Opening thought: Death is such a part of our culture. There is a fascination with it. We are taken with it. Our culture today is more enthralled with death than any other than probably the Egyptians.
Death is front page stuff. The media have a saying, "if it bleeds it leads." So the stories get gorier and bloodier and we're up for it. Give us shootings, killings, executions, mortuaries, pathologists, blood splatter technicians and odd funeral arrangements and we'll stand in line for tickets. We watch coroners and forensic pathologists on television. There are blood spatter specialists and crime scene investigations, autopsies on television. HBO did an award-winning show called “Six feet under.” Now they are interviewing people with incurable diseases called “Live like you were dying.” Tuesdays with Morey is about Lou Gehrig’s disease, but there was no hope, no Jesus or eternity. There’s a site on the internet called Deathclock.com. You put in your birth date, whether you smoke, your BMI, and it gives you a bogus date of your death.
People are mystified by death and bright lights. The cult classic called “Flat Liners,” where medical students would play a deadly game of taking a shot to make their heart stop and then hit them with electricity to get them back. We walk by the casket and say, “She looks good.” She doesn’t look good, she looks dead! Death hangs over us. Fear of death seems to drive life. Death is our enemy, and the Scripture says it will be the last enemy finally defeated at the Resurrection. Today’s passage points us straight at this enemy and its defeat by the Messiah.
Pray and Read: Isaiah 28-29
Contextual Notes: In the chapters before us today, Isaiah continues his predictions of judgment that will soon strike the nations of his day in the Middle East. He had begun at chapter 13, and chapters 21-23 are a middle section that ended with an end-times prediction of judgment on the whole world in chapters 24-27.
Now Isaiah shifts back to predictions of judgment, except this time he focuses on the Jews of his day in the northern and southern kingdoms and their unbelief that is found in every age. Their covenant with death will be annulled (28:15-18), bringing in death and terror (v. 19). The season of judgment has come (v. 19-29). Jerusalem will be brought down (29:1-4), but God will in the end fight and defeat Israel’s enemies (29:5-9). Until then, Israel will be blind to the vision (29:10-16) until the mockers are destroyed, and then a shamed Israel will at the end stand in awe of God and receive the understanding she lacks now (29:17-24).
Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 28-29 to teach Israel the importance of a heart relationship with the Lord and the lethal danger of dead religion.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about having a relationship with the Messiah.
- Our Cornerstone is the King who overcomes legalism and death; therefore, trust him (Isaiah 28:1-29).
- Our Cornerstone is the Almighty who overcomes your enemies and brings Good News; therefore, revere him (Isaiah 29:1-24)
Exposition: Note well,
1. OUR CORNERSTONE IS THE KING WHO OVERCOMES LEGALISM AND DEATH; THEREFORE, TRUST HIM (Isaiah 28:1-29)
a. Our Cornerstone (28:16) is the King (28:5) who overcomes legalism (28:10-13; 29:13) and Death (28:14-15, 18; 29:15); therefore, trust him (28:29).
b. (28:1-6) – The beautiful floral wreaths of the drunken leadership of Judah will give way to the glorious Crown, the Messiah, whose glory and beauty are full of justice and strength. This justice is for the courts and the military/law enforcement.
c. 28:10-13 – “Do and Do” Isaiah uses the repetition as a drunkard’s babbling, words without meaning, sav lasav kav lakav kav lakav. They will hear a jabbering foreign tongue which will attack them. Paul quotes 28:11 on the subject of speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:21). But there is more here. Isaiah warns that a people who will not hear God’s Word will not only find it meaningless, but misinterpreted, and fall into a deathly religious legalism. Rather than a message of salvation (v. 12), the Word of God becomes a set of rules: do and do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule (v. 13).
d. Colossians 2:20-23- “20Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Believers should listen to the Word to understand it (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Mark 4:9).
e. 28:14 – ‘scoffers’ – probably Hezekiah’s counselors who scoffed at Isaiah’s advice and instead encouraged Hezekiah to join the ill-fated revolt against Assyria in 705 B.C.
f. 28:15-18 – In a stunning sermon praised as one of the most powerful of all the prophets, Isaiah bewails his peoples foolish reliance on a protective ‘covenant with death’ which God will annul bringing in death and terror (v. 19). This is a covenant with occult forces (Leviticus 19:31). They made an agreement with death to avoid it, but by embracing it they will find themselves a victim of it.
g. ILLUSTRATION: When I arrived at Southeastern Seminary in 2005, it was my second go-round at seminary. In my first class, I decided to start over with summer NT Greek since I had not studied it since my undergraduate time. Dr. Lanier was going over vocabulary one day early in the class and came to the word thanatos, the Greek word for death. He was trying to help us remember the words, and he referred to William Cullen Bryant’s poem, “Thanatopsis,” which encourages us to embrace death as part of life. Since it is inevitable, we should not fear death but embrace it as a friend in the circle of life. Then Dr. Lanier whirled around with a shout and said, “That is a lie! Death is not your friend. It is our last enemy, and Christ will defeat death. Never embrace death. Repel it. Fight it. It is our enemy. Have nothing to do with death. Death is a robber and our enemy, and our Lord Jesus Christ died to defeat death.
