113-129 Isaiah Chapter 29
Jerusalem Is Warned
In this passage, the word Ariel is used to reference Jerusalem. The word Ariel means Lion of God. It is only in this chapter of Isaiah the word Ariel is used for the name of Jerusalem. Only one other time does this word appear in the Old Testament. Ariel is the name of a priest in the book of Ezra. (Ezra 8:16)
“There is some dispute as to if Ariel means Lion of God (the literal translation) or an altar for burning, which is a very similar word in Hebrew (used in passages like Ezekiel 43:15-16). If it is to be understood as an altar for burning, then the idea is that “The fighting and bloodshed around Jerusalem would make the city like a giant place of sacrifice.” (Wolf) In the context that Isaiah uses this word, Ariel, it is best to see the meaning in the literal usage, the Lion of God
Isaiah calling Jerusalem the Lion of God may be a show of sarcasm. The People of Jerusalem may have thought of themselves as the Lion of God but God did not share that opinion. Perhaps it is the pride of Jerusalem resting on their spiritual heritage instead of the present reality. The people were living for the present pleasures without concern for their God.
The holy city of Jerusalem may have a high opinion of themselves but they are not out of the reach of God’s judgment. Instead of a life as usual of year to year feast, God would send heaviness and sorrow. If Jerusalem saw themselves as a Lion of God, then God would fight against them as a man fights a lion, it shall be to me as Ariel.
In writing, Isaiah uses the images of present-day warfare for God to do battle against Jerusalem. The Lord will bring down the lofty image that Jerusalem had of itself. Instead of Jerusalem calling herself Ariel, the city of David, their speech will be brought low and out of the dust. Instead of boasting loudly their speech shall whisper in the dust.
In the previous passage, we saw Jerusalem groveling in the dust. The Lord now uses another image of the dust, the enemies of Jerusalem will be scattered as fine dust. God will humble Jerusalem and then scatter her enemies as fine dust. The nations that come against Jerusalem will be punished. God will allow them to come against Jerusalem to humble it but they will be punished that they have come against Jerusalem. The Lord will protect Jerusalem and frustrate the nations that come against her. They will dream of victory but only realize defeat.
Jerusalem’s pride has made them blind. (Proverbs 8:13) Their pride has made them spiritually blind and spiritually drunk. The Lord is telling them to pause and to wonder about this. They have caused this blindness to come upon them but they lack the awareness to see their condition.
They stagger but not from drink. This is not a blessing from the Lord and is a powerful word against those who promote being drunk in the spirit. Because of their blindness, the Lord poured out upon them a deep sleep. As the drunks sleep it off the Lord will send the blind, proud, drunk, Jerusalem into the lethargy of spiritual sleep. A drunk becomes sober after a sleep but for those who are spiritually drunk, sleep makes the condition worse.
When people are asleep they are not productive. When they are asleep they are vulnerable. When they are asleep they are insensitive. God sent these things to a blind, proud, drunk Jerusalem. This problem of spiritual sleep did not end in the days of Isaiah. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Church, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11) Christians need to be awake and alert especially in the times that we are in.
Because Jerusalem chose their blindness and chose their spiritual drunkenness God took something away from them. God closed their eyes, namely the prophets. As a drunk has blurred vision God closed the spiritual eyes of the nation, the eyes of their prophets. The prophets were silent and the people wanted it that way. By silencing the prophets and seers God gave the people what they wanted. The Prophet Amos spoke of the same idea. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
First Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem as being blind and drunk and now he speaks of them as being illiterate. But this is not literal illiteracy as an illiterate man can receive the vision of God. To the other, he cannot read it because the book is sealed. Many today read God’s Word as an illiterate person. They can pick out words here and there, they can look at the pictures, and they can enjoy it to some degree. But the true content of God’s Word escapes them.
Jerusalem knew how to talk the spiritual talk but their hearts were not with God. The words that people say does not always reveal their heart. Neither can you know ones heart by what they do. Only God can know a person’s heart. The closest we can come is by looking at the whole of their life. Not just what they say and do and especially by how they act at Church or around other Christians.
Jesus said, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34) This is true but it is not absolute. People can honor the Lord with their mouths and honor Him with their lips but their hearts can be far from the Lord. Their speech will betray them sooner or later but maybe never in the company of the Church. This was not just a situation in the days of Isaiah. Jesus quoted Isaiah when he was rebuking the religious leaders of His day. (Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7) Neither did this end in Jesus’ day. How does one’s heart become far from God? They themselves remove their heart far from God. God doesn’t move away from His people, they remove their hearts from Him. The people of Jerusalem had no real fear of God in themselves but were commanded by those whom they associated with to fear God. Their hearts were not responding to God but to men.
