Haughty Eyes: A Sermon on Isaiah 2:10-22.
By Pastor Richard Bacon
Copyright 1998 © First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett

Isaiah 2:10-22. Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

In the section immediately preceding this passage, verses 6 through 9, Isaiah was chiding Judah and Jerusalem. They emulated the sins of the children of strangers. God set them apart; yet they imitated the ways of the heathen. God gave them oracles; yet they sought after the seers of the Philistines. God was to be a trust to them; yet they cast away their trust in him to hope in the gods of their neighbors. God was to be the object of their worship; yet they turned from true worship to the idolatry of the nations around them. God made them an honorable people; and they cast away their honor along with everything that made them honorable.

In verses 10 through 22, Isaiah described the desolation that results from being forsaken. Then he told Judah and Jerusalem that God had forsaken them because of their sin. Isaiah then prophesied that because God had forsaken them, they would be desolate.

Any Scripture has only one specific meaning. The reference in this context is to the Chaldeans destroying Judah. Just as Isaiah prophesied, the Babylonians did invade, destroying first Judah then the city of Jerusalem. Judah and Jerusalem were made desolate. However, there is also a further aspect to this prophecy. Often what we see in the case of a prophecy is God setting forth a condition. Whenever the condition is met, the consequence will come to pass. That does not mean that there are two specific meanings to a passage of Scripture. When it is prophesied that disobedience will bring a curse, then every time that act of disobedience occurs, so will the curse. We must make this clarification so that, when we state that this prophecy was fulfilled in Isaiah's day, and then explain there was also an application when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, and then add that there is an application for us today, we understand we are not referring to a "manifold interpretation." This prophecy came to pass when the Chaldeans destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. There is also a sense in which it came to pass in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem. Further, it is a warning to us today.

A prophecy is often God "setting forth" a warning. This is a general method that God uses to awaken and humble proud sinners. If we understand the general principle that is involved, then we will be able to apply it to a variety of historical circumstances, including our own.

The church today has lost much of her ability to "prophesy" to her generation. We refuse to speak with the authority of "Thus saith the LORD!" It is my contention that the main reason we do not speak with that authority is because we do not understand the principles of God's Word. God's Word applies to every area of our lives. It speaks to the realms of economics, civil government, morality, as well as every other aspect of culture.

The church today has what may be termed an enclave mentality. The French lost the war in Indochina by retreating into enclaves. Instead of taking the war to the enemy, they withdrew and the enemy brought the war to them. That is what the church in the twentieth century has done. We have not taken the battle to the enemy. We have been retreating into pietistic enclaves waiting for the Lord to come and rescue us. The greater part of evangelical Christianity has been doing that for the last one hundred years or more. What we need to do is startle and awaken secure sinners. If those secure sinners are in the White House, they need to be startled and awakened. If they are in the state house, they need to be startled and awakened. If the magistrate is guilty of sin, then we need to tell him he is guilty of sin. We need to begin taking the war to the enemy. We need to carry the gospel to our generation. We need to start calling sin "sin."

The first thing we need to do as we carry the gospel to our generation is startle and awaken secure sinners.

In Isaiah 2:10, sinners were entering into the rock and hiding in the dust. Why were they entering into the rock? Why were they hiding in the dust? Why were they going into holes and caves in verse 19? For the fear of the LORD! There is little fear of the LORD in the church today. The church has turned the "good news" of the gospel into the "nice news." We have turned God into a nice old guy. He is not truly upset with anybody over anything. He is so patient. He is so loving. He is so nice. He would not dare be upset with us. But that is not the God of which Isaiah spoke in this passage! Nor is it the God of which Jesus Christ spoke in Matthew 23:15. In that passage Jesus warned the religious leaders of his day, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees. You are making people twice the children of hell that you are!"

Isaiah tells us that the reason the people were going into the holes and the caves was for the fear of the LORD. The reason they were hiding in the dust was for the fear of the LORD. One of the problems with the preaching, the "prophesying," we hear in the church today, is that too many are preaching that our problem is simply a poor self-image. The church tells us we have too low a view of ourselves. No! That is not the problem. The problem is that we have too low a view of God! We do not recognize God for who he is. When we have the esteem for God we ought to have, the Bible calls that proper esteem "the fear of the LORD!" When sinners catch the fear of the LORD, they hide. There are only two things you can do when you fear the LORD: you can flee to God for refuge or you can flee from God to hide from his wrath. Either you will come to God, depending upon his mercy; or you will flee from God, hiding from his judgment.

The church talks about people being saved, but what is it people are being saved from? They are being saved from the judgment of God!

