DESTINY’S CHILDREN Isaiah 2–6
“The Law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).All too often we sense a great gap between what is and what should be. In these opening chapters, Isaiah reminded his hearers and us that what God intends ultimately will be.
Isaiah stated God’s intention for Jerusalem (2:1–5), then pronounced judgment on its inhabitants for failing to walk in His light (v. 6–4:1). Despite the failure of God’s people, the Lord will make Jerusalem holy (vv. 2–6). Isaiah defined Judah’s sin in his “song of the vineyard” (5:1–7) and announced judgment as a series of woes (vv. 8–30). The section ends with a Isaiah’s call to serve as a prophet (6:1–13).
Understanding the Text
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord” Isa. 2:1–5. Isaiah shared a vision of the ideal. God intended Jerusalem to be glorious: a beacon, calling all nations to Him and His Law. If only the nations would turn to the Lord and His Law, God would bring peace to the world. This thought is expressed in one of the most famous of Old Testament images: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” In Isaiah’s day the ideal had not been realized. International conditions were grim, and Judah was threatened by powerful enemies. Yet Isaiah cried, “Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” That is, let us live as though the ideal were present now! God calls you and me to live in exactly this same way. The kingdom of God hasn’t yet been established on earth. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is often perverted by the world to, “Do unto others before they can do unto you!” Yet we who know Jesus as Saviour are to live now as if God’s kingdom were firmly in place. We are to ignore the “realities” that drive others to compromise with God’s will, and to “walk in the light of the Lord.” “Their land is full of idols” Isa. 2:6–4:1. Having described God’s ideal for the Holy City and its people, Isaiah went on to describe the reality. Rather than walking in the light of the Lord, the people of Judah had embraced the ways of the pagans they were called to influence! They had arrogantly adopted pagan superstitions (2:6), materialism (v. 7a), confidence in military might (v. 7b), even idolatry (v. 8). Isaiah now warned his fellow countrymen. God would act to judge this arrogant people: they will be “brought low” (vv. 10–22). (See DEVOTIONAL.) In that day everything would fall apart: there would be anarchy within a nation desperate for leadership and stability (3:1–12). Two groups were singled out: the elders and leaders of Judah, and the “women of Zion.” The thought seems to be that the women’s passion for wealth and luxury was a driving force in the corruption of the society. When judgment came these women would lose everything, including any hope of marriage, due to the death of so many of Judah’s men. The passage reminds us that no people who refuse to walk in the light of the Lord can prosper. But there is a special word to individuals, in verse 10. God told Isaiah, “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.” Whatever happens to our society, you and I need not despair. Our calling is to live righteous lives, and expect God to care for us whatever may come. “Those who are left” Isa. 4:2–6. God’s ideal surely will be achieved. This is the thought with which Isaiah closed his lengthy sermon. After judgment has removed sinners and purified survivors, a cleansed and holy Jerusalem will serve as a shelter and shade for humanity. But this will only be accomplished by the appearance of a person called “the Branch of the Lord.” This term, “branch,” is a frequent title of the Messiah, who is to come from David’s family line and to accomplish the ultimate deliverance of the Jews and all humankind. Again Isaiah’s words serve as a reminder to us. God’s ideal is more than we can accomplish in our own strength. But God Himself has acted in Christ to make it possible for you and me to walk in the light of the Lord. We are His new creation. All we can do is to honor the Lord by living righteous lives, however dark the ways of this present world. The low vines of Palestine’s grapes produced a crop associated in the Old Testament with joy and fulfillment. In one of Scripture’s most powerful images Judah is likened to a vineyard, planned and planted by God, intended to bear fruit that would gladden the Lord’s heart (5:1–7). But instead of the justice and righteousness God sought, His vineyard, Judah, produced injustice and bloodshed. “Woe to you” Isa. 5:8–30. A “woe” is an exclamation, a cry of grief or anguish, that is typically associated with divine judgment. This series of woes is announced for specific sins that are particularly grievous. These are: (1) creating large personal estates at the expense of poorer landholders (vv. 8–10); (2) hedonistic living that shows “no regard for the deeds of the Lord” (vv. 11–17); (3) making evil a life’s work and scoffing at divine judgment (vv. 18–19); (4) calling evil good and good evil (v. 20); (5) relying on one’s own counsel rather than revelation (v. 21); (6) failing to take governmental responsibilities soberly (vv. 22–23). God’s judgment will surely fall on such a people, for each action described shows that “they have rejected the Law of the Lord Almighty, and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.” These woes can be summed up by noting that the sins condemned involve a reconstitution of society. A desire for wealth and personal pleasure is expressed in societal values that replace the values revealed by God. The good traditional values are replaced by evil new values, and scoffed at by those who are wise in their own eyes. Even those who administer the nation’s laws accept the new values, and so “acquit the guilty for a bribe.” It may be hard to live by God’s values in our own society. But it was hard in Bible times too! Only a firm commitment to God and His ways can guard us against evil influences that press in on every side. “I saw the Lord” Isa. 6:1–8. Scholars debate whether this chapter belongs with 2–5 or with 7–12. It seems best to place it here. Isaiah had bluntly warned Judah of impending judgment. The story of his call by God is included to prove his words are authoritative. Isaiah’s account emphasized the holiness of God (vv. 1–4), the prophet’s awareness of his own sinfulness (v. 5), his cleansing (vv. 6–8), and his subsequent willingness to serve as God’s messenger (v. 8). In a sense Isaiah’s call reflects our own experience. When you and I are forgiven, we too become responsible to serve as God’s messengers to others in our society. “How long?” Isa. 6:9–13 Isaiah’s task was to communicate his message of judgment until it was fulfilled, and the doom he pronounced came. You and I are also to communicate our message until God’s words are fulfilled. But the message we carry is the good news of salvation! Let’s not become discouraged if others do not respond immediately. Let’s keep on sharing, until the Gospel bears its fruit.
Arrogance Brought Low (Isa. 2)
It’s surprising how extensive the Old Testament’s vocabulary of “arrogance” is. One Hebrew root, zid, pictures a self-important pride that leads to acts of rebellion. Another root, ga˒ah, implies overwhelming self-confidence linked with insensitivity to others. A third, gabah, suggests a sense of self-importance. What’s wrong with being proud? Well, nothing. As long as our pride is simple satisfaction in our accomplishments, or honesty about our strengths and abilities. But pride becomes arrogance when it grows beyond simple satisfaction to become a self-important disdain for others, or a bloated self-confidence that makes us feel we can step outside the moral rules that govern others and get away with it. In fact, the feeling that we can “get away with” something that “other people” can’t, lies at the heart of arrogance. The stockbroker who makes money with insider information, the adult who takes one more drink before driving, the teen who thinks that just trying crack or sex can’t hurt, all fall into the category of the arrogant. And, in Isaiah’s words, “The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low” by God (vv. 11, 17). What’s the antidote to arrogance? The same verses have the answer: “The Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” We exalt the Lord when we accept our place as creatures who are totally dependent on His goodness and His grace. We exalt the Lord when we keep His commands, not just out of love but out of a conviction that God is wiser than we are. We exalt the Lord when we honor others as persons of worth and value because they too are His creatures and objects of His love. We exalt the Lord when we find joy in our accomplishments, and thank Him for the gifts that made them possible. When you and I live humbly, exalting God rather than ourselves, we avoid the judgment earned by the arrogant.
With God in first place, we will never be in last!