Pastor Steve Ellison
Isaiah 29 continues the theme of woes begun in chapter 28. Jerusalem is singled out for impending judgment. The status quo would soon disappear. Normal activities and celebrations, which had been taken for granted would cease. God declared plainly that even though the human adversary would be Assyria, it would really be God Himself who was besieging them. Encouragingly, unlike the northern kingdom’s experience, the destruction would not be total. Jerusalem and a remnant would survive. However, the actions of God and His people would combine to ensure the continuing spiritual blindness of the nation.
Isaiah 29:13-16 reveals the astounding hypocrisy, arrogance, and ignorance of God’s people. It also points out the absolute absurdity of their reasoning. The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”? (NIV)
The first issue is one that is prevalent today. God is clearly unhappy with the hypocrisy of His people’s vain attempt at worship. Words of worship and praise do not honor God unless their hearts are right. Unless my heart is seeking the Lord, my words toward Him are worthless. Unless I obey His Word, my worship is unacceptable. Following rules made up by men is a very poor substitute for following the precepts and commandments of the Lord. Humans are greatly tempted to make their own decrees and elevate them above the Word of the Lord. We take our own ideas of what we think is right or wrong and use them to twist the Bible to say what is least offensive to us. We so desperately do not want anyone to despise us (or even think less of us) that we refuse to obey the truth, while often bowing down to “rules taught by men”. God clearly declares here and other places that the so-called wisdom of men will be revealed as ignorant rubbish.
The passage concludes with questions from God designed to reveal the folly, really madness, of the creature trying to deceive the Creator. That is not possible, and woe is the certain result. It is absurd for the creature to believe the Creator cannot see what he is doing. It is absurd for the creature to think he can deceive the Creator. It is absurd for the creature to think the Creator cannot call him to account. It is absurd for the creature to think the Creator has the same mind and thought processes as he does. It is absurd for the creature to believe that he has the right to command the Creator. Yet, our pride tempts each of us to commit these very same mistakes (sins) concerning our own particular circumstances, wishes, and desires. Rules of men that come closest to us (affect our friends and family) hold a very powerful temptation against us to neglect, avoid, or twist the clear teaching of Scripture. Who will know?