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6-18

“Stammering Lips and Another Language”

He speaks to this people with stammering lips and another tongue,

to whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which you will cause the weary one to rest,’

and, ‘this is the refreshing.’ Yet, they would not listen.

Isaiah 28:11-12

From the Lessons from Isaiah series

God’s prophets understood that no foreign nation could conquer Israel unless God gave those foreign nations the power to do it. But God repeatedly did chasten Israel by giving foreign nations power to subdue them, and God’s prophets always knew that, too. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and every other true prophet who lived during a time when Israel was attacked from beyond its borders warned Israel that those foreign soldiers were God’s messengers and that they were not to be resisted. For advocating surrender to the chastening hand of God, some of God’s prophets were executed. The ones who escaped death suffered great persecution.

The heathen armies God used to chasten His people did not know that they were being used by God to rescue the righteous poor in Israel from their oppressors. Nor did they understand that God was also using them to bring rest to the land, for after Israel was given the promised land of Canaan, they never obeyed the law of Moses as they should have. Moses’ law demanded that the land itself be given a sabbath every seven years, and every fiftieth year, but hardly any in Israel had the faith to refrain from plowing the land during those times. Therefore, the land was pushed hard for personal gain, just as the common people in Israel were abused by the rich and powerful. By God’s design, when foreign conquerors took captives from Israel, they desired most of all the rulers, the upper class, the highly educated, the craftsmen, and the scholars — the very ones who oppressed both the land and the poor for their own gain.

At the end of 2Chronicles, Jerusalem lay desolate and all those of any rank or highly trained in any skill had been carried away into captivity in Babylon. In his description of events, the writer reminds us that God had foretold that this Babylonian captivity would last for seventy years, and that God would do this “in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths, for as long as she lay desolate she kept the sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years.” God sent the vast majority of the Israelites away so that the land could at long last rest, as well as to give the poor of the land rest from the oppression of greedy rulers.

The foreigners whom God sent to invade Israel spoke languages that were foreign to the Israelites, and that is what God was referring to when He said through Isaiah, “He speaks to this people with stammering lips and another tongue.” When Israel heard the words of the Assyrian soldiers, or the Babylonian soldiers, they could not understand what was being said. But it was God speaking to them! He Himself said so. And the consistent message of God’s prophets was that the sound of a language that God’s people could not understand was a warning sign that God was bringing rest to those few who truly loved Him: “to whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which you will cause the weary one to rest,’and, ‘this is the refreshing.’ ” But Israel, in the main, refused to believe the prophets who spoke the truth, as God said: “Yet, they would not listen.”

Paul said that Isaiah’s prophecy of “stammering lips and another tongue” was fulfilled on Pentecost morning when the baptism of the holy Spirit came and God’s chosen few in Israel began to speak in tongues. He told the saints in Corinth that “tongues are for a sign to those who do not believe” (1Cor. 14:22). But for the most part, those who do not believe will not heed the warning. On the other hand, Jesus told his disciples that “speaking in new tongues” is one of the signs that “follow” believers (Mk. 16:17). In other words, the sign of speaking in tongues comes through those who truly believe. So, Paul and Jesus make it clear what our two choices are.

Either you do not believe God and the signs that He gives, or you believe God and are used by Him to produce that chosen sign as a warning to those who do not believe. Which side are you on? Are you among the many who see speaking in tongues as foreign and confusing, an intrusion into your land, something suspicious to be condemned and resisted? Or are you one of the chosen who believe and receive the gift of God, and who are then used by God to produce the warning sound to those who are lost?