Woe to the rebellious children, said the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit…
These words contain a most important lesson for all such as have anything to do with managing the affairs of nations: and it would be well for the world if its rulers would give heed to that lesson, and keep guard against the sins on account of which the prophet here denounces woe against the rulers of Judah. They entered into an alliance with Pharaoh, with the view of gaining assistance from him which might enable them to cope with Sennacherib in the field. This is just what a statesman, who plumed himself on his wisdom in these days, would do. Yet it is for doing this very thing that the prophet Isaiah in the text denounces woe against them. Their conduct therefore must have been sinful. Let us try to discover in what their sin lay.
1. They were making use of human means to ward off the danger which threatened them. Not that thins in itself is altogether wrong in God's eyes. On the contrary, we are so placed here on earth, in the midst of so many wants and necessities, and so helpless by ourselves, that we are compelled to be forever making use of human and earthly means. Only, we ought to make use of these means with the conviction that they are merely instruments in the hands of Him who can alone endow them with the power of being of use to us. This is what the rulers of Judah forgot and entirely lost sight of. They trusted in Pharaoh. We are all apt to take counsel of ourselves, of our own understandings, our own wishes, our own convenience, our passions, our interest, our sloth, our purses, our appetites. Or we take counsel of our friends, of our neighbours, of such men as are esteemed to be quick and far-sighted, of every person, and of every thing, except of God. His counsel is the last we seek. Therefore does the prophet's woe fall upon us also. And why is it that we are so loth to take counsel of God? Our unwillingness can only proceed from an evil heart of unbelief; from that unbelief which loses sight of the Ruler and Lawgiver of the world, and which is prone to worship whatever dazzles the senses and flatters our carnal nature.
2. But there was another feature in the conduct of the princes of Judah which deepened their sin. They were not merely putting their trust in an arm of flesh, — they who had been so strongly forbidden to trust in such vanities, and who had the living God to trust in such vanities, and who had the living God to trust in: but the arm they were trusting to was the arm of Egypt. Egypt had from the first been the deadly enemy of the Israelites, and of their God. Egypt was the source from which all manner of idolatrous abominations had flowed in upon them: out of Egypt they had been called; and they were no longer to hold any intercourse with it. Therefore the prophet goes on to cry, "Woe to those who walk to go down into Egypt, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt:" and he declares that, because they do so, "the strength of Pharaoh shall be their shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt their confusion." Nor will it be otherwise with us. If we are guilty of their sin we shall not escape their woe. And alas! how often in moments of fear, of distress, — when some danger starts up suddenly in our path, when the enemy seems to be hard at hand, and just ready to overwhelm us, — do we feel tempted to go down into Egypt, in the hope of strengthening ourselves with the strength of Pharaoh, and of sheltering ourselves with the shadow of Egypt! Satan at such moments is always close at our ear, whispering to us, that, if we will but take counsel of him, and do as he bids us, he will help us out of our difficulty. It should be borne in mind that, every time we sin we weaken our souls, we cripple our good feelings, we blunt our conscience, we drive away the Spirit of God from our hearts. Therefore, instead of our being better able to meet the next temptation, the odds against us are increased.
(J. C. Hare, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: