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Faith Is Living without Scheming

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Isaiah 28–31

When we refuse to trust the Lord despite His gracious promises, we are left with trusting our own wisdom and relying on others. Such an approach to life guarantees disaster in the long run, for it abandons the only sure hope we have.


Faith Is Living without Scheming

Isaiah 28–31


In my study—at home, I have a little commentary on Isaiah written by Warren Wiersbe. He summarized these chapters we are about to open today with this principle: “Faith is living without scheming.”[1] I would add that faith is waiting on God’s plans to come to completion.

Now as Isaiah 28 opens, the Assyrian army is threatening the people of God. Rather than repent of their rebellion and trust God, however, the southern nation of Judah starts scheming. They are looking to an alliance with Egypt for their protection. I think Moses and Jacob and Joseph would roll over in their graves, so to speak, to know that Israel is relying on Egypt.

Isaiah provides for us some of the background that led to their sinful decisions. The prophet focuses first on the northern kingdom of Israel, or Ephraim, here in verse 1:

Ah, the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and the fading flower of its glorious beauty, which is on the head of the rich valley of those overcome with wine!

Simply put, “The Northern Kingdom was throwing away the blessings of God like a drunkard throws his money away for another drink.”[2]

Isaiah says the same thing to the southern kingdom of Judah in verse 7:

These also reel with wine and stagger with strong drink; the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are swallowed by wine.

In other words, the people of God have turned to Egypt for help while giving themselves over to alcohol to soothe their conscience and silence their conviction.

But it gets worse! They start making fun of Isaiah’s preaching with these words in verses 9-10: 

“To whom will he [Isaiah] teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned . . . from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”

They are mocking Isaiah as if he is repeating over and over the same things, like someone teaching a toddler. They are saying his teaching is not sophisticated enough. He is too elementary. Isaiah isn’t up with the times!

People are still saying that today, beloved, about those who believe the truth of God’s Word.

But in spite of their rebellion, the Lord offers the people His amazing grace:

“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation.” (verse 16)

Isaiah compares this unstable alliance with Egypt to the rock-solid foundation and refuge God provides. The New Testament will identify this “cornerstone” as the Messiah, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:6).  

Now the Lord knows the cornerstone, the Messiah, will be rejected, so Isaiah gives this prophecy:

With a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people [the nation of Israel], to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary . . . yet they would not hear.” (verses 11-12)

Jesus promised, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He was quoting Isaiah’s prophecy. But the nation refused Jesus, and this brings us back to Isaiah’s prophecy here in chapter 28, that God will give the nation a sign that they have rejected the true Messiah.

This sign of tongues, or foreign languages unknown by the speaker, will arrive 700 years later on the day of Pentecost when the Lord’s disciples begin delivering the gospel supernaturally in other languages (Acts 2:1-13).

The apostle Paul will clarify that this miracle is primarily for Israel. He writes in 1 Corinthians 14:22, “Tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.” There is a lot of confusion today, beloved, about speaking in tongues. People want to experience something unusual, but they overlook the fact that tongues were given as a temporary sign to the unbelieving nation of Israel.

Now in chapter 29, Isaiah speaks to his people’s spiritual bankruptcy. He says in verse 1, “Add year to year; let the feasts run their round.” In other words, “You perform your religious ceremonies year after year, but they flow out of an empty heart.” And to this day, the religious ceremonies of our world look impressive, but they are empty.

Isaiah then prophesies a future deliverance for Israel here:

The multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust . . . and in an instant, suddenly, you will be visited by the Lord. (verses 5-6).

He goes on to write that in the “flame of a devouring fire” Israel’s enemies will be destroyed.

This description fits the great battle of Armageddon, when Christ returns at the end of the tribulation to defeat the Antichrist. He will destroy all the enemy nations that have come against Israel before He establishes His millennial kingdom on earth.

Now with that, chapter 30 opens with the Lord confronting a rebellious spirit here in verse 1:

“Ah, stubborn children . . . who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin.”

Then, in verse 6, Isaiah describes a caravan of camels heading for Egypt, loaded down with money and treasures to pay the Egyptians to help them against the Assyrians. The Lord warns them that they are throwing their money away and in verse 9 calls Judah “a rebellious people … children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord.”

There is nothing more frustrating to parents than children who will not listen. So much time—especially for all the mothers—is spent repeating yourself to your children, training them, warning them. But, of course, as a faithful parent, you will keep at it.

Isaiah describes the Lord’s faithful commitment to His children in verse 20:

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.

Here is a reference to seeing—one day—their returning Messiah.

Chapter 31 serves as a summary of the previous chapters, beginning in verse 1:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!

Isaiah says, “Don’t put your trust in the biggest weapons or the fastest horses. Don’t scheme and manipulate instead of trusting the Lord.”

Then God gives this promise through Isaiah:

The Lord of hosts will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill. Like birds hovering, so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem. (verses 4-5)

God is pictured here as a hovering bird flying high in the sky where He can see everything down below. He is not going to miss anything—He knows what is happening.

Here is the mighty King Sennacherib and his great Assyrian army encamped against little Jerusalem. There is no way the city’s inhabitants are going to get out of this alive. But then one night, the angel of the Lord sweeps over this army and literally takes the breath out of 185,000 soldiers. In the morning, these men do not wake up. And Sennacherib retreats home in shame, where he is soon assassinated by his own sons (2 Kings 19).

God’s people were scheming to save their lives rather than trusting the amazing power and plan of God. How about you today? What are you trusting in? Your health report from the doctor? Your bank account? Your retirement plan? Your family tree? All your business contacts? Do you think everything is under control?

Oh, let’s learn from the mistakes of the ancient kingdom of Judah. Let’s follow the wisdom of God through Isaiah, who writes in Isaiah 30:15, “In quietness and in trust shall be your strength,” and in verse 18, “Blessed are all those who wait for him.”

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted (Victor Books, 1996), 80.

[2] John A. Martin, “Isaiah” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Victor Books, 1985), 1077.

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