h. APPLICATION: Have nothing to do with death or the occult or the books or organizations or movies or TV shows that promote it. We also often find ourselves embracing a deathlike religious activity in our legalisms and pet doctrines and rules made up by men. When we refuse the Holy Spirit’s teaching of the Word, when we refuse to allow the Word to speak to our hearts, it becomes just a book of rules, then religious activity, then legalisms, then you find you’ve lost the whole spirit of the relationship with Jesus Christ, and you are just a religious nut, a church lady, the kind of person that gives Christianity a bad name.
i. 28:16-17 – The NT picks up this imagery of the cornerstone and applies it to Jesus as the Messiah (Romans 9:33; 10:11; 1 Peter 2:4-6). The stone image is repeated here from Isaiah 8:14 where the leadership is failing as well. When the two ‘stone’ passages together, we see a fascinating revelation. The same stone cannot be both a foundation stone (cornerstone) and a capstone, holding the arch together. But the Messiah is both foundation and capstone in God’s holy temple, the beginning and end, alpha and omega, aleph and tav, a and z. This stone both IS God and is laid BY God. Only Jesus, sent by God and yet also God the Son, could possibly fulfill this requirement.
- Romans 9:33: 33As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16). Romans 10:11: 11As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Isaiah 28:16). 1 Peter 2:4-6: 4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16)
j. 28:20 – too short a bed: Vivid picture of a bed too short for what they need. Not enough
k. 28:21-22 – God had wonderfully protected in earlier days, Mount Perazim (Joshua 10:1-11) and Valley of Gibeon (2 Samuel 5:17-25), but now judgment has been decreed. God’s judgment is a strange and alien deed. Would God really bring disaster on his own people?
l. 28:23-29 – Parable of the Farmer – the season of judgment has arrived. God is the farmer of the vineyard. Farmers have to sometimes apply violent activity to get achieve results (v. 27f), but they dare not overdo or they will lose everything. God must be severe with his people, but there is a purpose behind them, and the punishment will not go too far. The Lord is wonderful in counsel and wisdom in contrast to false counselors (vv.14ff), and recalls and reinforces 9:6.
m. APPLICATION: This mystery of suffering and death is at the heart of Christianity. Jesus explained his death as Savior in a similar illustration as a seed that dies to produce life (John 12:23-33). Like Christ, Christians endure suffering times with the aim of glory (Romans 8:18-39; 1 Peter 4).
2. OUR CORNERSTONE IS THE ALMIGHTY WHO OVERCOMES YOUR ENEMIES AND BRINGS GOOD NEWS; THEREFORE, REVERE HIM (Isaiah 29:1-24)
a. Our Cornerstone (28:16) is the Almighty (29:6) who overcomes your enemies (29:5) and brings Good News (29:18-19); therefore, revere him (29:23) (Isaiah 29:1-24).
b. 29:1 – Ariel – This name, applied to Jerusalem, means ‘altar hearth,’ and ‘lion of God.’ viewing Jerusalem as the place of sacrifice, where Judah, bent on ritual but not heart relationship (Isaiah 1) was so deeply diverted. 29:13 complains that their mouths but not their hearts are close to Him. In a remarkable use of words, God will be the lion who will attack the lion of God (Jeremiah 25:30; Amos 1:2). God will besiege the city David besieged (2 Samuel 5:6-10). God will burn the city of burning sacrifice.
c. 29:5-8 – Sennacherib’s army will fade away like a dream (see 37:36f; 1Kings 19:35 for fulfillment), but the context is set against the End when all Israel’s enemies will be destroyed. Jerusalem will never be obliterated. But there is more here than the partial fulfillment of the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. This is also a picture of the end that Zechariah takes up in Zechariah 12:1-9, when the nations gather to force Israel and besiege Jerusalem.
d. 29:11-12 – This vision is Isaiah’s revelation. Most who heard it could not grasp its words or missed the meaning (Isaiah 6:9).
e. 29:13-24 – Jesus used verse 13 to describe the external religion of the Pharisees (Matthew 15:9), full of legalism, secrecy. The Pharisees and Sadducees, says Alfred Edersheim, were secret societies who used the secret occult teachings of Judaism, the Kaballah. Paul was a Pharisee, and this is why they took an oath not to eat until they killed him (Acts ). But Paul proclaimed another secret, the one long hidden but is now revealed to anyone who wants to know it, that the Almighty God, our King, would die for us as an accursed criminal to defeat death and bring eternal life to all who would receive it.
f. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 – “6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (Isaiah 64:4) — 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”
g. One day (v. 18) the Jews will hear and respond to the message of Christ (vv. 19, 23). In verse 19, it will take a new humility (Job 22:29; Psalm 147:6; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:3; 1 Peter 5:5) like the Messiah’s (Matthew 11:29; Phil 2:1-8).
h. 29:22-24 – One commentator says, “It is difficult to find a precise historical background for v. 22ff.” Well, there is a reason for that. It hasn’t happened yet. Romans 4:3; 11:26-28. Abraham is a type of the (1) the transformation to be an instrument of salvation (Genesis 12:1-3; Joshua 24:2-3); (2) the Lord’s faithfulness to Abraham and Jacob (Genesis 32:10; Romans 11:26); and (3) a Covenant like Abraham’s (Romans 4:3; Genesis 17:1-11) based on faith.
i. APPLICATION: One day Jesus is coming back, and he will fulfill his promises to Israel and Abraham. If he doesn’t, then he is not trustworthy. That is the reason the Church cannot replace Israel. Israel is a people through whom God will glorify his Name throughout eternity.