From Sincere Milk to Sporadic Morsels of the Word

Isaiah 28v9-13

“To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people, to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (ESV)

We see the people of God turning away from the sincere milk of the Word and in response He dispense His Word through the mouths of strangers who give them sporadic morsels.

The Bible forms a whole and is its own best interpreter. How to apply the principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture is a matter of believing the Truth. We must understand what Isaiah says in this passage. Isaiah addresses Israel’s moral and spiritual decay. He calls for the leaders’ repentance.

He describes the northern kingdom as a baby who no longer like the milk of God’s Word, weaned from prayer and the fellowship of the saints – turning to people who preach what their itching ears want to hear. The people of strange tongue was the Assyrians who would lead them into captivity.

They have become so deaf to God that He delivers His Word to them in morsels from the mouths of heathen. The repetition of “line upon line” and “precept upon precept” is not from synthesis of the Word and sound understanding. This resulted in their invasion and eventual captivity.

Let’s look deeper at the problem:

  1. Their Rejection of the Word
    a) Its completeness emphasizes God’s dissatisfaction.
    b) Its cause – they were taken from the milk, removed from the breast, caused by:
       (i) Idolatry.
      (ii) Social injustice and exploitation.
     (iii) Corruption and unfaithfulness.
     (iv) Rejection of the Covenant.

  2. Their Receiving of Sporadic Morsels
    a) Spoken in strands – line upon line and precept upon precept.
    b) Spoken by strangers, who would eventually take them into captivity.
    c) Spoken in specifics – God invited them to rest, but they rejected the old paths (Jer. 6:16; Mat. 11:28).
    d) Spoken to snare them, not to save them – so that they may go and fall backward and be broken. The captivity of the northern kingdom had a profound effect on their progeny, later to be known as “the lost ten tribes of Israel” – lost!
    The southern kingdom later faced its own exile at the hand of the Babylonians. The Assyrian captivity serves as a significant event in Biblical history, illustrating the consequences of rejecting the sincere milk of God’s Word.  

In this passage Isaiah is not teaching us how to interpret Scripture. He is warning us against the grave consequences of rejecting God’s Word.  

The repetitive phrases underscore the specificity and emphasis of God’s teachings delivered in fragments. These morsels don’t serve as a pathway to Truth, but as a snare resulting in the people’s downfall and captivity. In contemporary Christianity there’s also a risk of neglecting the sincere milk of God’s Word in favour of adopting truths from secular ideologies, cultural norms, and worldly philosophies. That tendency mirrors the metaphorical turning away from God’s Word.

How can we do that? Instead of heeding the complete teachings of Scripture, some Christians might cherry-pick ideologies or values that align with prevailing cultural trends. A rejection of foundational Biblical principles in favour of secular philosophies can lead to moral decay and spiritual confusion akin to the consequences faced by the northern kingdom and receiving morsels from worldly sources.  Christians who turn away from the fullness of God’s Word risk receiving fragmented distorted truths from secular sources, often resembling a little of what God has to say, just to make them feel at home in their delusion.

The repetition of “precept upon precept” and “line upon line” represents the fragmented and often contradictory nature of worldly wisdom, lacking the coherence found in God’s complete Word. We can become captive to worldly thinking. My observation is that we are seeing that with our own eyes!

Just as the northern kingdom faced captivity due to their rejection of God’s guidance, if as Christians we embrace worldly ideologies, we risk becoming captive to the values and mindset of the world and becoming like the lost ten tribes.  This metaphorical captivity may manifest in compromised moral standards, diluted faith, and loss of distinctiveness in living out Biblical principles in God’s world as His people.

There’s a need for true rest and redemption, a call to find rest for our souls as mentioned in Jeremiah 6 and Matthew 11, which emphasise the importance of returning to God’s Word for guidance and transformation, which comes from embracing the sincere milk of God’s Word and allowing it to shape our lives and even our cultural practices.

We are called to reflection on the completeness of our acceptance or rejection of God’s Word and to receive that sincere milk from the heart of God Himself, rather than settling for sporadic morsels from the mouths of strangers that lead us to spiritual captivity. Love His Word like babies – drink it in, suckle on it, taste it – let it fill, nourish, and change you, our congregation, denomination, our nation and communities to the glory of the God Who speaks to us salvation and eternal rest.