16 December 2016

Isaiah 30:19-26

“And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will defile your silver-covered idols and your gold-plated images. You will scatter them like filthy rags; you will say to them, ‘Away with you!’” (vv. 21-22)

Psalm: Psalm 73:15-28


This is a passage about God's promises that, like so many others in Isaiah, comes after darker prophetic passages with headings in our Bibles of "The futility of reliance on Egypt" (Isaiah 30:1-7) and "A rebellious people" (Isaiah 30:8-17).

In this case the darker earlier sections of the chapter are quite specific and direct. Trusting in Egypt (reliance on Egypt to support Hezekiah's rebellion 703-701BC) is taken to be a failure to trust in the Lord and the consequences are humiliation and shame.

Verses 8 to 17 are a critique of the people's desire for populist prophets who speak only comfortable words. This warns of the dangers of oppression and deceit.

Now we come to the far more hopeful words … Here the people are reminded of the nature of God to be gracious (ie loving even when love is not deserved) and that God can be trusted to hear and to answer (although given the preceding verses this is not necessarily immediately).

The references to the "Teacher" (v. 20) are surely Isaiah referring to himself, possibly as a protest to Jerusalem's reliance on false sources of security. Isaiah promises to be there even while they wait for God.

Verse 21 was quoted by John Wesley in a number of his sermons, perhaps seeing himself as the teacher who encourages people in the discipline (suggested by verses 21-22) needed to walk this way of discipleship. The way that is God's way is not spelled out here apart from the need to listen and free yourself from all idols.

From verse 23 onwards we see a set of beautiful images of God's kingdom, a place of plenty and safety where God cares for the people.

These promises of hope are in some ways tied to particular people in a particular time and place. Yet they also have a timeless quality as they refer not just to what was to come for those people, but also look forward to the kingdom of God that is still not fully realised,

To Ponder

  • How does this passage fit with your understanding of the nature of God?
  • What does the instruction "This is the way; walk in it." mean for you?
  • What might be the equivalents to "silver-covered idols" and "gold-plated images" for you that you need to get rid of?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.