsided battle with the people of Judah completely routed and destroyed. And God describes their post-battle condition in bleak terms.
“You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a hill
or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop.” – Isaiah 30:17 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.