In Isaiah 29:1-16 we find a recurring theme in the prophet’s message to the people of Jerusalem: If there is any hope for the nation, it will be after God’s judgment on the nation.  However, the popular narrative perpetuated by the religious leaders of the day was different.  The people as a whole, came to believed, since they were God’s chosen ones, they would be spared God’s judgment.  For them, hope meant avoiding judgment.  But as John Oswalt explains, “To all of this Isaiah said a resounding no.  The promises of God would only be realized through fire.” 

In Isaiah 29, the prophet declares God will both punish and save Jerusalem, even though the people in their hypocrisy tried to control God through false worship. This is relevant in our day, since so little thought is given to God’s judgment on our nation. But it is imperative for the church in America to realize that hope for any kind of revival would come after judgment.  For the church to have hope for the future even while experiencing God’s judgment is a message believers in our nation need to grasp as we witness the darkness slowly descending upon our nation.  There is light after the darkness.    

Isaiah refers to Jerusalem as “Ariel” (29:1-2, 7).   Ariel means “an altar hearth,” which is “the flat surface of the altar on which a fire was lit to consume the sacrifices” (Webb/Isaiah).  Ariel alludes to Jerusalem as the nation’s religious center, but the word used by Isaiah has terrible barb to it.  Ariel “foreshadows the judgment that the Lord is going to bring on the city … the Lord is going to light another kind of fire in Jerusalem, the fire of his judgment, and when he does so the entire city will be like a vast blazing altar hearth … Jerusalem was heading for flaming judgment because it was on a collision course with the Lord.” (Webb/Isaiah).  When judgment comes, the humbled and frightened people of the city would barely be able to speak (29:4).

In verses 5-8, Isaiah pictures Jerusalem surrounded by foreign armies. The Lord, however, would come like a powerful storm and sweep away the invaders.  While the invaders anticipated victory, they would suffer a humiliating defeat.  “They would be like a hungry and thirsty man who thinks he is eating and drinking, only to wake up and realize that it was just a dream.  This prophecy anticipates the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem in 701 B.C.” (Chisholm/Prophets).

In verses 9-16, the prophet denounces the religious insensitivities of the people.  He depicts them as blind, drunk, and asleep (vv. 9-10).  Isaiah’s prophetic vision remained like a sealed scroll, not able to be read.  Yet the people maintained a semblance of religion. Their worship was meaningless ritual devoid of devotion to the Lord. 

For this reason God would wake them up by doing amazing things (v. 14).  The people thought they could hide their evil plans from God. Isaiah shows how perverted their behavior was, comparing the people to pottery denying  the potter, who had created it.  The people would discover how ridiculous this attitude was.  “Though his ‘strange work’ (28:21) of purifying  judgment (29:21-22), God would demonstrate his sovereignty over the nation (28:14-29).  Then he would transform the nation’s spiritual condition,  demonstrating that true security can be found only in him (29:17-24)” (Chisholm/Prophets).   

This is an alert with significant spiritual themes for men to consider in our day.  These include: 1) Judgment comes before hope,  2) God will deal with evil, 3) Be alert to falling asleep spiritually (deep sleep v. 10),  4) We can’t hide our sin,  5) Be alert to the wonders of God’s work, and 6) Don’t allow your spirituality to become rote.