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Isaiah 30:20 reads, “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers.” To understand this verse we must consider the context of the whole chapter. In short, this chapter can be divided into three parts: 1) God’s judgments upon Israel for turning to Egypt for help against Assyria (verses 1-17); 2) God’s mercy and blessing for Israel when they turn, in repentance and faith, to the Lord (verses 18-26); and 3) God’s judgments upon  the Assyrian (verses 27-33).

Twice in this chapter the Lord refers to His earthly people Israel as “rebellious.” “Woe to the rebellious children” (vs. 1) and “…this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord” (vs. 9) were the Lord’s words of rebuke to His people for refusing to heed His Word and counsel, and for turning to the ungodly nation of Egypt to rescue them from their Assyrian enemy. These words remind us of the very beginning of this book where we read in Isaiah 1:2, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me”.  God had lovingly cared for His people and had given them everything they needed, yet time and time again they responded to His love with disobedience and rebellion.

Even in their rebellion the Lord reached out to them through His prophets seeking to warn them of their folly in turning to Egypt for help, but they would not listen. How solemn and telling is their response to God’s pleading with them in verses 10-11, “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”

Because of their refusal to listen and to be taught of God through His prophets, God had to give them “the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction.” In love for His people God would seek to teach them through adversity and affliction. We read in Hebrews 12:6, “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” The word “chasteneth” implies “instruction” and thus we learn that God may have to use hard circumstances to “teach” His people the folly of their ways and to return to Him for help and blessing.  King David expressed this truth in the following verses, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy word…It is good for me that I have been afflicted: that I might learn thy statutes…I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (Psalm 119:67, 71, 75).

The Lord patiently waits for His people to respond to His chastening Hand and is ever ready to have mercy on them if they will repent. So we read in verse 18, “And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you…” He goes on to promise Israel that after they repent He will bless them with an eternal dwelling place in verse 19, “For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shall weep no more: He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when He shall hear it, He will answer thee.”  He also promises them in the second half of verse 20, “…yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers.” This is admittedly difficult, but I believe it simply means that the Lord will no longer have to teach them through His providential ways (through the hidden teachers of adversity and affliction), but will raise up men before their very eyes who shall instruct them in the ways of the Lord. Verse 21 goes on to say, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

It is sad when we realize that these promises have never reached their fulfillment. Israel remains a “rebellious people” and until they turn to the Lord in heartfelt repentance and faith, they will remain under the hidden teachers of adversity and affliction. In fact, the most terrible time of testing is coming for the nation of Israel, a time referred to as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jeremiah 30:7. The Lord Jesus spoke of this time in these solemn words in Matthew 24:21-22, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”  God will use this time of tribulation to work in the hearts of His people and a remnant will indeed repent and turn to the Lord. He will then replace the “hidden teachers of adversity and affliction” with godly teachers who will instruct the faithful in the ways of the Lord. Daniel referred to this time of tribulation and to these God-given teachers in Daniel 12:1, 3, “…and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time Thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book…And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

This will culminate with the return of the Lord to this earth to set up His kingdom. He will save Israel at that time from all their enemies as we find in Romans 11: 26, and bring in the fulfillment of Isaiah 30:18-26. Israel will be blessed beyond measure, without ever having to experience the hidden teachers of adversity and affliction again. At that time they will not only have God-given men as teachers before their eyes, they will have the Lord Himself teaching them!  Isaiah 2:3 says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go up and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”  (123.5)  (DO)