If we do not prophesy of the judgment of God, we cannot say we have the gospel. If there is no judgment, then there is no salvation. If there is no justice, then there is no mercy! That idea is the very key as to who Jesus Christ is. In Christ, the justice and mercy of God have kissed. The judgment and righteousness of God have come together in him. We must preach the judgment of God. We must preach the justice of the Lord. If we do not prophesy to this generation about the righteous commandments and requirements of God, then how dare we say we have the gospel? As the church preaches the glory and the majesty of the Lord, the Word of God will inspire fear.

There is no escape from God's wrath. Wherever the men in this passage fled: whether they went to hide in the dust, or whether they went to the tops of the rocks, there was no hiding from God's wrath. They tried to hide from God in the things of the earth. But the things of earth are all subject to being shaken. God can shake whatever he will, even the earth itself.

The most powerful man in the world could be humbled tomorrow. How long did it take God to humble Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on the face of the earth? It only took a moment. There stood Nebuchadnezzar on the ramparts of the city, boasting of all the glorious works of his hands. The next day he was eating grass with the cattle.

The mighty of our day should want to hide from the Lord. But as long as the church is preaching the gospel she has been preaching, there is nothing from which to hide. When the church begins to preach the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the wicked will flee. When the wrath of God is preached, the wicked will be humbled. They will tremble with the fear of the LORD. Then they will either glorify God and say with Nebuchadnezzar that God does whatsoever he will in heaven and upon the earth, or they will flee from him, like those in this passage, to hide in the rocks and the caves.

The things of earth are subject to being shaken and the shaking of the earth is a terrible thing for those whose affections are on the earth. If you love the things of the earth, I have some bad news for you: you cannot keep them. You cannot keep them! You can have them. You can gain them. You may even be able to enjoy them after a fashion. But they will not satisfy. Once you have them, they will not satisfy you. A greedy man always "needs" a little more than he has! He continues searching for something that will not be shaken. We must not set our affections on the things of the earth. We must not set our affections on the things of this life. If we depend upon the things of this present life to satisfy, we will find only heartbreak; for the things of this life will be shaken.

Not only can the things of this life afford no satisfaction, neither can the things of the earth afford any protection. Even as the men fled for their rocks and their caves and their crevasses to hide in the dust, God found them. They could not hide from the wrath of God.

This was not merely a doctrine of the Old Testament church. In Revelation 16:19 we read of God forcing the nations to drink the wine of his wrath. Jesus Christ, the rider on the white horse, goes forth conquering and to conquer the nations. In Revelation 19:11-15, he goes forth with a sword proceeding from his mouth, the blood of his enemies splattering up on his garments. The blood of his enemies drenches his garments. If they refuse be sprinkled by his blood, then his garments will be sprinkled by theirs.

Not only does the gospel speak to startle and awaken secure sinners, it also speaks to humble and abase proud sinners.

Look at verses 11 and 17 of Isaiah 2, "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled…" The phrase, "lofty looks" in the Hebrews is "lifted-up eyes." It is the same attitude we today might call "looking down one’s nose." "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled." That will happen when men bow down before the Lord Jesus Christ. God will bow men’s knees and humble their lofty looks. "And the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." Once again, man's problem is not that he thinks too lowly of himself: his problem is that he thinks too lowly of the Lord.

Verse 17 has the same refrain. It is so important that Isaiah says it twice. "And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."

The day of the LORD — the technical phrase that Isaiah used in this passage — is a day of judgment. It is not a day of escape. Many today seem to think that the day of the Lord is a day on which they will go to the top of a mountain and wait to be raptured. That is not what "the day of the Lord" means in Scripture. In Scripture, "the day of the Lord" is a day of judgment. In Matthew 25:32-33, Jesus reported that in that day the Lord will judge the nations and that "he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." Jesus spoke of the day of judgment in Matthew 7:22-23. He said, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." God does not regard the things of our imaginations to be works of righteousness, but works of iniquity. The pride of man will fall. Either we will repent and be humbled or we will be abased. The Lord alone shall be exalted.

God accomplishes our abasement by humbling judgments. In verse 12 we read, "For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low." First, God will judge the people themselves. Secondly, he will remove that in which they pride themselves.

Continue reading in verse 13-15, "Upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall." This terminology does not mean that God is mad at the hills and the trees. The object of God's wrath was men who lifted themselves up like those trees. Isaiah used trees as a figure of speech. God was not upset with trees; God was upset with people. God was upset with sinners. God was angry at the loftiness of man. God was angry at the fact that men thought that they were as strong as the cedars. They thought they were as strong as the oaks. They thought fleeing to the high mountains would save them. They thought that the hills would lift them up. So Isaiah warned them against the things in which they prided themselves.

