Summary: This message is part of series from Isaiah paralleling ancient Israel and America. Israel was attempting to exault itself. It exposes the problem of human pride and self-sufficiency.
FULL, BUT EMPTY
Why is it imperative that Israel learn to walk in the light of the Lord? Because there is no future or hope in their present condition and way of life. Isaiah now depicts the foolishness of humanity attempting to exalt itself. The cause of the problem is given as human pride and supposed self-sufficiency. If they refuse to repent and acknowledge God and walk in His ways, God will abase them. The effect of their prideful self-sufficiency will be their humiliation for trusting in the works of their hands.
The achieving of wealth became an end in itself (instead of using it for the purposes of God) and Israel place their confidence in themselves and what they could achieve instead of in YAHWEH. As a result of their attitude and practices the nation will be brought low, but the God they refuse to walk with will be exalted without them. They decided to be full of the world which made them empty of God. You can not prepare for a good future if you continue to live in rebellion against God. [Developed with help of John Oswalt Commentary on Isaiah, Chs, 1-39, pp120-125]
I. FILLED–WITH INFLUENCES, 6.
II. FILLED–WITH WEALTH, 7.
III. FILLED–WITH IDOLS, 8.
IV. EMPTY OF GOD, 9.
V. EMPTY BEFORE GOD, 10-11.
Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. For Thou hast abandoned Thy people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with influences from the east, And they are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they strike bargains with the children of foreigners.
God had abandoned His people not because He no longer loved them but because they had become like the pagans around them. You can not prepare for a good future if you continue to live in sin. Rather the expectation of a good future should motivate them to deal with their present sinful condition. If they will not change their ways (and they won’t) then restoration can only come about after utter humiliation needed to destroy their false hopes.
What is the underlying cause of their condition? The first underlying condition was following man-exalting religion. They were following the religious practices of other nations.
The exact sense of they are full from the east is unclear. It probably indicates that Israel has borrowed the superstitious ways of Assyria and Babylonia, the great ancient eastern civilizations. Divination like the Philistines meant claiming to know and control the future by the power of demons (sorcery) or by interpreting omens.
As if this is not enough it continues, with the children of foreigners they clap hands. It seems to refer to the making of alliances with foreigners that involved recognition of the foreign gods. The prophet is saying that Israel has borrowed pagan religious practices from the east to west.
The use of divination and omens or magic was strictly forbidden to Israel (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:9-14), for by these practices the pagans sought to gain control of their own destinies and to manipulate the gods. As has always been the case with the human race, they saw achievement of national and personal security as the paramount aim, and believed that manipulation of the gods through formula or magic was the way to achieve that aim. But God called the Hebrews to commit their security to Him in faith and to give their attention to justice and righteousness. This was the dilemma Israel faced throughout her history. Listen to God or listen to the nations? The prophet says they have listened to the nations.
II. FILLED–WITH WEALTH, 7.
Having made charge that Israel is following pagan religious practices, Isaiah details some other pagan ways Israel is following. These practices begin in verse 7. Their land has also been filled with silver and gold, And there is no end to their treasures; Their land has also been filled with horses, And there is no end to their chariots.
Everything that could make Israel monetarally great she had. Uzziah’s long peaceful reign during the Assyrian lull before Tiglath-pileser III (745 B.C.) had given an opportunity unlike any since Solomon’s time to amass wealth and power (2 Chron. 26:6 -15). Israel was thus at the height of prosperity and military prowess and armament.
[Judah had great material wealth (silver and gold) and military strength (horses and chariots) which they no doubt mistakenly thought came to them because of their own efforts.]
When God’s people are filled with the fullness which the world offers, they become empty toward God. Having given up the riches of the promises of God the nation took the man made idols and treasures of the world in His place.
This is very reminiscent of Deuteronomy (esp. 17: 16-17), where the accumulation of military power and wealth is forbidden to the king on the grounds that they will turn the king away from God. This is exactly what happened to Solomon (1Kg 10:26-11:8). The desire for this world’s security led to assimilation of this world’s gods.