Next up is Isaiah 29:1-8
This chapter addresses those who are indifferent or uninterested in spiritual things. These people do not have a commitment to truth as they are unwilling to change.
v1: Woe: This is a word that warns us that if there is no change (repentance) then, in their current condition, this city/this people are headed toward disaster. G-d’s judgment is on the horizon.
- Ariel: This name means ‘lion of G-d’. Most scholars see it as a nickname, so to speak, for Jerusalem. The Rabbinical scholars, from the point of traditional Judaism, say that this word speaks about the altar at the temple of G-d – more specifically about the offerings and sacrifices made to G-d on the altar, and the hearts of the people who brought/made the sacrifices there. The sacrifices that the people offered up said a lot about the hearts of the people. These sacrifices were a good indicator of their understanding, commitment or interest in G-d.
- The city where David dwelt: This is the clue informing us that Ariel is in fact referring to Jerusalem specifically – the city where David established his kingdom. When the name ‘David’ is used in the prophetic books we know that the passage we are reading has Kingdom implications.
- Add year to year: Years come and go but here is no change in the people. They are not growing or maturing. Neither their knowledge of G-d nor their lives reflect the passage of time. Do ours?
- Feasts: Festivals. The Rabbinical commentators, because of the name Ariel which they interpret as relating to the altar, say that this is not simply referring to the festivals themselves but is referring to the sacrifices that were made at these festivals. They speak of this phrase as meaning that the festivals and the offerings are going to be cut off, be brought to an end. Biblically this did happen. Many of the festivals were not observed during the time of the kings. Instead of going up to Jerusalem to worship as the people had been commanded to do, they were embracing idolatry and things unrelated to spiritual truth.
v2: Distress: Pain and discomfort. In nature there are laws. If we fall off a ladder, gravity causes us to land on the ground. Spiritually there are also laws. Here we see a spiritual principle/law in play: When we are spiritually indifferent, that indifference (lack of commitment and lack of interest in the truth of G-d) leads to disaster and distress (physically, emotionally and spiritually). Indifference empowers the enemy.
- Heaviness and sorrow: This is the kind of grief and sorrow that accompanies death. When we are spiritually indifferent, we are inviting death into our lives. Spiritual laws don’t only have spiritual implications. Spiritual laws spill over into our physical lives and cause physical sorrow, pain and death.
- It shall be to Me as Ariel: Ariel, in this context, is a word that describes the worship that took place, specifically, at the altar. The people were not acting in obedience. Their disobedience and their unwillingness to serve G-d caused G-d to be displeased. G-d’s displeasure leads to G-d’s judgment. G-d’s judgment reveals to the people that G-d is displeased with them.
v3: Encamp against you all around: G-d is going to box the people in. They are not going to be able to easily escape. They will not be able to avoid G-d’s judgment. This is another spiritual law: Those who violate G-d’s laws are not going to escape their consequences.
- A mound: G-d is going to lay the foundation for the city to be laid siege against. The people would dread having the city under siege. A siege brings a slow and distressing weakening of the people that gets worse and worse as time elapses. The only way out of a siege was to go out and fight. However, the people did not want to fight as they understood that they were inferior in strength to the enemy that had managed to lay siege against them, and they also understood that they did not have G-d’s blessing on their side.
Note: The people were going to experience a long, painful and a fearful experience from G-d. This is what spiritual indifference and carelessness with the things of G-d brings about.
v4: Brought down: Made low. This is a word for causing one to be emptied and publicly humiliated. G-d is going to show His displeasure with the people visibly, publicly. He is going to knock them down from their self-exalted positions. They are going to be spiritually humiliated and it’s going to have physical implications. Many interpret this to mean that they have exalted themselves financially. They are enjoying their prosperity (physical comfort and happiness) and this has turned them away from the spiritual.
- Medium’s: An enchanter, a sorcerer. One who consults the dead. G-d is going to take Israel down so low that when they speak it will be like the voice of the dead (like Samuel speaking in 1 Samuel 28).
- Whisper: Literally: Chirp. The sound that birds make. When birds chatter to each other their words are unintelligible, and they seem to be saying the same thing over and over again. No one responds to the chirping of the birds. Neither is G-d going to respond to the people’s cries.
v5: Fine dust: Small particles of dust (irritants) that are very difficult to get rid of.
- Multitude: There will be many enemies that come against them.
- Terrible ones: Literally: Foreigners. Referring to Israel’s enemies that come from foreign lands. These enemies are going to be brought against the children of Judah.
- Chaff that passes away: When someone is threshing, the chaff just keeps on and on blowing away in the wind. This is how Israel’s enemies will be. Continuously blowing around them like chaff on a threshing floor. This chaff just keeps rising up from the wheat and seems to be never ending.
- It shall be in an instant, suddenly: One day the people will be going along thinking that everything is going well (security, financial stability, happiness etc) and the next day everything would change – without any warning or indication (other than this prophetic revelation). This change would bring the armies around them and usher in instability. The people would suddenly find themselves in great need.
v6: Punished: Literally again the word for ‘Visited’. The L-rd is going to visit them this time to punish and not to bless.
- The L-rd of hosts: The L-rd is the source of this discipline/judgment that they are receiving.
- Thunder and earthquake and great noise: This punishment’s going to come in a very visible and discernible way.
- The flame of devouring fire: When a fire rages through a field (etc) it makes a sound that can be heard. This punishment will be visible to all, and it will be heard by all.
Note: G-d is using rich language to tell them how serious and devastating the outcome of their spiritual indifference is going to be for them.
v7: The nations: The warring nations – nations that have armies.
- Distress her: Israel is going to experience pain, suffering and turmoil.
Note: This distress, pain, turmoil etc should not surprise us. This is the consequence of spiritual indifference. Those who serve G-d faithfully experience the opposite of this – these ones experience joy and gladness.
v8: A hungry man dreams… he eats: Those who are hungry dream of food, provision.
- He awakes and his soul is still empty: The dream is very different to the reality. The dream doesn’t bring about a change to their reality of hunger.
- Faint (Dying): In modern Hebrew this is a word that means to be tired or exhausted to the point where someone does not want to get out of bed. In Biblical Hebrew it is a word that means to be on the point of death.
Note: Another spiritual principle/law regarding spiritual indifference: spiritual indifference brings attack against the Kingdom of G-d. The Kingdom of G-d will not be established in the midst of spiritual indifference. G-d will not move to fulfil His promises in the midst of a spiritually indifferent people. When we are spiritually indifferent, we are not going to have a Kingdom character and nor will we be Kingdom minded. We will also not be receiving the blessings of the Kingdom (Matt 5:1-12)
- Mount Zion: The location of where the promises and excellency of G-d dwell.