We see further that Isaiah mentioned their trade and their culture. In verse 16 Isaiah said, "And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures." Was God mad at boats? Was God upset with pictures and with ornaments? No, he is not angry with boats and pictures. He is angry with our trade and our culture. As our trade and culture reflect our ungodliness, God will destroy it. How does our trade reflect ungodliness? Look at Texas today. Stores are open on the Sabbath. That reflects an ungodly culture. It is an ungodly trade and God will destroy it. Oil is one of the chief industries of Texas. A few years ago, oil went from nearly $30 a barrel to $10 a barrel in a matter of months when Texas changed its Sabbath laws! When Texans decided they needed an "extra day" to make money, God took away their money. Texas was a "boom" state! Dallas was a "boom" town! People were making a lot of money until they decided they were wiser than God. They decided they had to make money seven days a week. Then God took away even the money they thought they had. In Haggai 1:6-9, God warned that he can blow on your purse and empty it of money. That is what he told Haggai. If you worship your purse, God will empty it. But if we devote our trade to him, God will bless it.

God not only deals with our trade here in this passage in speaking of "the ships of Tarshish," but he also deals with our ornaments. "All pleasant pictures" is how it is translated here. We could speak of our fine pictures, or our pretty pictures. This too has to do with our culture. There is nothing ungodly about pictures per se, provided they are not violations of the second or seventh commandments. If a picture violates the seventh commandment — "Thou shalt not commit adultery," — then it is an unlawful picture. It is unlawful for us to have. If it violates the second commandment — "Thou shalt not make any graven images" — then it is a violation of that commandment and it is unlawful to have. Other than that, there is not anything particularly ungodly about pretty pictures. You cannot make pictures of God, and you cannot make pornographic pictures: other than that, we can enjoy the beauty of creation. But once again, when we begin to worship culture instead of God, then God's wrath is turned upon us. When our culture becomes more important to us than God, then God will destroy our culture.

Today our culture is increasingly pornographic. The reason our culture is increasingly pornographic at least in part is that our culture has for one hundred years violated the second commandment in its pictures. It should not surprise us therefore that in this generation of great godlessness there is a violation of the seventh commandment as well. In what other country would a government pay people to put images of Christ in a bottle of urine and called it "art?" Where could that happen? Yet the church today does nothing because there is a "separation of church and state that cannot be violated." Nonsense! Yes, the church and the state have two different governments. But we cannot divorce the magistrate, the state, from God's law. God's law applies to every area of life. God speaks specifically to the magistrate, and calls him his "minister." Read Romans 13:1-4, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

The definition of "good" is God's law. God has already told us what good works consist of: good works consist of performing the works of his law. God has told us what love is: love is the fulfilling of his law (Romans 13:8,10). If we would love our neighbor, we should treat him lawfully. We should do the things that God's law requires of us. If it is the case — and it is — that God's law is the definition of "good" and of "good works;" and if it is the case — and it is — according to Romans 13, that the magistrate is to do good works, what is the magistrate to do? He is to do God's law. It is that simple.

Does that mean that we are being brought back under the bondage of the ceremonies? Does that mean that we are under the weak and beggarly elements of the law? I am not suggesting that for a moment. The old covenant ceremonies have passed away. The Old Testament ordinances were nailed to the cross of Christ. No longer must we bring bullocks to Jerusalem. No longer must we sacrifice lambs, putting their blood upon the lintel and door posts of our homes. But the moral law applies to every area of life. The law which God has always required is still binding. We must never believe that God's moral requirements have passed away. We must never think that God is now less interested in how we live than he was before the gospel was made manifest in the light of Christ. That is another reason why the church's preaching today is so anemic. The church does not have "the iron in her blood" to speak God's law to our generation.

Finally, the gospel will destroy idolatrous sinners.

The Christian church today is overrun with idolatry. There is self-worship. There is will-worship. There is an attitude in which men insist on worshipping God as they choose rather than as God chooses.

Read Isaiah 2:20-21, "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth."

We need to become serious about casting away not just idolatry, but idolaters. We need to become serious about really fencing the church. I am not suggesting that we can have a church with a perfect, regenerate church membership. But when we truly "fence" the church from idolatry and idolaters, we are going to find ourselves isolated. When we become truly concerned about the practices of the twentieth century church, we will not have to isolate ourselves: people will leave us alone.

