PASSAGE: “Whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little. Truly, with stammering lips and with alien tongue he will speak to his people, to whom he has said, ‘This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose’; yet they would not hear. Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little’; in order that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isaiah 28:9-13).
COMMENT: This is a part of a long and vehement oracle concerning two different earthly powers: Samaria (Ephraim) and Judah. It dates from the period before the fall of Jerusalem to the powers of Assyria. Since “the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink” (v. 7), and “no place is clean” (v.8), Isaiah wonders to whom the Lord will deliver his warning that hedonistic choices are bearing punishing consequences. He decides, in verses 11-13, that the consequences themselves will carry the message, when the land is taken by men “with stammering lip and with alien tongue.” Since his message of loving compassion (“give rest to the weary”) has not been heard, it will be through negative consequences that the Lord will teach the people.
It remains so for us today that we often fail to hear gentle, loving teachings trying to guide us in the choices we make. If we continue to make harsh, negative choices we can be sure that those choices have consequences—and it is through those consequences that the guidance of the Divine will be realized.