Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” This is what the Sovereign Lord , the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.” – Isaiah 30:12-17
This is an interesting passage. The words come from the mouth of the Holy One of Israel so they are probably worth chewing on for a while so I have taken a couple of days to think and reflect. God is rebuking the Israelites for ignoring the message. They have “relied on oppression and depended on deceit”. Since the rest of the passage is outlining the consequences of this transgression it seems appropriate to unpack the meaning of these two sins, oppression and deceit.
Oppression to me is about power and position. It is using the power you have ultimately been granted by God to an end that is either inconsistent or incompatible with God’s purpose in granting the power. It is producing bad fruit from a vigorous vine that God has provided for our care and feeding. We often think of oppression in terms of physical aggression or conflict, but I think it applies equally well to the spiritual realm and our emotional and spiritual well-being.
Spiritual oppression comes in the form of tearing down a person’s beliefs – placing obstacles in the path toward pursuing and understanding God. This type of oppression is much more subtle and secret. It can be happening before our eyes and we may not realize it. We can even be the oppressor and not realize we are doing it. The only way to move past or overcome this type of myopia is to give those close to us permission to point out ways we are being oppressive.
The second sin identified, deceit, is similar to oppression, but it is in some ways a deeper corruption. It is an attack on truth itself. Calling good things bad and bad things good, Leading others away from the truth and away from God. This was what Moses and Aaron were guilty of when they failed the “Meribah test” back in Numbers. They may not have set out to deceive the people they were leading, but the end result was deception. They were not telling them the whole truth about what God was requiring of them.
So for the Israelites to be called out for oppression and deceit is in some ways more damming than idol worship or personal sin. It was corporate sin that was infecting a whole people and their trajectory with God. They were building a “high wall, cracked and bulging” that was going to collapse and cause great harm. Not only will the wall collapse but it will do so in a spectacular way. It will be “shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” They will not even be able to access water from the Great Cistern that has been provided them bread from heaven and water for our thirst.
For some reason I keep thinking of a nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty:
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
God has given us the way to “put the pieces back together again” in our lives. Even when the fragments are so small that they make it difficult to get water from the cistern. It has nothing to do with king’s men or king’s horses. It has everything to do with the One they called King of the Jews, Jesus. He is our salvation — our “repentance and rest” and in Him we find the “quietness and trust” that is our strength. We are to repent, rest in God and His salvation (Jesus), and we are to quietly trust God for His strength when life gets hard.
Prayer: God thank You putting the pieces of our lives back together when they become splintered and torn.