Switchback–Blessing Disappears: Isaiah Devotional Journal 60

Isaiah 28-29    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Blessing Suddenly Disappears

As the reader continues in Isaiah, a pattern appears. Isaiah fills his writing with “switchbacks.” A switchback is when a pathway turns back upon itself and leads in an opposite direction. In Chapter 28, Isaiah abandons the blessing upon Israel of Chapter 27 and heads back in the direction of judgment and doom. That is, until…he switches back again. (See Switchbacks in Isaiah.)

Secondly, Chapter 27 contained strong suggestions of an end times synopsis. Isaiah 27:12-13 seemed to be writing of an ingathering that included all Israel. But here, Isaiah treats the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom separately. This is noteworthy, because Isaiah has not specifically mentioned Northern Israel (Ephraim in Isaiah 28:1) since Isaiah 17:3. Both kingdoms together, as distinct from each other, have not been mentioned since Isaiah 11:13. But here, the prophet singles out Ephraim in Chapter 28 and Ariel (Jerusalem, the City of David) in Chapters 28 and 29.

Unravelling the Mystery

The fact is that Isaiah presents God as judging and condemning Israel one moment and blessing her the next. What is a reader to make of these constant flip flops?

Possibilities

  1. God is schizophrenic.
  2. God is a “parent” who cannot make up his mind. His hand of discipline is not to be believed. When he disciplines, he will surely change his mind and turn the judgment into blessing. Therefore, his discipline need not be taken seriously.
  3. God can rightfully discipline his child, Israel, and he does. However, the disciplinary judgment will not be the last word, because long ago, God promised Abraham that he would bless his seed. God cannot go back on his word of promise. Therefore, the final state must be blessing. Again, Isaiah’s pronouncements of severe judgment need not be taken too seriously.
  4. Isaiah addresses several different groups of people. In this scenario, judgment is judgment and will not be rescinded. The blessing is blessing that fulfills God’s promises, but not everyone in Israel will be blessed. It is wise therefore to pay attention and believe the words of judgment Isaiah speaks, because an Israelite could be placed in either group.
  5. My point of view is the latter, number four above.

What Groups Does Isaiah Address?

  1. Ephraim (northern Israel), mostly disobedient to God.
  2. Judah (southern Israel), mostly disobedient to God.
  3. A remnant from all Israel (northern and southern), repentant and mostly obedient to God.

This grouping solves the question of why the constant switching back and forth. No, God is not schizophrenic. Yes, God knows his own mind and is thoroughly consistent. Yes, God’s word is God’s word. When he speaks judgment, he means judgment and will carry it out. When he speaks blessing, he means blessing and will carry it out. God will fulfill his promise to Abraham, but most of Israel will not receive it. A repentant, contrite, obedient, faithful remnant will receive the full blessing of God.

Note that in Isaiah’s day, there were not three concrete, political groups. That is, only a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom were visible. There did not exist a political boundary for a geographical area called “Remnant.” The Old Testament remnant, a remnant people, remained hidden and scattered throughout both kingdoms. That is, there were always a few people interspersed among the nation who remained faithful to God, his word, and his law. It is fascinating to watch as God protects this remnant throughout Israel’s history.

The Manner of Blessing

Finally, the prophet makes clear that the manner of God’s blessing the remnant of his people will be through a Man of his own choosing (Isaiah 28:16).

Isaiah 28:16 therefore thus says the Lord, See, I will lay for the foundations of Sion a precious, choice stone, a highly valued cornerstone for its foundations, and the one who believes in him will not be put to shame. (NETS) (See 1 Peter 2:6)

Therefore, the focus is not on the remnant, nor so much upon God’s promise, but upon the Stone, the precious stone, the costly foundation. The focus is also upon belief in him. With this Stone for a foundation, God himself accomplishes what he intended to do. Isaiah grants no blessing from God to rebellious Israel.

Next Time: Examples of Isaiah’s groups in Chapters 28 and 29.

 

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