Hypocrisy and the Spirit of Deep Sleep

by | Jul 19, 2019 | Bible Study | 0 comments

In Isaiah 29, the prophet gives a warning, judgment and promise to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. In this reflection from our One Year Chronological Bible study, we’ll look at what impact the words of a prophet from almost 3,000 years ago have for us today. (Daily reading from July 17th.)
Isaiah warns God’s chosen people, those he has promised to dwell among, that because of their sin and rebellion, they will lose the land and his presence. What is worse, they won’t even recognize the loss of him because they will be under the “spirit of deep sleep.”

On Isaiah as a Prophet

God called many prophets, some of whom are recorded in the Bible. One thing that always stands out to me about Isaiah is that Isaiah wasn’t called, he came. In chapter 6, we have an account of Isaiah’s commission. He sees the Lord on his throne, surrounded in glory and acknowledges his sin and shortcomings.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

And then he hears a question,

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

Isaiah didn’t stay back in the crowd. He didn’t ask for more details about exactly where God was planning on sending him. His heart was after God and so he said, “Here I am, send me.”

And guess what he had to do? He had to deliver a word of correction and a warning of judgment against his own people.

9 He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

I want you to think about this for a minute. It sounds exciting to get a vision of God in his throne room, see angels, and to be commission as a prophet, but would you be ready to say whatever God had for you to say? Would you be willing to go into your church, your work place, or your social club and tell your friends they needed to get their act together and repent?

There is a reason most of the prophets in the Old Testament were killed.

But Isaiah was willing . . . And he did. I think it is because of this that he received the blessing of the strongest and clearest Messianic prophecies in the Bible. He was willing to “pick up his cross” and in the end, proclaimed the coming of the One who did.

Understanding prophecy

One key to understanding prophecy, especially in the book of Isaiah, is that there are almost always layers of meaning to a prophecy. Very often a prophecy will have a “now and not yet” fulfillment. The prophecy will speak to a specific immediate event, but also have an additional meaning for the future. Also, events themselves and the lives of people can be prophetic in themselves, foreshadowing of future events.

Finally, no single prophecy in the Bible ever stands alone. There will always be a confirmation by at least one other passage. When trying to understand the passage, look at the other prophetic passages that describe the same event.

Isaiah’s Prophecies

While much of Isaiah’s prophecies are judgments against the surrounding nations who are coming against Israel, this particular chapter is a judgment against Jerusalem itself. Isaiah is calling God’s people to account for their hypocrisy. The Lord says their “hearts are far from him.” (This is similar to the judgment against the church at Ephesus in Revelation)

Signs of True Prophecy

There are several things that identify Isaiah’s prophecies as true words of God.

  • They are in line with God’s character.
  • They are in harmony with words given by other prophets.
  • The reason for the judgment is given, Isaiah identifies the sin of the people: turning their hearts from God and fear of man … in essence, idolatry.
  • A way of remedy is provided, turn back to God.

Isaiah gives a promise of restoration. This is a sign of a true prophetic word. Isaiah declares both the judgment and the recovery by God.

Signs of Judgment in Action: The Spirit of Deep Sleep

Isaiah was one of several prophets speaking to Israel and Judah prior to their captivity. At times when reading through the prophets, their warnings can sound like a record stuck on repeat. Over and over, again and again, God’s people are warned to repent.

God had promised to Abraham that the land would be the eternal possession of his descendants. The promise was confirmed to Isaac, Jacob, and again to the people through Moses. But the Mosaic covenant was conditional … whether the people received a blessing or curse would depend on their faithfulness to God and his commandments. (Deuteronomy 28) Isaiah and his fellow prophets were warning the people that they were in violation of that agreement and their eviction of the land was coming.

Not only does Isaiah warn about their coming displacement from the land, but he warns of their coming disconnection from their God. Isaiah’s prophecies indicate a progressive deafening to God’s voice. By the time Malachi prophesies approximately 60 years after Isaiah’s ministry, the God’s voice is almost silent. Malachi is the last Word of God until the Logos comes in person 400 years later.

9 Are you amazed and incredulous?
Don’t you believe it?
Then go ahead and be blind.
You are stupid, but not from wine!
You stagger, but not from liquor!
10 For the Lord has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep.
He has closed the eyes of your prophets and visionaries.

This lack of vision and prophecy is a sign of judgment.

But I think this “spirit of deep sleep” is more than just a lack of revelation, it is a lack of even being aware of what is missing. There is no desire or need to seek. Not only a blindness to their true condition and state of affairs, but a stronghold of complacency.

A Lesson for Today: A Warning for Fools

We may not have a specific promise to a particular piece of land that we are looking to God to fulfill, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing for us to glean from this chapter. In fact, the core message of this prophecy is as relevant for us today as it was for the Jews so many years ago … and that is the warning against hypocrisy.

In verse 15, Isaiah echoes the sentiment of David in Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” Isaiah calls out the hypocrisy of those who say they follow Yahweh and putting on a righteous front when they don’t live with integrity. The hypocrites that follow commandments rather than have a personal relationship with God.

Our life has to be congruent. Putting on a show one day a week is not a way to have a relationship with God.

Isaiah was calling out the highly placed in his society for their hypocrisy, telling them that their days of mocking God by pretending to follow him while going their own way were coming to an end. Jesus did the same to the Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day.

What was true in Isaiah’s day and what was true in the time of Jesus is still true today. There are people who put on a show of being religious to cover their corruption and deceit, thinking they will never be called to account. God is still God and he will not be mocked. (Galatians 6:7) Their deception is coming to an end. Justice will be done.

Be Ready to Be Wrong

We all have things that we think we know that we are comfortable with, a picture of the world and how things are. Sometimes, that picture is a false one. This can be for many reasons. Most of what we know … both about the Christian faith and the world around us … we know because that is what we were taught. Sometimes what we were taught was wrong. Sometimes what we were taught was correct, but we misunderstand it. Sometimes we come to a belief because we only have partial information and are not seeing the full picture.

So for any number of reasons, we can be wrong in what we believe.  This is part of what it means to be a human being. We are created in the image of God with a desire for truth and rightness, and we want to be that. But we have to remember that truth is not based on us, what we feel, or what we believe. Truth is based in God himself. Jesus is truth.

We are fractured imagers. Our perception is distorted. It is Truth himself that restores our lens.

As the Holy Spirit works in and through us, he transforms us into the image of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18) As we come closer to reflecting that image, our capacity for truth grows. However, we can resist the Holy Spirit. We can refuse to acknowledge truth.

When we refuse to acknowledge the truth, we shut ourselves off from God.

Throwing Off Slumber & Coming Into the Light

What is a Christian shut off from God? What is a Christian without the guidance of the Holy Spirit? It is impossible to be a Christ follower without the lead of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into all truth. (John 16:13)

A child in my VBS class who could see in the spirit described to me what he called “the blue place.” He said, “That’s where you think you know God, but you don’t.” He shook his head saying, “It’s a really sad place.”

How many people in the church today have a false assurance of eternal security but are really under a “spirit of deep sleep” or, as the boy in my class described it, “the blue place,” … the place where people think they know God but don’t.

Where are you today? Is your spirit sleeping? Are you a “blue” Christian?”

Let me ask you, are you willing to be wrong? Are you willing to listen to the Holy Spirit’s correction.

Is there any belief or thing that you wouldn’t be willing to give up if God himself told you it was wrong?

If there is … you’re “blue.”

But there is a remedy … ask the Holy Spirit to give you a “clean heart,” one that is willing to obey him. (Psalm 51:10-12)

5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:5-14)

This Bible study is part of the One Year Chronological Bible study which we completed in 2019.

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