On to Isaiah 28:1-6
Idolatry is the sin that has plagued the children of Israel throughout their history. The two primary characteristics of idolatry are firstly a desire to be like others (to assimilate, caving in to peer pressure) and secondly it is all about accomplishing our own desires (what we want for our lives, rather than what G-d wants for them).
This chapter begins with G-d, speaking through Isaiah, addressing the northern kingdom (Ephraim, or Israel – ie not Judah). This northern kingdom was characterized by idolatry. This idolatry later spread to the southern kingdom as well.
v1: Woe: This is a word of warning. It speaks of a coming and imminent destruction. G-d was going to bring about destruction on that northern kingdom. Because of their pride, Ephraim was going to cease to exist.
- Crown of pride: They sought to bring majesty and glory to themselves rather than to G-d.
- Drunkards: Although everyone in this kingdom was going to suffer, in many ways this prophecy is aimed at those with influence, the leaders who oversaw this nation. G-d speaks of them as drunkards. They were under the wrong influence. The Spirit, truth and Word of G-d was not manifest in their lives, but rather those things which are synonymous with the ways of the world.
- Ephraim: Ephraim was Joseph’s youngest son. He was the one who received the special or preferred blessing from his grandfather, Jacob (Gen 48). This was very significant prophetically. The kingdom of Israel split after Solomon’s reign. The northern part of the kingdom became known as Ephraim (or Israel), and the southern kingdom was known as Judah. The name Ephraim means ‘fruitful’. G-d had blessed the northern kingdom – their land was rich and fertile. Those in this kingdom had great wealth. However, instead of being fruitful in the things of G-d, they turned aside to pursue the worldly ambitions of the nations. These people were ruled by their own desires. They were a prideful people.
- Glorious beauty is a fading flower: This northern kingdom had much beauty. Their land was good and had tremendous potential. However, they used all their resources in the wrong way.
- At the head: They were a visible presence. Everyone knew of this kingdom.
- Verdant: Fertile.
- Overcome: Although this nation had great potential it was struck down, it was overwhelmed with wine. Scripturally, wine is often related to joy and happiness. The problem here was that the people simply pursued a fleshly joy. They wanted to gratify themselves. Whatever G-d gave them they misappropriated for their own pleasure rather than for the pleasure of G-d.
Note: These people were so busy focusing on their own earthly majesty that they forget about the power and majesty of G-d.
v2: Strong: This word can also mean courageous. It does not only speak about a physical power, but also an inward fortitude and commitment to that which is right.
- Tempest: This word might mean a storm, but it is the same word that speaks about a powerful, flowing river.
- Hail: Hail brings about destruction.
- Mighty waters overflowing: Strong waters that sweep away. Swift destruction.
- His hand (Deut 26:8): Under G-d’s authority (a manifestation of His power) this northern Kingdom is going to be destroyed.
v3: Trampled under foot: This is a poetic reference informing us that Ephraim is going to be trampled under the feet of G-d.
v4: First fruit: People wait for that initial harvest. It is something to look forward to.
- He eats it up while it is still in his hand: He is so excited about the fruit that, instead of harvesting it, the first thing he does is that he tastes it and devours it with anticipation. This is poetic language that tells us that G-d’s judgment is going to come quickly. He is going to swallow up what the people have built because He is not pleased with the results.
Note: When we read prophecy, we need to make it personal. We need to ask ourselves if G-d is pleased with the results of our lives (what we are achieving, what we are committed to etc).
v5: In that day: That final day – Judgment Day.
- The remnant: Those that remain. A remnant speaks about the faithfulness of G-d. He consistently preserves a remnant (those who are not swept away by society, those who are committed to a different purpose – they do not have a worldly agenda).
v6: Him who sits in judgment: This is referring to those who have taken a stand. He is in a location/position, and he is there in order to execute justice. He is concerned about that which is right. He does not go along with society. He does not ‘go with the flow’. The remnant is going to be those who are motivated about justice from a G-dly standpoint. G-d is going to give this remnant the ability to make just and right judgments.
- Turn back the battle (war): Those who administer justice contend/fight at the gates. They are not afraid of intense battles as their desire is to see that true justice is served.
- Gate: A gate is an idiom for a place for judgment. Justice was administered at the gates (Ruth 4:1-2, Prov 31:23).