Woe To Ephraim (Isaiah 28)

Scripture Text:

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Isaiah 28

1. Household chores. Which one do you have to be nagged or coerced into doing? Did you ever get away with waiting until someone else did it?

2. Do you feel your parents set down too many rules? Or were they lax when it came to rules? Which would you have preferred?

3. In verses 1 – 4, Isaiah singles out Samaria (a luxurious and decadent city in Israel at this time) as an example of God’s judgment, comparing her to a headwreath of flowers that party goers would wear. What will happen to this “wreath” in which the Israelites have taken such pride? What are the reasons for God’s judgment upon Israel (see also chapter 1:12 – 17; chapter 10:1 – 4)?

4. What light does 2 Kings 17:1 – 6 shed on the fulfillment of this prophecy against Samaria?

5. What will be different when God is truly the “crown” of His people (verses 5, 6)?

6. What is Isaiah saying about the “visions” and “decisions” of the religious leadership of Israel by the severe way he describes them (verses 7 and 8)? What is the effect on Israel of their drunken excesses? To what spiritual reality does this vivid imagery point?

7. How do these leaders receive Isaiah’s message (verses 9 and 10)? Why would they mock him and his warnings (much like a rebellious teenager does his parents)?

8. How will they be forced to eat their mocking words (verse 13; see also chapter 6:9 – 13)?

9. What is God’s basic message to Israel when they are ignoring to their detriment (verse 12)? What is meant by this “resting place” (see chapter 30:15; chapter 40:31 and Joshua 1:13)?

10. Isaiah now applies the lesson of Israel to Judah. What is their “covenant with death” (verse 15);

  • invoking gods of the underworld, as in chapter 8:1?
  • political alliance with Egypt, as in chapter 30:1, 2?
  • Isaiah’s mocking view of their hope to escape death?

11. In contrast to lies and falsehood (verse 15), what is the “sure foundation” of God’s kingdom (verses 16 – 19)? What promise is given to those who will trust in that cornerstone? What is the warning given to those who do not?

12. How will their covenant prove “too short” (verses 20 – 22)? What was God’s work at Mount Perazim and at Gibeon (see 1 Chronicles 14:8 – 11 and Joshua 10:10ff)?

13. What is the point of the farmer parable (verses 23 – 29)? What picture of God’s ways do we get by appreciating the seemingly strange ways of this farmer? If Judah’s leaders do not stop their mocking, what “strange” and yet “wonderful” work will God do (verses 21 and 22)?

14. What example from national news stories can you think of where a person’s pride, arrogance and self-indulgence have ultimately destroyed his or her plans? Do you tend to react to these stories more by scoffing or examining your own life? Why? What have you learned about yourself from considering one of these stories?

15. Judah’s kings often lacked strength to oppose evil. Where do you need (like Israel did in verses 5 and 6), the Spirit of the Lord to strengthen you to “turn back the battle at the gate” of your life?

16. Have you ever responded to the Lord’s message as the leaders did in verses 9 and 10? How long did that rebellious phase last? With what result? How did God break through your cynicism?

17. In what “deadend covenant” (money, relationship, power, etc.) do people today try to find refuge? From what overwhelming scourge” (poverty, loneliness, insecurity) are they hiding? What is the good news for them in this passage? What is the accompanying warning?

18. In reference to Question #17, what would it take for you to learn to trust God as your resting place instead of these things?

19. What use has the New Testament made of verse 16 (see 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:4 – 8)? What are some of the implications of saying that Jesus is the foundation stone for your life? How will you demonstrate that in a practical way this week?

Additional Comment:

While chapters 13 – 27 deal with God’s authority over the nations in general, chapters 28 – 33 consist of six “woes” detailing God’s judgment (chapters 28 – 31) and restoration of Judah in particular (chapter 32 – 33).

Take note of verses 24 – 28. Drawing an analogy from farming, Isaiah shows that God varies His treatment of nations (depending on conditions). Just as different crops (cummin, barley, caraway, grain) require different farming techniques, so each nation requires individual treatment. Those who readily repent need only light punishment, while stubborn nations need further discipline.

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