The false gods of Isaiah’s day could not even save themselves; how could they save the people who trusted them? If the idols themselves were to be cast into the bats' caves, how were they going to save those who worshipped them? Singing about the "dew on the roses" will not save the dew on the roses, and it will not save the people who sing about it. The false gods cannot save themselves, and that implies God's total victory over idolatry. Men will either be reasoned out of their idolatry or they will be frightened out of their idolatry. God said in Isaiah 1:18, "Come let us reason together." God will reason with us. God will explain to us the detrimental effects of our idolatry; but if we will not be reasoned with, he will frighten us out of our idolatry. He will press the fear of the Lord upon us.

God can also make men sick of their idols. It was the same men who had worshipped the idols who later cast them into the caves. When we pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," one of the things that we should be praying for is that men would grow sick of their idolatry. We should pray that they would cast off their wicked ways. It should be our prayer that God would establish his ordinances in his church.

A few years ago, the General Assembly of the PCA passed a resolution that condemned a whole list of sins of which our generation is guilty. I was not opposed to the resolution, but I was saddened by the fact that all we were stating was that the world was worldly. We should have known that already! The problem is not that the world is worldly: the problem is that the church is worldly. We need to recognize that we — the church — are worldly. We need to repent. We need to be in sackcloth and ashes. We need to be fasting for our sins. We need to be casting our idols into the bats' caves. The church must cast off her worldly ways before the world is ever going to listen to her.

Notice that sin may be loathed, yet not rightly. We may think very poorly of sin, yet not repent of it. It is possible for men to hate sin, and yet continue in it. It is a sad sign. It is a bad sign. It is a sign that God has given the sinner over to the dominion of his sin.

God shakes confident sinners.

We have examined three things. We saw God startling and awakening secure sinners; humbling and abasing proud sinners; and destroying idolatrous sinners. The last thing we see in this passage is God shaking confident sinners. Look at verse 22, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?"

If you do not fear God, you will fear man. But if you do fear God, you have no reason to fear man. The worst men can do is kill you. You knew you were going to die anyway. We do not think about it morning, noon, and night. But you know you are going to die. It does not come as a surprise to you. "Man's breath is in his nostrils."

You have no reason to fear man. Who should you fear? Jesus asked this question and I ask it of you. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Who should you fear? Should you fear a man who, after he’s done all he can do to you, has only killed your body? Or should you fear the one who can cast both body and soul into hell? You should fear God! You should not fear man. So cease from man. Cease from placing your confidence in man.

If you are going to count strength, count the way God taught Gideon to count. In Judges 7, Gideon was ready to go to battle, but God said, "There are too many of you. We need to reduce your numbers." First he got rid of the faint hearted. Gideon told the army that if anyone did not want to go to war, then he should go home. We should not be afraid to tell people the same thing: "If you are not in it for the long term, just go home." But even that did not reduce the number sufficiently. Gideon's army was finally reduced to 300 men. Why was it so important for Gideon's army to be only 300 men? So that God would get all the glory. "Everyone knows" that an army of 300 could not possibly overcome a Mesopotamian army of 20,000. It is humanly impossible. But it is not impossible with God and when the victory is won, God gets all the glory.

If you are going to count strength, count as Jonathan did. Remember the day he and his armor bearer climbed up the precipice in 1 Samuel 14. It was Jonathan and his armor bearer against a garrison of Philistines. Jonathan said in verse 6, "There is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few." God's arm is not shortened. God can save by many or by few. God does not count the way the ungodly count.

No one would think that two men, one of them unskilled in battle, could take on a garrison of Philistines. But God can! Imagine this scene: The Philistines had done away with all the blacksmiths in Israel so the Jews would not have weapons. Jonathan had one of the few swords in all of Israel. There he was with one sword, and his armor bearer bringing up the rear carrying his clothes, chasing a whole garrison of Philistines across the mountains. There is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few! If God chooses to bring down an army, then God will bring down an army! If God chooses to raise a work in Rowlett, then God will raise a work in Rowlett. All God awaits is a people that will bow the knee to him.

We need to bow our heads before God. If we do not bow our heads in repentance, we will bow our heads in fear and shame. If we do not take the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to our generation, who will? We have a greater responsibility because we have the light. We have the knowledge. We have the understanding. We must carry the message of God's righteous judgment to this generation. If we do not do it, no one else will. The folks preaching the "nice" gospel will not carry the message. They cannot do it. They do not have the message. It is up to us.

Will God use us? If he does, it is not because he needs us. God is not desperate. God will not lower his standards. His standards require a holy, righteous people. That is what we must be if we would carry the gospel to this generation.