As a result of Jerusalem’s pride they were in spiritual blindness, sleep, drunkenness, illiteracy, and hypocrisy, as a result, God would destroy the wisdom of the wise men. It was their wise men who had promoted the pride that had led to their blindness. Isaiah sees this as a marvelous work and a wonder. God has rejected man’s wisdom and displayed His own. The Apostle Paul was amazed by the wisdom of man and how it compared to the foolishness of men. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)
The people of Jerusalem thought in their proud wisdom they could hide their thoughts, hide their counsel and their deeds of dark works from the Lord. They had things all turned around and they thought that they had God figured out. It is the Lord who has people figured out as He created them and His people in Jerusalem didn’t really know Him at all.
The people of Jerusalem had exalted themselves while lowering God. The people as the clay felt themselves to be just as worthy, just as intelligent, and just as powerful as God the potter was. There are people today that do not believe that God is their Creator. To the Lord and His prophets, this is an absurd thought. People trust their high science above God. They do not believe in an intelligent Creator and that all there is happened by chance. To them, there was no design, no purpose, and no understanding that brought things into being. This is the height of man’s pride and blindness to accept the universe by chance and not acknowledge God as the Creator.
The Holy One of Israel
The Holy One of Israel is a key phrase in Isaiah. The Holy One is the King, (6:5) the righteous and just one, (26:7) the incomparable God, (40:25) and the redeemer of His people. (41:14) anyone coming to the Holy One must worship Him in reverence and awe. The Holy One identifies Himself with Mount Zion, called holy because it is His symbolic dwelling place.
The Holy One stands apart from all His creation because He is morally perfect. Sinful (1:4) people cannot dwell with Him. God’s holiness requires ritual purity and moral perfection. As a consuming fire, God purges away anything that does not conform to His holy will. (33:14)
The Holy One sets aside a remnant for Himself. (4:2-3; 6:13) He washes away their filth and commits to being present with them, (12:6) His own redeemed people. (35:8-9; 62:12) The good news is that the Holy One is also the redeemer. (49:7) He demonstrates His holy power (52:10) as He comes to the aid of sinful and weak humans, rescues them from the exile that their sin creates, and opens up the new creation for them.
Blessing after Discipline
One of the things we have to realize is that we are living in this world measured by the spinning of the globe. Our lives are in 24-hour segments. God who created all that there is lives above time as we know it. This is what He is ever-present. He is at the very beginning of eternity, he is all through eternity, and He is at the very end of eternity. God lives in His day and it is eternal. What seems to be a large amount of time to us is but a moment in God’s eternity. It is but for a little while the movements of God. it may not seem to us a little while especially when in times of trial but God knows the end from the beginning and it is but for a little while.
Lebanon was known for its mighty forest. But this forest would be brought low and turned into fruitful fields. In the same way, the fruitful field would be turned into a forest. God would cut one dawn and raise another up. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
When the people are restored by God pride no longer will prevent their hearing of His Word or seeing the mighty works of God. These are miracles in the natural realm and they are miracles in the spiritual realm also. It is for us to seek God in humbleness to receive ears to hear and eyes to see.
When we humble ourselves before the Lord joy becomes the proper reward. In our humbleness, we have a proper perspective of ourselves in relation to God and others. This new relationship brings joy into our lives. The humble and the poor find their joy in the Lord, as He is a constant source of joy that can never be taken away.
The enemy of joy is pride. We can be proud and have fun, we can be proud and have success, we can experience excitement while being proud, and we can find happiness when we are of a proud heart. What we cannot do when proud is find joy in the Lord. With whatever degree of pride, we have missed the joy of the Lord to the same degree. The proud will never have joy in the Lord as they go through a humbling and poor circumstance.
God will not stop at restoring His corrected people. The work of the Lord is to also bring justice upon the wicked. They will be singled out for judgment and will have no sense of proportionate justice.
God addresses His people as Jacob in His promise of restoration. Jacob was the name of the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. In Isaiah’s usage, it may not be complimentary. Jacob was a con-man and anyone who is as Jacob has a reason to be ashamed. But when God restores His people even the Jacobs among them will not be ashamed.
We also see a picture of the patriarch Jacob looking over his descendants and no longer being ashamed of them. Now they are people who hollow the name of the Lord and they respect His holiness. In the day of God’s restoration, the truth is taught and the people exalt in His truth. Those who had erred in the spirit now have a greater understanding, and those who complained now know better because they know the truth.