Isaiah Chapter 29: “A Book that is Sealed”

Let’s take a look at Isaiah 29:10-12.  There we read, Isaiah 29:10, “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.  And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which [men] deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it [is] sealed:  And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

Isaiah 29 is primarily a testimony by God against the prophets, seers, and rulers (the Priests and Pharisees, the “learned ones”) who claim to understand the word of God, the Bible, but who really have no true understanding at all.  To them this “book” is “sealed,” even though they are “learned” men.  They are blind guides and the Light of Christ is not in them.  They do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them to the truth that leads to eternal life.  They do not want, nor seek, righteousness by grace through Jesus Christ alone, but rather through their own efforts through the keeping of the Law.  As a result, they are “spiritually blind” and therefore still dead in their sins.

As for the “not learned” one, there is no implication that he can do any better.  All he can say, and rightly so, is that “I am not learned.”   Moreover, regarding the “not learned,” the Bible has only unpleasant words to say.  Turning to II Peter 3:16, for example, we’ll find that regarding the understanding of scripture by such a one, “As also in all [his] (Paul’s) epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

So who then can understand this sealed book, the Bible?  The believers can.  We know this from Isaiah 8:13-16, “Sanctify the LORD of hosts (Jesus Christ) himself; and [let] him [be] your fear, and [let] him [be] your dread.  And he (Jesus Christ) shall be for a sanctuary (to the believers); but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (those who claim to have fellowship with God, but really do not).  And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.  Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples (the true believers).”  Also in Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.”  (Matthew 6:23, “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!“)  Finally we read in Romans 11:8, “(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.”

Now getting back to Isaiah, chapter 29; if we go to the next two verses, verses 13&14, we read, “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:  Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, [even] a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise [men] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent [men] shall be hid.”  To understand this passage we don’t go to men, we go to God through His Word the Bible.  In Matthew 15:7-9 (and Mark 7:6-9), we read where Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees and scribes (the learned ones, the prophets, rulers, seers of that day whom God had blinded referred to in Isaiah 29:10&11) and God records for us, “[Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias (Isaiah in Greek) prophesy of you, saying,  This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.”  Jesus also said in Matthew 23:27, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men’s] bones, and of all uncleanness.

A Marvelous Work and a Wonder?

As for the “marvelous work and a wonder,” God is declaring that despite the fact that so many “learned” men of Israel (who intellectually knew what the Bible says) are so blind to any understanding of what it is really talking about, God would save a remnant of all humankind (both Jews and Gentiles) for Himself.  We are told this in the concluding section of chapter 29, beginning with verses 18 and 19, where God capsulizes the essence of salvation, “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book (the “sealed” book, the Bible), and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.  The meek also shall increase [their] joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (the Lord Jesus Christ).”

God tells us that He would effectuate His salvation program first, marvelously (from the Hebrew word ‘pala’), by the redemptive action (the work) of the Lord Jesus Christ (as the Passover Lamb at the cross) and then, wondrously (from the related Hebrew word ‘pele,’ identified as a name for Jesus Christ in Isaiah 9:6), by “the opening of the blind eyes” (spiritually speaking) through the pouring out of His Holy Spirit on people from every nation (not just Jews) beginning at Pentecost.  For proof that this is the only correct interpretation, we must first turn to Isaiah 42:6&7 where we read, “I the LORD have called thee (Jesus Christ, as the servant) in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, [and] them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.”  Then in Luke 2:30-32, we read that the devout man Simeon, upon seeing the child Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, declared to God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,  Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;  A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Finally, in Acts 13:38-41, we read that (after Pentecost) while Paul and Barnabas were preaching the gospel of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in Antioch in a Jewish synagogue, they said, “Be it known unto you therefore, men [and] brethren, that through this man (Jesus Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:  And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.  Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;  Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”  Because many of the Jews did not believe, they were rebuked by God as we read in verses 46-48, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you (the Jews): but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.  For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.  And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”  This is the true meaning of a “marvelous work and a wonder”.

                          Summary of Isaiah Chapter 29

In conclusion, we can see that the “sealed book” referred to in Isaiah, chapter 29, is the Word of God, the Bible.  We can see that the “learned one” is anyone who claims to have Biblical authority in his doctrinal pronouncements, but who is really preaching a false gospel because God has blinded him to the truth concerning salvation only through the Lord Jesus Christ.  As for the “marvelous work and a wonder”: it is God’s magnificent salvation program for “the elect of God” who are chosen by God from out of all mankind (not just the Jews).

That salvation program was wrought by God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit which effectively began in earnest about 2000 years ago (but was predetermined from the foundation of the world, and therefore covers the Old Testament believers as well, see Revelation 13:8).

Let us always remember that God is glorified by the Son, Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus whom we should believe in and come to know as our Saviour and Lord.  He is the One we should worship and honor, as saith the scriptures:

John 3:35&36, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

II Peter 1:2&3, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,  According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

II Peter 3:18, “But grow in grace, and [in] the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him [be] glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Finally, I Peter 4:11, “If any man speak, [let him speak] as the oracles of God; if any man minister, [let him do it] as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.

     *  Note the intimacy between Jesus and The everlasting Father that is reiterated later in: John 14:9, “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou [then], Shew us the Father?”  John 10:30, “I and [my] Father are one.” I John 5:7, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.


(This lesson is taken from another longer blog post “Exalting the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ” and is also placed here as a stand-alone study)


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