Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. — Isaiah 29:13-14
He used Christian vocabulary. He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian precepts which would become the pillars of the new government. He portrayed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility. He handed out virtuous stories to the press, especially to church papers. He held up his tattered Bible for all to see and declared that he drew from it the strength for his great calling. Thousands of religious people welcomed him as a man sent from God. Indeed, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity — with no inward reality!
Much like Hitler, the people in the time of Isaiah were formal and hypocritical in their religious performances. They claimed to belong to God, but they were disobedient and merely went through the motions. They honored God with their lips rather than their hearts, and their supposed reverence was merely an outward and intellectual action. Their religion was a farce rather than a reality.
True worship occurs in the heart. A noted theologian of the early 1900s, William Temple, made this clear in his masterful definition of worship: “Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose — and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”(1)
Let us guard against slipping into routine forms of worship practiced with little thought or genuine devotion. If we truly want to be one of God’s people, we must purpose to worship Him honestly and sincerely, with all of our hearts.
In this chapter, the prophetic woe by the prophet Isaiah was directed toward Jerusalem. The name Ariel means “lion of God.” The Hebrew word can also mean “an altar hearth” or a place where burnt offerings were made. Though Jerusalem was the center of Israel’s worship, it would become a place of slaughter. The prophecy of impending doom may refer to the besieging of Jerusalem by the Assyrian army, which was cut off by an angel. It also could relate to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, who conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and took thousands of Jews into captivity. Or it might also refer to the city’s last overthrow by the Romans. Finally, it could look to the end times when Jerusalem will be attacked by the armies of the world in the battle of Armageddon.
The chapter contains three sections. In verses 1-8, it was foretold that Jerusalem will be greatly distressed. Heedless of the prophet’s warnings, the nation had misplaced their trust and had felt the sting of God’s discipline, but eventually their enemies would be defeated. The second section (verses 9-16) is a rebuke of three categories of people: those who failed to heed warnings, those who were formal and hypocritical in their worship, and those leaders who profanely despised God’s providence. The final section (verses 17-24) contains promises of grace and mercy to a remnant, “children” of another generation whom God would sanctify and who would be in true awe of the God of Israel.
The chapter ends with Isaiah’s statement that those who have “erred in spirit” would gain understanding by learning doctrine, bringing out that a proper knowledge of God must be built upon a proper doctrine of God.
(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
2. Woe against Jerusalem (29:1-24)
a. The prediction of Jerusalem’s fall (29:1-4)
b. The judgment of Jerusalem’s enemies (29:5-8)
c. The spiritual blindness of Jerusalem’s inhabitants (29:9-24)
(1) Their insensibility toward warnings (29:9-12)
(2) Their empty formalism (29:13-14)
(3) Their deception (29:15-16)
(4) The promise of Jerusalem’s restoration (29:17-24)
Let us ask God to give us an understanding of His nature, that we may worship Him with true reverence and godly fear.
1. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, p. 119.