Isaiah chapter 28 is similar to other chapters in Isaiah in that it indicts the sinful and disobedient people of God. But it is different in the sense that it provides some compelling analogies for faith and our relationship with God. There is also a prophecy in the second part of the chapter.
Verses 1-15: These verses describe the folly of Jerusalem and Ephraim, and specifically the part that alcohol played, as it was their main vice. Understandable that alcohol be the primary cause because so many sins as well as their accompanying consequences originate from the use and abuse of alcohol:
“But they also have erred through wine, And through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filth; No place is clean.” Isaiah 28:7-8
All of the blessings that the people received were to be taken away due to their consumption of alcohol. Priests and prophets lost their ability to judge rightly, indeed the leadership of these people also came to a loss through using alcohol for there appears to be no capable adults leftover to lead as Isaiah asks: ““Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?” Isaiah 28:9
If the capable are no longer around to teach the young, the entire heritage of faith, righteousness and trust in God is lost.
The verses that follow go on to do an interesting thing. They mock hypocritical teachers. Take these verses:
“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,” And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear. But the word of the LORD was to them, “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,” That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught. Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,” Isaiah 28:10-14
When we learn, we often learn by repitition. And we slowly understand how concepts build upon each other to form principles. This method of teaching was used in the culture, but was not done so effectively. Thus are the teachers mocked for teaching hypocritically to learn important concepts but they were not following these concepts themselves. Further, since the teachers were ineffective, the students did not receive the benefit and were destined for lives of hypocrisy and folly as they followed the example of living around them: hypocrisy, sin and disingenuous worship.
These sad descriptions bring us to verses 16-22 and the plan that God has to redeem His people to Him. Christ is the cornerstone and justice and righteousness are used in building this great structure, the building of which is a symbol for God’s plan.
Also in this section, when God brings judgment upon sinners, when trials threaten our lives, we must make sure that our faith is in Almighty God. If not, we will find ourselves in distress, having put confidence in the wrong things. When we place value and confidence in earthly things and concepts, we are believing a lie. For instance, take verses 19-20:
“As often as it goes out it will take you; For morning by morning it will pass over, And by day and by night; It will be a terror just to understand the report.” For the bed is too short to stretch out on, And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it.”
If our bed is our trust, and we trust in the wrong things, we will be left cold and wanting. Therefore it is absolutely imperative that we put our whole trust only in God.
The last portion of this chapter in verses 23-29 deals in the concept of retribution being necessary to temper righteousness. Without correction, discipline and some form of punishment, children (as well as adults) will not typically change their behavior. Such chastening is often neede to engender true change.
As a conclusive statement for this chapter, verse 29 affirms the source of these words and the wisdom in following them: “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.”
So I encourage you to seek righteousness. Avoiding sinful activities, being true to ourselves and our faith and learning from our punishments are all needed pieces to stand firm and righteous before God.