Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. — Isaiah 28:17
My brother is a carpenter. Occasionally as he frames a structure, he uses a plumb line — a cord attached at one end to a large weight known as a plummet or plumb bob. This device is used to create a vertical reference line.
Isaiah referred to a plummet in our focus verse. In this verse and the preceding one, God defines the proper foundation and measures by which He will judge between good and bad building of the nation. A secure nation is like a well-built wall — a wall built on a solid foundation and according to a true measuring line and plumb line. Through the prophet, God revealed that destruction would come upon Israel for their failure to build properly. Their strategies of war and treaties of peace were a false security. They were guilty of scoffing at Isaiah’s words (verse 14), of failing to trust the Lord (verse 16), and of lies (verse 17). Because they did not anchor to the cornerstone for a sure foundation, and did not build according to the measuring line and the plumb line, they would be swept away.
There is a lesson for us to learn from Israel’s tragic mistake. It is impossible to build a proper spiritual house without a sure foundation and an accurate plumb line. But those have been provided! Jesus Christ is our cornerstone — our point of reference for whatever we may encounter in life. Likewise, the Word of God acts as our plumb line as we make day-to-day decisions. While the world’s moral guidelines seem to change almost daily, the truth established by Scripture never changes. When we measure by it and align our lives to it, we will find true security.
If our lives are built on Christ the cornerstone and our choices line up with the Word of God, we have a certain hope of everlasting life. What a blessed hope!
Isaiah used the name “Ephraim” to represent the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria. Ephraim was the second son of the Old Testament patriarch, Joseph. Both Ephraim and his older brother Manasseh made up individual tribes in the twelve tribes of Israel. When the Children of Israel split into two Kingdoms, the Northern tribes fell into idolatry. This prophecy against Ephraim was an announcement of judgment due to their backslidden condition. The Northern Kingdom was to be utterly destroyed, serving as an example to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Although the prophet spoke of destruction, it is evident that a portion of Israel was to be saved. In verse 5, Isaiah called these Israelites “the residue of his people.” To those who would acknowledge God, there would yet be the opportunity to receive God’s blessing.
The prophet also explained how the Northern Kingdom had failed God. It was, in fact, the leaders of the Northern Kingdom who were responsible for this great falling away. Even the clergy had participated in the debauchery of the nation.
The reference to “precept upon precept; line upon line” was a negative statement. The people complained that the prophet’s repetitious message was annoying. Because they degraded the prophet’s message, God would speak to them with “another tongue” — that of the Assyrian captivity.
The Southern Kingdom of Judah was afraid of Assyria, but did not trust the Lord for deliverance. Through the prophet, God condemned the leaders in Jerusalem who had made an agreement with what Isaiah called “death and hell.” Some commentators believe that this referred to the covenant between Hezekiah and Egypt’s Pharaoh Tirhakah against Assyria. Others suggest that Judah was considering a covenant with Assyria itself. Either way, Judah trusted in an ungodly nation rather than in God, but their confidence in this resource would prove futile. In 701 B.C., Sennacherib and his Assyrian armies would sweep through Judah, destroying forty-six towns and villages.
In verse 16, Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah, pointing to Him as the cornerstone while reinforcing that the judgment of God was unmovable, represented by the plummet. Therefore the covenant that Judah had made with Egypt would not stand.
In metaphorical language, Isaiah pointed out the frustration that Judah would experience in trying to rest upon such alliances, reminding them that the bed was too short, and the blanket too narrow — a picturesque way of stating that their alliances would fail.
The chapter closes with a parable about a farmer who planted a field. Just as the farmer acted with wisdom and care in planting and harvesting, so does God who is “wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The message of condemnation: the Holy One of Israel provoked, rebuking and judging
E. Prophecies related to unbelievers in Israel and Judah
1. Woe against the drunkards and scoffers (28:1-29)
a. The destiny of drunkards (28:1-8)
b. The attitude of scoffers to the prophet (28:9-13)
c. The alliance of scoffers with death and hell (28:14-22)
d. The parable of the farmer (judgment) (28:23-29)
God has provided a plumb line for our instruction. By His grace, we can measure up to it!