In Isaiah 29, God is addressing Israel. God had made a covenant with Israel and had promised to specially watch over them. (See Deuteronomy 28.) However, if they did not obey the LORD, God would discipline the nation in order to bring them back to Himself. In Isaiah 29, God tells Israel He is going to chastise them. The people had valued their own traditions over the teachings of the Word of God (the sealed book); therefore, He would take away their ability to understand it. (verses 10-12) Their reverence of God had become merely “lip service” verse 13. They did not allow God’s instruction to change their hearts. They had forgotten Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”.
Jesus quoted from Isaiah 29:13 when speaking to the Pharisees. Matthew 15:7-9 (NIV), “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” He added that they were blind guides of the blind. Isaiah 29:9 says “…blind yourselves and be blind”.
In Isaiah 29:14, God warns He will do a “marvelous (or extraordinary) work and a wonder.” Marvelous is the Hebrew word, ‘pala’. It may refer to something positive or negative. It is used negatively in Deuteronomy 28:59, “Then the LORD will bring ‘extraordinary’ (pala) plagues on you and your descendants”.
Returning to Isaiah 29:14, the LORD is saying He will punish Israel with an extraordinary work – a loss of understanding and wisdom. (Similarly, a wonder is can be used in either a positive or negative sense. For example, Israel’s Babylonian captivity is described as ‘wonderful’ in Lamentations 1:9.)
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:19 quoted the second half of verse 14: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent”. Paul was preaching Christ. To the Jew, Christ became a stumbling block. (Verse 23) Because of Israel’s blindness, the nation lost the chief prize: “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:14.
But Paul also tells us in Romans 11:2 (NIV) that “God has not rejected His people.” During our Lord’s earthly reign, “all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” Romans 11:26.
The 29th chapter of Isaiah ends with the blessings that come after the chastisement. Verses 17-24 bring hope. It is a time when Abraham and Jacob are brought back in God’s kingdom on earth. God’s spirit will be poured forth. (Isaiah 32:15) Justice and righteousness will prevail. The deaf will hear the words of the book and those who had been blinded will see again. All will be taught the truth. Israel and the whole world will stand in awe of God and His marvelous works!