Woe to the Rebellious People
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 30, and follow as we read beginning with verse 1:

Isaiah 30

1Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:
2That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!
3Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
4For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.
5They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.
6The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
7For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
8Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
9That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
10Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
11Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
12Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
13Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
15For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
16But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
17One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.

You will recall that we have been studying together the book of Isaiah and we are at the present time in the Book of Woes , which constitutes the fourth section of the first half of the book of Isaiah. You will remember that in the Book of Woes , we said there were recorded for us six woes which Isaiah the prophet pronounced upon the nation of Israel or individuals or classes of people within the nation itself.

The Historical Setting

As we come to chapter 30, we are looking together at the fourth of the six woes which are presented in this particular section. Glance again at verse 1:

Isaiah 30

1Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:

You will recognize that it is a woe pronounced upon a special group of people within the nation of Israel. If we are interested in the historical perspective of this passage of Scripture—and we should be—we will recognize that this passage of Scripture is dealing with a period of time in the nation of Israel when Hezekiah, king of Judah, had broken away from Assyria. He had rebelled. He had paid tribute like all the rest, but now he had broken away, and Assyria served notice that he was going to regret the day that he did it.

Hezekiah was a righteous king, and he wanted to place his faith and trust in God, but like many leaders all down through history, and even in our own day, he was not always free to express his own personal opinion, and so a group of people within the kingdom of Judah decided that they would override King Hezekiah and send an entourage down to Egypt and say, “Egypt, will you help us? The king of Assyria is about to invade our land.”

The Divisions of the Chapter

The historical setting is found in the description which I have just presented. We do not have time to deal with this entire chapter, so I would like to suggest that you recognize with me the natural divisions which are found within the chapter, so that we will know exactly where we are as we go along. May I suggest to you that the chapter falls naturally into two divisions. We have read in your hearing the first half of this chapter, for the first seventeen verses represent what God had to say to this rebellious group of people who dared to seek counsel from others than God.

Then if you glance at verse 18, and hurriedly let your eyes go up and down the page to verse 33, you would find the second division of the chapter. You would find that it is as much in contrast with the first division as day is from night, because the first half of the chapter is dealing with the rebellious people, and the second half of the chapter is dealing with a gracious God.

Of course, if we had leave to ignore any particular portion of the Word, we would love to ignore the first half of the chapter and deal with the second, because we love to talk about our gracious God and how He is able to meet our every need and do everything that we ask Him to do. But we might remember that we need to talk about the first half of the chapter so that His graciousness will be the more apparent, as it is contrasted with the blackness of the willful heart of rebellious men.

It will be necessary for us to keep in mind, not so much in the first half, but in the second half, the principle that we must always relate to the prophetic Word—namely, that there is a near and a far fulfillment in relation to prophecy. When we speak of a near fulfillment we are speaking of the fact that the historical occurrence to which we referred is most certainly dealt with. Some things related to its fulfillment are presented, but as we read the rest of the chapter, we must come to the conclusion that those things were not fulfilled in the day that we referred to as a historical occurrence; therefore, they must refer to another day.

In this chapter we are not only going to talk about the deliverance of Hezekiah and his people from the hand of Sennacherib the Assyrian, we are going to eventually talk about the deliverance of the people of God from the formidable enemy about whom the Bible consistently speaks—the Antichrist.

Description of the Rebellion

For this lesson let's look at the first half of the chapter and notice in verses 1-7 the description which God makes concerning His rebellious people. He says, as we boil down these seven verses to a few words, “Pray definite things about these rebellious people.” As we think about these three things, I would like for you to remember that you, as a child of God, could manifest this same spirit of rebellion. I would like for you to keep in mind that perhaps the very thing that some of you are doing, which will be covered in these seven verses, is actually rebellion against God though you yourself may not have thought it to be. Look at verse 1 again:

Isaiah 30

1Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me [that is the first thing He said about them] ; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit [that is the second thing He said about them] , that they may add sin to sin [that is the third thing He said about them] :

In the remaining verses of this paragraph, He is going to talk to them about how this came about, and what a sad end it would have.

Seeking Worldly Counsel

Let's look at these three things again. What did He mean when He said, “They take counsel, but not of me.”? It is explained in the first phrase of verse 2, where we read:

Isaiah 30

2That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth…

That's what He means when He said, “They have taken counsel, but not of Me.”

