Wednesday, June 21, 2023

2023.06.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 2:22–4:6

Read Isaiah 2:22-4:6

Questions from the Scripture text: How should God’s people respond to an idolater (Isaiah 2:22)? What personal provisions does the Lord take from His idolatrous people in Isaiah 3:1? And what national and church provisions in Isaiah 3:2? And what cultural provisions in Isaiah 3:3? What rulers will they have instead (Isaiah 3:4)? And what do people do to each other in the absence of wise authority (Isaiah 3:5)? How desperate will they be for authority (Isaiah 3:6)? But how will people feel about ruling such a people (Isaiah 3:7)? What provoked such a judgment (Isaiah 3:8)? How do they respond to their sin (Isaiah 3:9)? Who will experience good from God within this general judgment (Isaiah 3:10)? What will each individual wicked person be receiving (Isaiah 3:11)? What is the crowning judgment upon these wicked (Isaiah 3:12)? Who is making a case against whom in Isaiah 3:13-15? What metaphor does Isaiah 3:4d use for their crime? What specific things does He accuse them of in Isaiah 3:14e? In Isaiah 3:15a? In verse 15b? Whom does He specifically accuse of what in Isaiah 3:16? What specific penalties will correspond to this immodesty (Isaiah 3:17)? And what will He especially remove as being emblematic of their worldliness, immodesty, and self-indulgence (Isaiah 3:19-23)? With what resulting effect (Isaiah 3:24)? What would happen to whom, who the women had so despised (Isaiah 3:25)? And how would they respond (Isaiah 3:26)? How would their immodest seductions be turned upon their heads (Isaiah 4:1)? What moment/time does Isaiah 4:2 introduce? Who will have what attribute then? For whom will this beauty and glory be? What will the remnant of Zion and Jerusalem be called then (Isaiah 4:3)? What will the Lord have washed from whom (Isaiah 4:4)? What will He have purged from where? By what two things? What will He then create (Isaiah 4:5)? Where? What will be over all the glory? What will this glory also do for them (Isaiah 4:6)? 

How does God respond to the worldliness of His people? Isaiah 2:22-4:6 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these 33 verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God punishes the worldliness of His people by making all of their false pleasures miserably fail them, but provides Himself as their supreme pleasure and protection in Christ.

In Isaiah 2:20–21 the picture had been of a man casting off his idols, too late, as he tries to squeeze into a hole to escape from the terror of Yahweh and the glory of His majesty. Now, Isaiah 2:22 warns against a special case: the most insidious idolatry is to hope in man and find happiness in man. So the Lord was going to judge Jerusalem and Judah not only by taking their food and drink (Isaiah 3:1) but all the most capable men in church, state, community, military, and culture (Isaiah 3:2-3).

As many cultures have learned by pain, when God gives a people child (or childish) rulers (Isaiah 3:4), self-interest of the wicked runs amok (Isaiah 3:5), and men become desperate for good government (Isaiah 3:6). God will judge Judah such that any man who just has clothing will seem the best option, even if he can’t provide for his own home (Isaiah 3:7). Why? Because they have not only sinned in the most abominable ways, but approved of sin (Isaiah 3:8-9, cf. Romans 1:18–32). He will spare His remnant, but the wicked are ruled by children—alas, even by women (Isaiah 3:11-12)! 

In Isaiah 3:13-15, the Lord uses courtroom language to make the case for why this was an appropriate punishment: those with power and influence used it not to serve those beneath them but to plunder, crush, and face-grind them! Tyranny is offensive to God in men/authorities, as also immodesty is offensive to God in women. What a display they made of themselves in Isaiah 3:16! So the Lord will display them (Isaiah 3:17)—not as beautiful but as disfigured. All of the luxurious objects with which they peddled themselves (Isaiah 3:19-23) would be replaced with the repulsive (Isaiah 3:24), and those whose attention they so sought the Lord would simply eliminate (Isaiah 3:25-26) until they are desperate just to have anything legitimate (Isaiah 4:1)

This is what Judah and Jerusalem have deserved. How can it be undone? How can the filth of the daughters of Zion be purged (Isaiah 4:4)? Only by a “judgment” and “burning.” The connection of this judgment and burning to the glorious Branch (Isaiah 4:2) would become more apparent in chapter 53 and crystal clear when Christ came and suffered God’s wrath in sinners’ place. Christ suffers the judgment and burning that brings His people forgiveness and salvation! 

And this forgiveness is such that the formerly offensive objects of God’s wrath are now called “holy” and recorded among the “living” in Jerusalem. Instead of wrath, there is reward: the glorious presence of God—represented by the pillar of cloud and fire in Isaiah 4:5—attending every home of His people. Instead of punishment, there is protection: God Himself continually tabernacling among them (Isaiah 4:6), a refuge from every possible type of trouble. Jesus, the Branch of Yahweh, has in Himself all beauty and glory (Isaiah 4:2a), and those who are in Him will bear much fruit (verse 2b, cf. John 15:1–5).

The judgment in Isaiah 2:22–4:1 would be stunning by itself. And the blessing and glory in Isaiah 4:2–6 would be stunning by itself. But it is especially shocking to see that the glory of the latter is actually God’s response to the guilt in the former! And in this He most magnificently displays the glory of the Son! Thus, we complete the composite picture that began back in Isaiah 2:1–5. The failure of ethnic Israel as a covenant people was a necessary intermediate step unto the glory of Christ as the true Israel in Whom the covenant people of God—from Israel and all nations—would be glorified.

Which danger belongs to your particular sex and station? How have you provoked God? How has your nation been provoking God? How has your church been provoking God? What hope can there be for them?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You are right to condemn us to our own injustice and oppression, to give us to have children and women to rule over us. And You are right to condemn us for our immodesty, to give us over to utter humiliation. But You are right and merciful and glorious to have punished our guilt upon Jesus Christ the glorious Branch, and to restore us to Yourself and Your glorious presence and protection. For His sake, forgive us and help us, we pray through Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, from the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

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