RUIN TO RESURRECTION Isaiah 24–27
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples” (Isa. 25:6).The judgment of God on sin is part of His plan for the redemption of humanity. When sin is punished and the wicked wiped out, salvation will come and “the earth will give birth to her dead.”
Some feel uncomfortable with the notion of divine judgment. Isaiah, however, was completely comfortable. In these chapters, which all commentators see as a unit, Isaiah examined the relationship of history, divine judgment, and God’s ultimate intentions for humanity. The message of the passage is, first, that the disasters that overtake men and nations demonstrate God’s determination to punish sin. But second, no human failure will prevent God from shaping the righteous society that His holiness demands. The God who judges sin and forgives those who trust Him will create a just moral society at history’s end.
Isaiah predicted devastating judgments (24:1–23) which would bring about the triumph of God (25:1–12). For the righteous, God’s triumph promises a resurrection (26:1–21). In His judgments God will destroy oppressors and restore the blessings of the oppressed (v. 20–27:13).
Understanding the Text
“Its people must bear their guilt” Isa. 24:1–23. Isaiah announced that the whole world will be punished. No class of people (v. 2) will escape, for earth’s inhabitants have “broken the everlasting covenant” (v. 5). This is a reference to the covenant God made with humanity in Noah’s time (Gen. 9:16), which made man responsible for maintaining a just society. Though God’s judgment will leave earth devastated (Isa. 24:6–13), the people of God will “acclaim the Lord’s majesty” (vv. 14–16). With all evil human and spiritual powers judged, “the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously” (vv. 17–23). What is striking here is the picture of the saints, praising God while everything around them crashes in ruins. Each believer must be affected by the kind of devastation described here. Yet faith gives the believer the ability to see the hand of God in what seems nothing but tragedy to others. Faith also gives us the strength to praise God and “acclaim the Lord’s majesty” when every earthly hope is lost. “You have been a refuge” Isa. 25:1–12. Isaiah explained the outcome of God’s acts of judgment, and described the future of the blessed. What the future holds is praise for God, who has stilled “the song of the ruthless” (vv. 1–5). With the wicked destroyed, God prepares a “feast of rich food for all peoples.” It is then that God will “swallow up death forever” and “wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth” (vv. 6–8). While images of the future differ slightly between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there is no difference at all in the two Testament’s description of who will enjoy it. The blessed of every age are those who can say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” How natural it is for you and me to join Isaiah in praise to the Lord, and share Isaiah’s joy. We too know God as our Saviour. We trust in Him. We know that He will deliver us from the coming judgment. We will be at His side when the song of the ruthless is stilled. “Your dead will live” Isa. 26:1–21. Not even death can thwart God’s purposes. Isaiah looked ahead and saw a day when salvation’s song will be sung in Jerusalem (vv. 1–7). Yet his own day was one of longing, not of fulfillment. “We wait for You,” Isaiah sighed, and added, “My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for You.” His yearning was great, because, even “though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness” (vv. 8–10). You and I may know Isaiah’s frustration well. Yet we have the same promise that gave Isaiah hope. Isaiah looked ahead, and knew that “Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead” (v. 19). Even death cannot thwart God’s purposes. We live in hope, because we know that if we should die before we see God’s plan for this earth achieved, He will raise us from the dead to share His triumph! “In that day” Isa. 27:1–13. The phrase “that day” typically indicates history’s end, an eschatological period during which God draws the threads of all His purposes together. Someone has suggested that the phrase simply means, “in God’s time.” Well, what is it that will happen “in God’s time”? (1) The Lord will destroy evil spiritual powers, 27:1. (2) The Lord will restore and protect His Old Testament people (vv. 2–7). (3) This will be accomplished after God has atoned for their guilt, and by strict punishment weaned them from their hunger for idolatry (vv. 8–11). (4) This will happen when God recalls His people from exile, and the nation is regathered to “worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (vv. 12–13). History does maintain its purposeful flow, coursing as God directs. At history’s end God will bring all things to the conclusion that He intends. When will this happen? We cannot know. But it will happen. “In that day.” In God’s time.
Waitin’ for Justice(Isa. 26)
We had just written (another) letter to our superintendent of schools. When our third-grader changed schools midyear, she was placed in a classroom where she suffered serious verbal abuse from other children, and received no support from her teacher. The stress caused Sarah some serious stomach problems. It caused us serious upset too, because only after a number of complaints did we get Sarah transferred to another classroom. Even then her first teacher seemed to take it out on Sarah by threatening to fail her in one of her subjects. What was frustrating was that, despite the fact Sarah had an A her first semester, and an A the first quarter in her new school, the teacher threatened to fail her for the year—and despite stated school policy we were not even allowed to check the grade book. I could go on and list other abuses, but the point I want to make is simple. All of us, even in the best of times, are victims now and then of injustice. I know that our situation with Sarah is relatively insignificant. There are far greater injustices suffered by others. But the experience has made us more sensitive to the frustration experienced by the powerless. This is what Isaiah felt as he cried, “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” He went on to complain that though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness, but keep on doing evil (vv. 8–10). How frustrating to try, but always to be kept waiting. How frustrating to struggle, but never seeming to dent injustice. When something like this happens to us, we need to remember the hope that brought Isaiah comfort. All will be made right, in God’s time. It may not be during our lifetime. But, “Your dead will live!” Even death is not the end. Even death can’t thwart the ultimate achievement of justice for all in this world. One day, in God’s time, we’ll hear His voice calling us. He’ll cry out to those of us who dwell in the dust, and we will “wake up and shout for joy.” For then we will have justice. Then we will have peace.
Fight injustice. Even if you lose, you will surely win in God’s time.