Shall we pause for a moment and think about the awfulness of this sin? Egypt had been the mortal enemy of Israel for 400 years. Egypt had kept Israel in the most horrible kind of slavery, and now when Israel was in real need, where did she go for help? To God? No, she went to Egypt. It is almost unbelievable isn't it? But no more unbelievable than the practice of some other believers today, for Egypt in the Word of God has always been representative of the world. How many Christians are there who have been saved by the grace of God out of Egypt, out of the world, and yet when they are in real need, instead of going to God for the advice and counsel that they need, or at least to godly men who can advise according to the Scripture, they go back into the world from whence they came. They go back into the pit from whence they have been digged, and they try to operate on the old basic principles, the same old principles related to the world. Is it any wonder that we have so much inconsistent living on the part of the children of God? You have left Egypt. Don't go back down there for any advice at all. Go to God. If we are to understand our text, if you go back to the world instead of to God, you are in open rebellion against God, and it doesn't please Him.

Making Ungodly Treaties

Look at the second thing, and you will notice that it reads, “that cover with a covering, but not of My Spirit.” What in the world does that mean? What do you think about when you read it? If I read it just like it is here, I would think about pulling a cover up over me like I do on a cool night. Is that what He means? No. This is one of those unhappy translation in the King James version that could be improved upon, and others have done so. For example, one translation of this particular verse reads, “Weaving a treaty that I never sanctioned.” That is the second thing that He said about them. “You have gone down there for help. That is number one. Now, number two, you have woven a treaty that I never put my stamp of approval on.”

Another translation puts it, “Who pours out a drink offering, but not to My Spirit,” and that translation is by far the best.

Perhaps you are wondering how this could come about. How could that phrase be so mistranslated that we could read it, “who pour out a drink offering, but not to My Spirit?” We have pointed out to you before that in Hebrew and Greek there are many meanings to one word, and it is important always to select the meaning of the word that fits in with the context.

I thank God for the King James version of the Scriptures; that is all I ever use. Have you ever stopped to think about the debt you owe to these people? Have you ever stopped to think about the tremendous debt you owe to the men who presented the King James version in your hands so that you could read it? Multitudes the world over don't even have a Bible in their own language. Have you ever stopped to think of the debt that you owe them?

Have you ever stopped to think about the debt that you owe a man by the name of Cruden, who found time enough in his life to go through the entire Bible and put down every word in the Bible where it was found in the Scripture, so that if you didn't know where it was, you could look up that word and find out where to find it in the Bible? Did you ever stop to think how helpless you would be without a concordance?

You see, we don't have it all, and we have not accomplished everything that has been done. As a matter of fact, when I consider the lack of real expository writings of the Scripture in our present age in comparison with the age in which these men lived, I am ashamed for this generation of the Church of Christ. Of the writing of many books, there is no end, and some of them are almost nauseating compared to what these men did. What a tremendous debt we owe them. Every once in a while I bow my head and thank God for Cruden, for Strong, for these men who did such a tremendous task in making these tools available for our study of the Word of God.

“How can we say this phrase, ‘cover with a covering', could refer to making a treaty and pouring out an offering to a foreign god?” The answer is found in the meaning of these words cover and covering .

If you will glance there at the first word cover in verse 1, you will recognize that it comes from the Hebrew word nacak , which means “to make a treaty.” It does mean “to cover,” but it also means “to make a treaty,” and “to make a treaty” is much more in keeping with the context than “to cover.”

If you will look at the word covering , you will find that it comes from an entirely different Hebrew word, the Hebrew word maccekah , which means “to pour out a drink offering.” Yes, it does mean “covering,” but it also means “to pour out a drink offering,” and that is more in keeping with the text.

Whenever treaties were made with foreign nations, it was necessary for the members of the treaty to make an offering to the god of the nation concerned. Think with me for a moment what is involved. Here were the people of God, the worshipers of Jehovah the true God, and they were in need. Did they go to God and say, “God, help us, please.”? No. They went down to a heathen country, Egypt by name, and they said, “Will you help us? The Assyrian is about to invade us. We would like to make a treaty with you.” The ambassadors of Egypt said, “We will if you make an offering to the god of the Nile.” So, here were the Israelites, who had given up idolatry, taking the blood of an animal and pouring it into the Nile River in order to get a little human help.

Sin Added to Sin

If you will glance at verse 1 again, you will see the third thing that God said about them, which is related to what I have just said. In doing this, “They added sin to sin.” It was a sin for them to go down there, and certainly it was a sin for them who had been called away from idolatry to offer a drink offering to a heathen god.

Are you thinking today? Do you see that rebellion never ends with the first act of disobedience? One thing leads to another, until pretty soon everything is out of control.

Isaiah said, in the remaining portion of this first section through verse 7: “I am ashamed of you. You're going to be ashamed, and even the Egyptians are going to be ashamed of you, ashamed that they had anything at all to do with you.” Look at verse 3, where he says:

Isaiah 30

3Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.

