Isaiah 29:9
Stop and be astonished; blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not with wine; stagger, but not from strong drink.
Concerning ArielE. Johnson Isaiah 29:1-12
Drunken, But not with WineJ. J. Ingram.Isaiah 29:9-12
IntoxicationJ. J. Ingram.Isaiah 29:9-12
Judicial BlindnessH. Melvill, B. D.Isaiah 29:9-12
Spiritual DrunkennessJ. A. Alexander.Isaiah 29:9-12
Spiritual Drunkenness Worse than Bodily, and More PrevaleR. Paisley.Isaiah 29:9-12
Spiritual IncapacityW. Clarkson Isaiah 29:9-12
The Spirit of a Deep SleepJ. H. Jowett, M. A.Isaiah 29:9-12

Our powers, as men and women, are limited enough; and it may well be that those of God's children who move in wider spheres and are endowed with greater capacities look down in wonder, if not with amusement, on our large pretensions. Yet we talk freely of the incapable, the feeble, the helpless, as if we ourselves were strong. There are various degrees of power and weakness among us, but the most important belong to that kind of incapacity to which the text refers.

I. ITS DOMAIN. The prophet treats of spiritual helplessness. We see and lament physical incapacity in the shape of blindness, deafness, paralysis, etc. We also have to treat mental incapacity in the form of intellectual feebleness, decline, imbecility, insanity. But by far the saddest sight in the view of God is spiritual incapacity - that moral condition in which the soul has lost its native powers, is destitute of those acquirements which would enable it to stand side by side with the holiest of the heavenly world, lacks the wisdom by which it might defend itself against its adversaries, and is therefore the prey of the worst evils, forfeits its birthright, and moves towards its doom. This incapacity affects the soul in all its higher and more serious relations - in its relation to God, to those to whom it is under obligation, to its own character.


1. Blindness. "The spirit of deep sloop" the closing or covering of the eyes (ver. 10). The last, or nearly the last, effect of sin is to take away the faculty of spiritual insight; so that a man cannot see those things which a human soul ought to recognize at once, the recognition of which is indispensable to its very life; viz. the presence, the claims, the power of God; the excellency of his service; the unworthiness and insufficiency of sensual gratifications and worldly ambitions; the deathfulness of sin, etc. But to the spiritually incapable these things are as if they were not. Such souls are as unconscious of these realities as is a man in a deep sleep, or as is one whose eyes are covered, of the objects which are before him.

2. Error. "They stagger, but not with strong drink" (ver. 9). As a man under the influence of stimulants cannot "walk straight," but staggers from side to side or wanders out of his way altogether, so men who are robbed of their rightful powers by sin fail to walk straight on in the path of rectitude: they deviate into

(1) false notions about God and man, about life and destiny; and into

(2) evil habits, into sad departures from purity, from uprightness, from truth, from wisdom.


1. It extends to the highest, - he has covered the eyes of "your rulers" (ver. 10); to those who lead and who, being blind themselves, will certainly mislead (Matthew 15:14); to those whose social influence is strong and, in ibis ease, most pernicious.

2. It includes the specialists - the privileged, those who profess to have peculiar access to truth: "The seers hath he covered." Woe to the land, to the Church, whose religious teachers are unable to see the directing finger of God, and are giving way to dreams of their own imagination!

3. It embraces those instructed in oilier thin, is. It is not only the unlearned that cannot read at all, but the learned men also, who are blind to the truths of God (vers. 11, 12). Here, in nature, in providence, in Scripture is a glorious, three-volumed work, the full work of God; here are sacred truths which enlarge the mind and elevate the soul, which beautify and ennoble life, prepare for death, and fit for immortal blessedness. But, with powers diminished, depraved, or destroyed by sin, they who can learn other lessons and read other secrets are as undiscerning as the most illiterate boor in presence of a language of which he does not know the alphabet, as helpless as the finished scholar in presence of a roll the seal of which he cannot break!

IV. ITS EXPLANATION. How can we account for this depravation of man's spiritual powers? It is the fitting penalty of sin; it comes in the righteous judgments of God: "The Lord hath poured out upon you," etc. (ver. 10). It is the retribution attached to a guilty non-use or misuse of spiritual faculty; it is a "woe" that is always working: "From him that hath not - does not use, or abuses his talents - shall be taken away even that which he hath" (Matthew 25:29). - C.

Stay yourselves, and wonder, they are drunken, but not with wine.
By spiritual drunkenness (ver. 9) we are probably to understand unsteadiness of conduct and a want of spiritual discernment.

(J. A. Alexander.)

nt: — Drunkenness in itself is a horrible vice, and it is the mother of innumerable more. But besides this there is a spiritual drunkenness.

