Woe to Jerusalem!

“Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden” (v. 14).

- Isaiah 29

This is a prophecy against the city of Jerusalem. Isaiah calls it “Altar,” because the Jews put more confidence in the temple and the altar of God than in the city’s bulwarks and defenses. Some interpret the word as “Ariel,” meaning lion, because the temple was shaped like a crouching lion, but John Calvin argues that to interpret it as “altar” corresponds with Ezekiel 43:15, which has the same meaning.

By using this term, God was mocking the Jews for putting their confidence in outward shows of religion. They didn’t think anything could ever happen to them because they were the children of Abraham and because God had made a covenant with David. They assumed that all they had to do was keep up the externals of religion, i.e. the sacrifices, and they would win favor with the Lord. But their religion was only a show that covered the hardness in their hearts. They were like the Pharisees, whom Jesus called whitewashed tombs. What God demanded of His people, then and now, was sincerity of heart and humility of spirit. The Jewish people had neither.

The result would be punishment. It would come suddenly and would be devastating, as other nations besieged them. Up to this time, and even during it, the Jews would have no understanding of why they were suffering. Though the Lord had sent prophets to them, they had hardened their hearts and refused to listen. In response, God would only cause them to lose their understanding to an even greater degree. They would be blind to the light and deaf to the truth.

God sometimes closes the ears of people under judgment. We often wonder why fellow Christians seem so blind to basic truths concerning the doctrines of grace, the role of the believer in the world, the sovereignty of God in every area of life, and the need for the church to repent of its sins. Some things seem so obvious, and yet so many people do not see them. People are responsible for hardening their hearts to the truth, but this is also a way that God executes judgment on the church. If the church is weak, we should not be surprised that it has become insensible, for God has to some degree taken away its understanding. But after a time of discipline, He will restore His people, just as He restored the Jews. The blind will see, the proud will be brought low, and the deaf will hear His voice once again.

Coram Deo

If you know someone who doesn’t ever seem to understand the truth no matter how much you argue with him, no matter how many logical points you make, pray to the Lord and ask Him to open his heart. If a person is blind to the truth, only the power of God can make him see it.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 92:6
Luke 12:56
John 8:43
Romans 3:11
Hebrews 5:11

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.