Then he explains how this is going to come about. He says, “I know what you have in mind. You have in mind going down there to make a treaty. You have in mind even offering an offering to an idol god, but I want to tell you that you are going to be put to shame.” Then he tells how it is going to come about in verse 4:

Isaiah 30

4For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.

That is, the ambassadors of Hezekiah went down to Egypt to Zoan, which was really Memphis, and to Hanes—two of the principle cities of Egypt. They went down there with the purpose of making a treaty. Now, look at verse 5:

Isaiah 30

5They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.

Literally, the verse says that they were ashamed, because when they got down there, they found out that this people could not help them. This people could not be a prophet to them. Even the people themselves were ashamed that even the suggestion could be made.

The Friendship of the World

Did you know that the giveaway program of our country didn't start in the last few years? Do you know that it is as old as political practice? Hezekiah wanted the aid of Egypt, and he thought he could buy it. He thought that he could buy the friendship of Egypt just like we think we can buy the friendship of the entire world. What is happening to us? While we are spending our money to buy the friendship of the world, we are getting kicked in the teeth, and that is the same thing that happened here. Look at verse 6:

Isaiah 30

6The burden of the beasts of the south…

That is an expression. It is a prophetic expression, and it boils down to this: Isaiah said, “I feel sorry for those poor beasts that are on their way down south. I feel sorry for those poor beasts who are going down into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence the young and the old lion, the viper, and the fiery flying serpent have come.”

“Isaiah why do you feel so sorry for them?” “Well,” he said, “they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses. Look! A long line of young asses, and they are burdened down. They are burdened down with the wealth of Israel. Look at the humps of the camels; there is piled great wealth.”

What are they doing with it? “They are taking it to a people who shall be of no profit to them.” Do you see what they were doing? They were trying to buy the friendship of the world like the United States is trying to buy the friendship of the world in our day.

Let's make a spiritual application. Many Christians are trying to buy the approval of the world in the same way, because they do not dare to be different. So many Christians today are seeking the approval of the world that you would think the approval of the world was far more important than the approval of Almighty God, but the Bible says, “The friendship of the world is enmity with God.” God says that you have to choose. He says, “You have to choose whether you have the approval of the world or My approval. Which do you want?”

Look at verse 7:

Isaiah 30

7For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose [I have always been interested in this last statement] therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.

Look at the word strength . Elsewhere in the book of Isaiah you will find it translated “Rahab” or “dragon.” Isaiah said, “When I look at Egypt, I look at a great big dragon that is doing nothing.” Actually, I am putting in the verbs for the sake of euphony. If you were to read this verse literally, Isaiah said, “When I looked and saw Egypt down there, I said, ‘Dragon-do-nothing'.”

That is a good name for her: Dragon-do-nothing. I have always been amused at that, particularly in the hour in which we live, because I think of the nations that we call our allies. Isn't that a good definition for them—Dragon-do-nothing? There they sit in all of their power and in all of their glory; we feed them, pay for their armaments, make all of their provisions, and they strut about like a great dragon with fire shooting out of its mouth and do nothing while we have it all to do.

Rebellion Characterized By Lying

These people are so rebellious that God said, “I want to make a permanent record of their rebellion, so that it will be a living example to all men down through the ages.” Look at verse 8:

Isaiah 30

8Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
9That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:

Then, he describes in this paragraph the characteristics of people who insist on rebellion. The first thing that he says about them is that they are liars. They are faithless; you can't depend on anything they say.

Listen to me. You cannot depend upon anything any rebellious child of God says. If a child of God is out of fellowship with God, you can't depend on anything that he says. He is a lying child, and the reason that he is, is found in the last part of verse 9:

Isaiah 30

9…children that will not hear the law of the LORD:

Think with me. You may not agree with what I am saying, but people who do not want to sit under the sound of the Word of God, people who are not comfortable under the plain teaching of the Word of God, are rebellious. You say, “That is a broad statement and it is unkind. Are you saying that everybody who doesn't come to Abilene Bible Church is rebellious?” No! God doesn't want everybody to be here. This isn't the only place that the Word of God is given out, but I say to you, on the basis of the Word of God, that any individual who doesn't want the pure milk and meat of the Word is a rebellious child of God, and here is the proof for it.

Refusal to Hear the Word of God

Look at verse 10. These individuals who are lying children, who will not hear of the Lord, say:

Isaiah 30

10…to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

What is this? What is a seer? Well, he is a person who sees something. He is particularly a person who is able to look off to the future and tell what is going to happen. They didn't like what some of the seers said, so they said, “Don't look any more. If judgment is coming, we would rather not know it.”

