Verse 9: What does “be brought low” and “humbled” refer to if it was not true that the issue was pride? The text has discussed rebellion, sin, and meaningless worship, but we find that the issue now before us is pride. I don’t think it’s so much that they thought much of themselves, but instead that they stopped referencing God.
It’s hard to hear God’s voice. Prayers often go unanswered. God doesn’t give the kind of clear guidance I would appreciate. Often I feel like I’m on my own, that I have to make my own decisions, and work things out myself. I do often have to do that, because I don’t hear his voice and I can’t tell he’s there. But the minute I do that on my own, instead of praying to him about it anyway, then I have leaned towards independence and self-dependence, and that is the sin of pride. The disease of self runs through my blood; it’s a cancer fatal to my soul. Even when I can’t tell he’s there, I need to act, in faith, as if he is. Even though I don’t hear his voice, I need to pray and talk to him anyway. Even though I sense no guidance, I must still always use God as my reference point, meditating on his word and understanding by faith that he is intricately and passionately involved in my life. When I stop doing that, I am guilty of pride, not because I’m puffed up, but because I am treating myself as the reference point, making decisions and setting my course.
It’s easy to do. The struggle to keep God in the center of my mind and as my reference point is a continual, internal spiritual battle that I, and therefore God, must win.
V. 10: So he’s warning them, because whenever self is one’s reference point rather than God, it is sin and disobedience, as well as downright stupid, but it’s easy to do since we can’t see God or hear him. Eventually, all will collapse, because the self is inadequate as a reference point. I don’t know the technical name of this literary technique, but he’s using an absurdity to make his point. It’s impossible to hide from the wrath of God, and so going into the rocks and hiding in the ground is a totally worthless strategy. It won’t do you a bit of good to hide from him, because he’ll always know where you are and he’ll be able to get you.
Isaiah is trying to show us the sheer desperation of the people to escape the wrath of God. They will follow normal human tendencies—run away and hide, and think that they can escape that way. It will, after all, be their only recourse, as foolish as it will ultimately turn out to be. One foolishness leads to another, I guess.
More v. 10: But it’s interesting what they will fear: the beauty and light of his majestic holiness. Exodus 15.11: “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” And what were the “wonders” the Lord had wrought in Exodus that Moses is referring to? Ten plagues, murder of the firstborn, and the decimation of the Egyptian army. When the Lord showed up in the presence of a person with any kind of glory, they fell on their faces in abject fear—and that was a stepped down version of his ultimate glory. Who can stand before his awesome glory and the splendor of his holiness? Only those clothed in the righteousness of his Son.