“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” (Isaiah 28:10)
Everyone likes a buffet meal. You can choose whatever you’d like, and eat as much as you’d like. Variety is the order of the day, and you could return ten times and never eat the same course. Unfortunately, this prophecy in Isaiah accuses the people of Israel of treating the Word of the Lord like just any other message. They took it far too lightly and did not heed its warnings, at their own peril.
#1 Covenant and Apostasy
Like many prophets, Isaiah was sent at a time when the people of Israel had fallen far from God. They had originally entered the Promised Land and sealed their relationship with God by a covenant (Deuteronomy 28). They repeatedly defied that covenant over hundreds of years, ignoring its terms and ultimately setting a king in place of God as their ruler (1 Samuel 8:7-9).
After the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, the united kingdom split in two. The southern kingdom was called Judah, after the only tribe that remained loyal to David’s line of kings, and the northern kingdom was often called Ephraim after its most popular tribe. The prophets were God’s messengers, sent to call the people to repentance after they sought the aid of foreign nations and the favor of foreign gods.
#2 Capitals of Anarchy
Isaiah’s book switches between cries of judgment against Israel and the surrounding nations and proclamations of the kingdom being restored under God’s chosen servant, the Messiah. This chapter focused on the judgment awaiting both the northern and southern kingdoms.
The centers of worship for the people were Jerusalem and Samaria, regarded as the capital cities of the two kingdoms. Isaiah first speaks to “the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim,” which refers to the city of Samaria (Isaiah 28:1). Later, he speaks of “the priest and the prophet” and uses the phrase “these also” to refer to the ordained leaders of Jerusalem (Isaiah 28:7), the city where God had chosen for His Name to dwell (2 Chronicles 6:6).
#3 Caused by the Almighty
God would not stand for the rebellion of His people against Him, and He made that message painfully clear through the words of Isaiah and the other prophets. God would work through His agents (Isaiah 28:2) to accomplish His purpose of bringing down the prideful heads of the people (Isaiah 28:3). He is further described as the ultimate Ruler of the people, Who would be worthy to sit in judgment over His wayward children (Isaiah 28:5-6).
The implication was clear: God was behind the calamities the people faced. He was exercising His covenant right of judgment and punishment, and neither Israel nor Judah would have anywhere else to turn.
#4 Carousing and Greed
Among the sins the people had committed against God were drunkenness and slavery to pleasure. They were prideful, and none had kept themselves clean and pure from such shortcomings, not even the leaders and rulers (Isaiah 28:1, 3, 8). They had taken pride in their vanity and wealth – God’s sarcastic naming of the “fat valley” would become nothing more than a “fading flower” (Isaiah 28:4), meaning that the things they trusted in would be taken suddenly from them.
One and all, the people had lost sight of the things of God, instead trusting in wine and strong drink to save them (Isaiah 28:7). It had consumed their judgment, driven them to mistake after mistake, and did not create lasting happiness.
#5 Consequences of Apathy
However, the chief sin of the people of Israel was that they had grown apathetic towards God. They were willing to take anything at face value, ponder it for a moment, then toss it aside as worthless. They read through the Scriptures “line upon line” and “precept upon precept,” not taking the Word of God seriously (Isaiah 28:10). In the end, it sounded like a foreign language to the people (Isaiah 28:11), and they ignored the seriousness of what they had done.
God’s warning was clear after He had pointed out the people’s failures. They could have been refreshed and saved by turning and listening to God’s messengers (Isaiah 28:12), but they turned away. Because of this, they would “go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isaiah 28:13). This was the fate of both Ephraim and Judah: Assyria conquered the northern tribes (2 Kings 17:6-18), then a few decades later, Babylon destroyed the city of Jerusalem along with the Temple of the Lord (2 Kings 25:8-20).
The Word of God cannot be taken lightly. God’s covenant with Israel was very clear: they were to remain faithful to Him and serve Him only, or they would be driven out of the land He promised them. When the people failed to hold up their end of the covenant, God was merciful time after time and gave them many chances to repent. Finally, God stirred up the other nations to come in and invade, removing them from the land.
Warnings like those from Isaiah can keep us accountable today. We are to hold fast to God so that He can be near to us (James 4:8), and keep us safe from our own sins, which could ensnare us and lead us away from Him.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.