God saves Jerusalem (29:1-24)
Isaiah then presents a frightening picture of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (called ‘Ariel’ in RSV and NIV, and ‘God’s altar’ in GNB). The people think that their city is safe and that the cycle of annual festivals will go on indefinitely. Suddenly, they find their lives threatened by a terrible siege. Throughout the city people are distressed and humiliated, as the doomed city cries out to God, as it were, from the grave (29:1-4).
The enemy armies think their conquest of Jerusalem is certain, when unexpectedly God intervenes and miraculously saves the city. The enemy’s disappointment is like that of a distressed person who has a pleasant dream, then awakes only to find it is not true (5-8; 2 Kings 19:35).
As usual the people of Judah do not respond to Isaiah’s prophecy. They are morally dull and spiritually blind, and seem to have no ability at all to understand God’s message. It is to them like a book that remains closed (9-12). They carry out the religious traditions, but they know nothing of God and are not even interested in him. They are fit only for God’s judgment (13-14).
In planning alliances without thought for God, the people of Judah are deliberately ignoring the God who created them (15-16). God can do more for them than they can ask or think. He has planned a great future for Judah, where those who humbly trust in him will find complete satisfaction and contentment (17-19). However, those who are cruel, dishonest, selfish and unbelieving will have no share in this future, because God will first remove them in judgment (20-21).
When sin is removed there will be no more cause for shame. God’s people will truly belong to him, and will have a genuine desire to understand his character and to walk in his ways (22-24).