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Read Isaiah 28

Woe to the Leaders of Ephraim and Judah

28 Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
    to the fading flower, his glorious beauty,
set on the head of a fertile valley—
    to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine!
See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong.
    Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind,
like a driving rain and a flooding downpour,
    he will throw it forcefully to the ground.
That wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
    will be trampled underfoot.
That fading flower, his glorious beauty,
    set on the head of a fertile valley,
will be like figs ripe before harvest—
    as soon as people see them and take them in hand,
    they swallow them.

In that day the Lord Almighty
    will be a glorious crown,
a beautiful wreath
    for the remnant of his people.
He will be a spirit of justice
    to the one who sits in judgment,
a source of strength
    to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

And these also stagger from wine
    and reel from beer:
Priests and prophets stagger from beer
    and are befuddled with wine;
they reel from beer,
    they stagger when seeing visions,
    they stumble when rendering decisions.
All the tables are covered with vomit
    and there is not a spot without filth.

“Who is it he is trying to teach?
    To whom is he explaining his message?
To children weaned from their milk,
    to those just taken from the breast?
10 For it is:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that[a];
    a little here, a little there.”

11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
    God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said,
    “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”—
    but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that;
    a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
    they will be injured and snared and captured.

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
    who rule this people in Jerusalem.
15 You boast, “We have entered into a covenant with death,
    with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
    it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
    and falsehood[b] our hiding place.”

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.
17 I will make justice the measuring line
    and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
    and water will overflow your hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled;
    your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
    you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it comes it will carry you away;
    morning after morning, by day and by night,
    it will sweep through.”

The understanding of this message
    will bring sheer terror.
20 The bed is too short to stretch out on,
    the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.
21 The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim,
    he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon—
to do his work, his strange work,
    and perform his task, his alien task.
22 Now stop your mocking,
    or your chains will become heavier;
the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has told me
    of the destruction decreed against the whole land.

23 Listen and hear my voice;
    pay attention and hear what I say.
24 When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
    Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
25 When he has leveled the surface,
    does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,[c]
    barley in its plot,[d]
    and spelt in its field?
26 His God instructs him
    and teaches him the right way.

27 Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
    nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
    and cumin with a stick.
28 Grain must be ground to make bread;
    so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it,
    but one does not use horses to grind grain.
29 All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
    whose plan is wonderful,
    whose wisdom is magnificent.

Go Deeper

Throughout the book of Isaiah we see a contrast of judgment and hope. That same pattern emerges in this chapter. Isaiah 28 is the first chapter in a new section (chapters 28-39) on the rise and fall of Jerusalem. The next six chapters are referred to often as the six woes (or laments). The first woe here is to the leaders of the Northern Kingdom and Judah. These leaders are both political and religious but look nothing like the representatives God is calling them to be.

Verse one begins to paint a clear picture of the character of the leaders of Ephraim, once admired now known as drunkards, repeated often in this chapter. Hosea 7:5 also refers to these leaders by their drunkenness. Throughout the verses that follow the Northern political leaders and Judah’s religious leaders are described as prideful, scoffers, liars, mocking, and refusing to listen to God. They were feeling pressure from Assyria, one of their enemies, so instead of trusting in God they seek foreign alliances for their security. Isaiah prophesies that this will result in their downfall.

While their future judgment seems inevitable, Isaiah still offers contrast through our God of hope. Israel’s reputation is fading, but God is described as a “glorious crown”, “spirit of justice”, and “source of strength” (v. 5-6). Despite their mocking, Isaiah tells them the Lord is providing a precious cornerstone and foundation who can always be relied on through justice and righteousness (v. 16-17). This prophecy was thought to be a reference to the temple but was ultimately pointing to Jesus. First Peter 2:6 also refers to Jesus as the cornerstone. With all of this in mind, Isaiah calls them to repent and turn back to God (v. 23-29). For He is a God who teaches and instructs, even in our sin. He is a God of mercy, even when we too seek our own way. 