I. This worse drunkenness, says the text, is SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS, SPIRITUAL INSENSIBILITY, OR INSANITY. In this respect it resembles the other drunkenness. The man who is drunk has eyes, but he cannot see; ears, but he cannot hear; a heart that has not ceased to beat, but he cannot understand. He mistakes one person and thing fur another. So it is with the spiritual sort in regard to the spiritual world. Look at a few of the varieties. Drunkenness —

1. From ignorance of the truth.

2. From perversion or profanation of the truth.

3. From rejection of the truth.


1. In regard to the drunkard's intelligence or powers of perception.

2. In regard to the drunkard's life, affections, passions, habits.

3. In regard to the drunkard's state before God, the salvation of soul and body. What shall we say, if we discover the terrific truth?(1) That the spiritual is more besotting and blinding to the spirit.(2) That it is more maddening and brutalising to the drunkard's life. What crime will the drunkard not perpetrate? But what is the life of the spiritual drunkard who goes on in his wickedness? One lifelong defiance of God.(3) That it is a drunkenness still more infernal, more devilish, and more deadly to both soul and body.

(R. Paisley.)

The Jews are represented as given over by God to a judicial blindness. Now, we regard it as a fixed principle in the interpretation of Scripture that God never does more than leave men to themselves; doing nothing directly to harden them in wickedness, or to place them out of the reach of forgiveness.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Are there, then, other forms of insobriety and resultant demoralisation distinct from that of the familiar cup? The phrases which suggest this abnormal state are continually in our mouths. Thus, we speak of people being intoxicated with delight, with fanaticism, with political excitement, or with the spirit of gambling. Wendell Holmes speaks of people who become intoxicated with music, with poetry, with love, with religious enthusiasm. He remarks how convalescents are sometimes made tipsy by a beef steak. It is said of one that he was too intoxicated with certain good news to be able to imbibe anything else. Indeed, it is told of certain company that it was so intoxicating that some of the circle were compelled to drink to keep themselves sober.

(J. J. Ingram.)

What are the main characteristics of intoxication? The drunken man is one who has lost his power of self-control, one to whose eye and thought the proportions and relationships of life have become disordered, one whose vigour, both physically and mentally, has become enfeebled and inefficient. He is a man who for the time being loses his true relation to the things of outer life. He is abnormal. His appetites are deranged, his engrossments disproportionate, his views beclouded or oblique.

(J. J. Ingram.)

For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep.
"The Lord hath poured out," etc. That is an appalling judgment. What have been the steps which have led up to so terrible a consummation? Men do not lose their moral sensitiveness by a stroke; it is the ultimate issue of a process. Drowsiness precedes sleep; the twilight ushers in the night. We do not reach moral abysses by a precipice; we reach them by a gradient. We do not drop into bondage; we walk into it.

1. Here are the men of my text; what was the first step in the degradation? We have it clearly indicated in the thirteenth verse. If we take the thirteenth verse, and place it before verse 9, we have unfolded before us the process of degeneracy, which is re-enacted in multitudes of lives in every succeeding age. The first step towards moral benumbment is the evisceration of religious worship. Take the heart out of worship, and you will take the life out of morals. "And their fear of Me is a commandment of men which has been taught them." What does that mean? The man-made has supplanted the God-born. And what does that further mean but the intrusion of the casuist into religion? The casuist is he who turns a shining principle into a dull maxim, who makes breaches and loopholes of escape in the great moral law, who changes the searching inwardness of religion into an easy external ordinance, who removes the fearful sense of the eternal, and makes us feel perilously at home in the small demands of his own commandments.

2. Now let us mark the progress of the degeneracy. Religious formalism issues in moral laxity. Note the analysis of the process which is given in the ninth verse. First there is dimness of moral vision. "Tarry ye and wonder." The figure is that of a man who pulls himself up in bewilderment. He does not remember quite clearly whether this is the way, or whether he should take the next turning. Moral law does not stand out in clear bold relief. His conscience does not act readily. There is hesitancy. He "tarries"! There is confusion He "wonders"! "Take your pleasure and be blind." With dimness there comes wilfulness. The little truth they saw they resented. The people liked the restfulness of the dulness. There was nothing searching or self-revealing in the adulterated light. They preferred the twilight in which they can partially hide. Let us go on with the analysis. Moral dimness; moral wilfulness; what is the next step in the degeneracy? Moral stupor. "They are drunk, but not with wine. They stagger, but not with strong drink."

3. Now let us proceed to the third step in the appalling gradient. When a man has eviscerated his religion, changing its inwardness to a thin superficialness, and from this proceeds to moral laxity, I am told by the words of my text that by a judicial act of God his stupor becomes fixed. If a man will not, he shall not! Ye have taken the cup of wilfulness, and drugged yourselves into sin, and "the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep."

4. What is the next step in the awful gradient? "And all vision is become to you as a book that is sealed." The great writings of the great books have no illuminating message. The books are sealed! What books? There is the book of conscience. "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it." That book is sealed. There is the book of experience, the teachings of yesterday, the witness of history. "Ask now of the days that are past." That book is sealed. There is the book of nature. The book of nature began to be read by William Wordsworth when the atmosphere of English life had been warmed by the evangelical revival. When the evangelical is dead nature's inner significance is concealed. Let us therefore watch, with intensest vigilance, against the intrusion of all insincerity into our worship.

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

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