Did you know that that is the reason that some people absent themselves from the ministry of the Word of God? The ministry of the Word of God makes them uncomfortable. They know that judgment is coming and if it is coming, they would just as soon not hear about it.

Then notice what they said to the prophet. A prophet is not only a person who foretells, but a prophet is a person who tells forth. A prophet would be the same thing as a preacher today. They say to the preacher, “Don't speak to us of right things; don't tell us what God's Word says.” They don't like the sound of it. “Tell us smooth things, nice sounding things that make it comfortable.”

Why does the average person go to church today? What does the average person go to worship for today? I will guarantee you the average person doesn't go to church to be told rough things from the Word of God. He wants the smooth things; he wants the easy things. If Isaiah said to the people, “I can't prophesy to you smooth things. What I am saying is true.” Then they said, “Lie about it. If what you say isn't nice and makes us feel good because it is the truth, then prophesy to us deceit.”

Do you think any preacher worth his salt or do you think any preacher called of God would comply with a request like that? Well, a lot of preachers do. A lot of preachers are waited upon by the session or by the board of deacons or the board of elders, and they are informed that they are emphasizing one line of thought too much so they change the line of thought. They do this because in a great many places if they don't, they will be told exactly what Isaiah was told in verse 11:

Isaiah 30

11Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, [just another way of saying for him to find another place to preach] cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.

“Quit talking about God. You make us uncomfortable. Talk about anything under the sun but God.”

I challenge you to sometime pick up the newspaper of a large city which gives you the sermon subject of the various churches in the city. You peruse that list of sermon subjects and you will be amazed at the smooth things the preachers are going to talk about the next day. You would be amazed at how the “Holy One of Israel” is kept from before them. You say, “Oh, I don't know that that is anything to be alarmed about.” No, it's nothing to be alarmed about, but it is a sign to recognize. Look at II Timothy, chapter 4, verses 1-3, where Paul says:

II Timothy 4

1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3[Why? notice] For the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

Wait just a minute. The way that this was written, you would think that it is a reference to teachers who have to scratch their ears while they talk, but that isn't what it is. It is the people who have the itching ears, and they want their ears scratched. They don't want too much, but they want their ears tickled.

Have you ever noticed how pleased a cat is when you tickle his ears? Have you ever noticed how a cat will lie and purr if you rub the back of its ears? That is the picture here. “People in the end times,” the Apostle Paul said, “will want preachers who will tickle their ears, who will preach to them smooth things. They will not endure the sound teaching of the Word of God.”

You make allowances for the preaching that you get here at Abilene Bible Church; you make allowances for the hard seats, then recognize that the reason that there are not more people out in a house that is dedicated to the systematic teaching of the Word of God is that they don't want it. I don't know how many times people have said to me, “Oh, I just wish that you were some place where more people would hear you.” I say, “Well, that would be nice, but being some place else wouldn't necessarily change the picture. People don't want sound teaching of Scripture.”

Rebellion Judged

Go back to Isaiah, chapter 30, and notice what God replies in verse 12:

Isaiah 30

12Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
13Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.

God says, “All right. I have reasoned with you; I have talked to you; I have warned you; I'm going to tell you what has happened. If you continue in your way of rebellion, sudden judgment is going to come upon you just as quickly as a wall in which a crack had been for a great many years. Suddenly the wall breaks and the man that stands in front of the wall is killed without any warning, and the fall of the wall is so great that when they clean up the debris, there is not a big enough piece of the wall to take some fire from the hearth or water from the well.”

That's putting it pretty definitely, isn't it? But that is the sad end of rebellion. I can't stop here, because God didn't leave you with a wall falling on you, and I can't either. I want you to look at verse 15, where God says that even though all of this is true—the wall is ready to fall, and it could fall at any moment and grind you to pieces—notice in verse 15:

Isaiah 30

15For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength…

We will stop right there. What is He saying? “You ambassadors down there in Egypt where you have gone for help, it is not going to do you any good. It is going to result in shame and judgment, but let me tell you something: I am a gracious God, and if you will come back to the land of Israel and sit still, and if you will place your confidence in Me and wait on Me in quietness and in confidence, you shall be saved.”

Conclusion

Are you a rebellious child of God? Have you gone pretty well along the way to Egypt, making terms with the enemy? God has a message for you: “Come on back; come on back. I will be glad for you to come. Tell Me that you want Me to take over. I will. Come on back. Return, rest in quietness and have confidence in Me and you will be delivered.” Rebellion won't pay, but returning to God will.


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