The lesson of Isaiah 28 is that when we feel the pressures of life closing in, we can trust in the precious cornerstone and firm foundation God has provided in Jesus, instead of trusting in merely what we think is best. For His “plan is wonderful and wisdom is magnificent” (v. 29).


  1. Proverbs 27:19 says that our life reflects what’s in our heart. What does your life reflect? In what ways do you resemble or relate to the leaders of Israel?
  2. What do you do when life’s pressures or problems feel large? What does it look like to trust in God in those times?
  3. What do we learn about God’s character in this chapter? Take time to thank Him for who He is and ask Him to build your trust. Repent of the ways you have followed your own flesh.

By the Way

Spend time in 1 Peter 2:4-10 to learn more about Jesus as the cornerstone and be encouraged by what God says about us.

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6 thoughts on “Isaiah 28”

  1. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) On our best day or our worst day sin is lurking at our door in the form of pride. It’s been said that God isn’t out to hurt our pride, he’s out to kill our pride. Left unattended and unchecked it will destroy us. We make ever so many things our pride and joy when God asks us to humble ourselves and let him be our crowning glory. Why would we trade anything else for the abundance of joy we experience in a relationship with our Father? We get to choose to build our lives upon the cornerstone of Christ, a firm and sure foundation. Nothing else will ever come close to satisfying our souls.

  2. Putting your faith in man and not in God does not end well then or now. Our only hope is the “Rock of Ages” (28:16). Life goes and we put our trust in someone who is not a follower of Jesus or that the Holy Spirit has not directed you that way. Then we ask “Where were you God?” He was and is here all the way we but have to seek Him, listen, obey, and follow His directions. BUT GOD has allowed us freedom of will, He did not want puppets, He wants us to desire and follow Him like He desires and listens to us.
    Thank You God for loving me so completely. Thank You for that Your plan is wonderful and Your wisdom is magnificent for my life today, right now. I ask You to guide with that plan and continually give me that wisdom as I seek You and listen to Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for being a Rock in an unstable world. I put my trust in You. I give my life to You. I love You in Jesus name amen.

  3. I can’t help but feel Isaiah’s own sorrow from a teacher’s viewpoint. Until you’ve been in the classroom, you have no idea the heavy burdens teachers have. One of them is understanding. Here, we read Isaiah repeatedly trying to break it down for them to let it soak in. (V9-13) Like teachers in a classroom, ‘let’s start from the beginning’ ..or ‘what’s the first thing we need to do?’ Isaiah asks questions for them to think for themselves for deeper meaning. He even tried to use a parable that’s relatable to them to try to get them to understand the importance of God in their lives.
    You wonder why teachers are heavily burdened? Add this to their plate, then discipline, then making sure they are clothed, fed, and safe.
    Ella, I pray for you…every time God gives me your name.(which is a lot) There are so many educators mentally struggling this year. Not to mention pastors. Pray for your pastors…if anything they know exactly how Isaiah feels, too! (Even Peter encourages this)

    1. This is helpful for understanding: Martin Luther would take a verse and meditate on it. He would ask 3 questions. 1. How does this truth lead me to praise God? 2. What sins do I need to confess in light of this truth? 3. What do I need to ask God in light of this truth?
      From Tim Keller podcast #817

    2. Christi, your prayers and the faithful prayers of others are a lifeline to me. Thank you for lifting up the teachers in the trenches as we seek to showcase the love of Christ in the schools.

  4. This chapter underscores critical truths taught in Regeneration:Recovery—and how grateful I am for “truth that sets me free!”

    This verse in particular jumped right off the page: “we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood [false gods] our hiding place” (v. 15).

    Our false and man-made gods are ALWAYS sure to fail us. Verse 20 in The Message confirms, “there will no place you can rest, nothing to hide under.”

    But Isaiah goes on to offer this hope: in Christ we have a sure foundation. When we build our lives on Him, we will never fall—because he will never fail!

    As The Message puts it,

    To God be the glory!

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