This is a very difficult passage and one that has sparked much debate over the centuries. Firstly over what Isaiah meant when he said it. Secondly over what Paul meant when he quoted it. Thirdly it contains some very difficult Hebrew which is the centre of more debate. We will work our way through it piece by piece. Firstly let’s look at what Isaiah meant when he wrote it.
Now, however, Israel is led by drunks who reel with wine and stagger with alcohol. The priests and prophets stagger with alcohol and lose themselves in wine. They reel when they see visions and stagger as they render decisions. Their tables are covered with vomit; filth is everywhere. "Who does the LORD think we are?" they ask. "Why does He speak to us like this? Are we little children, just recently weaned? He tells us everything over and over—one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there!" So now God will have to speak to His people through foreign oppressors who speak a strange language! God has told His people, "Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest." But they would not listen. So the LORD will spell out His message for them again, one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there, so that they will stumble and fall. They will be injured, trapped, and captured. Therefore, listen to this message from the LORD, you scoffing rulers in Jerusalem. Isa 28:7-14
Isaiah has strong words against the leaders of Israel, saying it is like they are drunk. Saturated in wine. They see visions and pronounce drunken utterances. They are indignant at what Isaiah has been telling them comes from the Lord. It seems his message (Isaiah’s and the Lord’s) has been repetitive. Hence their response "Who does the LORD think we are?" they ask. "Why does He speak to us like this? Are we little children, just recently weaned? He tells us everything over and over—one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there!" Indeed Isaiah’s message to them has been the same consistent message, told to them over and over: "Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest." Go back and look at the theme of Isaiah in the early chapters.
"Ask the LORD your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead. "
But the king refused. "No," he said, "I will not test the LORD like that."
Then Isaiah said, "Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn't it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well?
All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a Child! She will give birth to a Son and will call Him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us').
By the time this Child is old enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong, He will be eating yogurt and honey.
For before the Child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted.
"Then the LORD will bring things on you, your nation, and your family unlike anything since Israel broke away from Judah. He will bring the king of Assyria upon you!" Isa 7:11-17)
Pekah (King of Israel) was making alliances with Rezin King of Aram to ensure they would live in peace. But God told them over and over "In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength." But you were not willing (Isa 30:15). Don’t make alliances with foreign kings. I will be your salvation. I am your King.
Notice the famous Immanuel prophecy is firstly and immediately in that time frame a prophecy of judgement. Isaiah named his children Shear Yashub (a remnant will return) [Isa 7:3] and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Swift to booty; quick to plunder) [Isa 8:3] as a prophetic word on what would happen. You make an alliance and you will call down Assyria on yourselves. In that context God said I will speak to you through a strange and foreign tongue because you are not hearing the word of my prophet. Oh I will be your Immanuel alright; but "God with you" in judgement.
Clearly Isaiah was getting flack for his repetitive, same old, same old messages. It is likely they also refer to him as the stammering prophet, the one who couldn’t speak properly. The one who spoke in gibberish. Hence his/God’s reference to them being like drunkard and their messages being the slurred incomprehensible speech of those drunk with wine. The drunkards are depicted as scoffingly commenting on Isaiah’s warnings: “Whom will he (does Isaiah presume to) teach knowledge? And whom will He make to understand instruction? Does he take us to be just weaned? Because he, Isaiah, is constantly repeating, (as if to little children) precept upon precept.
The message of Isaiah is a judgement message. Is that what Paul wants to communicate? Is that why he chose this quote?
Tomorrow we will look at the very difficult verse – Isaiah 28:10 then move on to look at why Paul chose this quote.
Life is a song, sing it. Mother Teresa
It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. Charles Haddon Spurgeon