A Cornerstone in Zion
Isaiah 28 is a passage that finds itself repeated in several places in the New Testament, which speaks to its christological content and prophetic importance. Isaiah 28:1-4, 7-8 show how out of touch with God and His word the rulers and priests had become, graphically describing their drunken behavior, which was probably literal but also served to illustrate their indifference to the things of God. Their situation was dire.
So what will God do with them? He will have to teach them. But how? As one does a small child: “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little,” repeated over again (10, 13). But Isaiah announces the judgment. Even though the people hear such simple instruction in God’s word, they still fall backward and are broken, ensnared and taken.
This leads us directly to God’s ultimate judgment upon His people, the judgment that actually saves them. Because they would not listen, because their hearts are hardened by sin (as every heart is and must be apart from Christ), God lays another foundation. Isaiah describes the people of his day: scoffers who have made a covenant with death, who have made lies their refuge and refuse to believe that the scourge will come upon them. For these he has laid as a foundation in Zion (no longer the earthly Jerusalem but the heavenly) “a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation.” The Apostle Peter refers to this stone upon which the Lord builds his church into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-8), and the Apostle Paul explicitly identifies this cornerstone as Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20).
It is the new covenant with God through Christ that annuls the covenant with death and hell which we have made for ourselves. But it is God’s covenant through Christ that people reject (Romans 9-10; 1 Peter 2:4-8). There they speak specifically of the Jews but the same may be said of any unbeliever. The Lord Jesus lamented over Jerusalem of his day, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not” (Luke 13:34)! “Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). But God’s people are always a remnant in the Bible. This is why 28:5-6 stick out in the middle of the chapter like a precious rose. “In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people.”