Isaiah 29:13
(13) Wherefore the Lord said . . .--We pass from the effect to the cause. The blind stupor was the outcome of a long hypocrisy. Lip-homage and an estranged heart had been the notes of the religious life of Israel, and they could bear no other fruit.

Their fear toward me . . .--The words point to what we may call an anticipated Pharisaism. Side by side with the great commandments of the Law and with the incisive teaching of the prophets there was growing up even then a traditional system of ethics and religion, based upon wrong principles, ending in a dishonest casuistry and a formal devotion. Commentaries even then were darkening counsel by words without knowledge, as they did in the Mishna and the Gemara of the later days of Judaism (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:6).

Verse 13. - Wherefore the Lord said; rather, moreover the Lord said. This people draw near me with their mouth. Samaria had been punished for open idolatry and flagrant neglect of Jehovah (2 Kings 17:7-17). Jerusalem had not gone these lengths. She still, in profession, clung to the worship of Jehovah, and had even recently accepted a purification of religion at the hand of Hezekiah, who had "removed the high places," and cut down the groves, and broken in pieces the brazen serpent," because the people burnt incense to it (2 Kings 18:4). But her religion was a mere lip-service, which God detested - it was outward, formal, hypocritical (comp. Isaiah 1:11-17). Jerusalem, therefore, no less than Samaria, deserved and would receive a severe chastisement. But have removed their heart far from me. Here lies the gist of the charge. It was not that there was too much outward religion, but that there was no inward religion corresponding to it. Lip-service without inward religion is a mockery, though it is not always felt as such. Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men. Mr. Cheyne conjectures that ritual books had been already published by the authority of the priests, and that these were followed, on account of the human authority which had issued them, without any reference to the Law. Thus ritual obedience became mere obedience to "the precept of men."

29:9-16 The security of sinners in sinful ways, is cause for lamentation and wonder. The learned men, through prejudice, said that the Divine prophecies were obscure; and the poor urged their want of learning. The Bible is a sealed book to every man, learned or unlearned, till he begins to study it with a simple heart and a teachable spirit, that he may thence learn the truth and the will of God. To worship God, is to approach him. And if the heart be full of his love and fear, out of the abundance of it the mouth will speak; but there are many whose religion is lip-labour only. When they pretend to be speaking to God, they are thinking of a thousand foolish things. They worship the God of Israel according to their own devices. Numbers are only formal in worship. And their religion is only to comply with custom, and to serve their own interest. But the wanderings of mind, and defects in devotion, which are the believer's burden, are very different from the withdrawing of the heart from God, so severely blamed. And those who make religion no more than a pretence, to serve a turn, deceive themselves. And as those that quarrel with God, so those that think to conceal themselves from him, in effect charge him with folly. But all their perverse conduct shall be entirely done away.Wherefore the Lord said,.... Concerning the hypocritical people of the Jews in Christ's time, as the words are applied by our Lord himself, Matthew 15:7,

Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me; Kimchi observes, there is a double reading of the word rendered "draw near": in one reading of it, it signifies to be "afflicted"; and then the sense is, "when this people are afflicted, with their mouth, and with their lips, they honour me"; that is, when they are in distress, they pray unto him, and profess a great regard for him, speak honourably of him, and reverently to him, hoping he will help and relieve them; see Isaiah 26:16 but the other reading of the word, in which it has the signification of "drawing near", is confirmed, not only by the Masora on the text, but by the citation of it in Matthew 15:7 and designs the approach of these people to God, in acts of religion and devotion, in praying to him, and praising of him, and expressing great love and affection for him, and zeal for his cause and interest; but were all outwardly, with their lips and mouths only:

but have removed their heart far from me; these were not employed in his service, which is the main thing he requires and regards, but were engaged elsewhere; while their bodies were presented before him, and their mouths and lips were moving to him, their affections were not set upon him, nor the desires of their souls unto him, nor had they any real hearty concern for his glory:

and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men; their worship of God was not according to the prescription of God, and his revealed will; but according to the traditions of the elders, which they preferred to the word of God, and, by observing them, transgressed it, and made it of no effect; see Matthew 15:3.

Isaiah 29:12
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