Isaiah 28: Trouble for Jerusalem, but Good News for the Faithful Remnant

(29 verses, 4:44 to read)


What I am about to READ

  • A chapter of law and Gospel, the Lord preaches judgment to Jerusalem, but then promises to put a cornerstone in Jerusalem to establish her. That cornerstone is Christ.


  • 1-13, The Lord’s Judgment on Ephraim
  • 14-22, The Promise of the Cornerstone
  • 23-29, The Lord’s anger only lasts a little while


  • There is a lot of drunkenness in Israel. This is both true drunken debauchery, as well as the drunkenness of unbelief and idolatry. Isaiah is preaching against unrepentance and its fruit.
  • In the first section the “proud crown” of Ephraim is contrasted with the LORD’s “crown of glory.” The staggering of the drunkard is contrasted to the LORD’s coming in glory.
  • The tables of the priests are filled with vomit, so there is no place to teach them the Scriptures. The Lord, then, will teach the children and foreigners His Word, and this is a rebuke for the people, and a cause of their stumbling.
  • In verse 15 (and this is particularly interesting) the people talk of how they have made a covenant with death and Sheol. The LORD, to contrast this, sets a cornerstone in Zion. This is a promise of Jesus (see 1 Peter 2:6 where this text is quoted).
  • Isaiah 28:21, which talks of the strange and alien work of God, is a famous text, and teaches us that the Lord’s work of judgment and condemnation is, well, strange. Here’s Luther:
    • It is as if he were saying: “Because you scoff at the Word, the Lord is forced to do a strange work, namely, to judge and to destroy.” For the proper work and nature of God is to save. But when our flesh is so evil that it cannot be saved by God’s proper work, it is necessary for it to be saved by His alien work. Because in good times we stroll and stray from the Word, our covers have to be made narrow, and we must be disciplined by various afflictions so that we may be saved by God’s alien work; the ungodly are altogether driven by God’s proper and foreign work because they do not want to get under these narrow covers but want to stretch out in their own. Meanwhile God keeps His own by means of the cross and narrow covers and thus separates them from the ungodly. This is God’s alien work, by which He condemns the ungodly, so that we may be saved. (LW 16:233-234) 
  • This teaching is confirmed by the last section of the chapter where the temporariness of the Lord’s harshness is taught through the picture of crushing spices and threshing grain. This work does not go on forever.


  • There is great comfort for us knowing that judgment and trouble are the Lord’s “strange and alien work.” His native work is salvation. God is love. When we hear the Lord preaching the law we know that this only lasts for a little while, but when we hear His kindness, when we hear His mercy, when we hear of His death on the cross for us, then we are hearing of God how He really is. His love is not His alien work, but that which is proper to Him. This gives us great joy and comfort.

Thoughts? Comments? Join the conversation in our facebook group here.

Lord’s Blessings,
Pr Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, CO


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