Isaiah 24: Earth Subjected, Earth Restored
Updated: May 5
”For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21)
As one who savors creation as the glory of God revealed, I think of these verses almost daily. Most often it’s when I see some amazing thing that God has made, but sometimes it’s when I see something that man has destroyed. For me, these verses are both a reminder and a promise.
I do love the beauty of the outdoors! When I see the word “mansion” in John 14:2 I don’t think of a stately brick house with a wrought-iron gate and gardens. I think of a tent with a comfy mattress that I can move around when I’d like a change of scenery. It has a huge hole in the top so I can see the stars at night and open windows on every side so I can hear the birds in the morning. The word King James and friends translated “mansion” really means any kind of “dwelling” or “abode.“ Jesus said He's preparing one for us, and I don’t know if we will have a say in its design, but if we do, I’ll take a tent, please.
So what does this have to do with Isaiah 24? Everything.
We all know the story of creation, how God made an abode for man and asked him to take care of it. We haven’t done a very good job. When Adam and Eve sinned, they weren’t the only ones to suffer. The earth was introduced to death, and it’s been dying ever since.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.“(Romans 8:22)
Did you know the earth has a voice? We may not hear it crying out, but we can see what it’s saying. The earth is wearing out. There are lots of people trying to save the earth, but really, its only salvation is for God to destroy it and start again. The one thing on the earth that will survive God’s judgment is the race of man, the ones who messed it up in the first place. Gosh, He loves us.
So this is what Isaiah says will happen. (I'm reading from The Voice translation this week.)
”See here; the Eternal One will empty the earth. He will lay it waste, contort the mountains and plains, And scatter its inhabitants all over the place. Things will be topsy-turvy, hierarchies upended. No one will be safe, not laypeople or priests, not servants or masters, not maids or mistresses, not buyers or sellers, not lenders or borrowers, not debtors or creditors.
The earth will be emptied, all emptied, despoiled, utterly despoiled. The Eternal said that it should be so.”
The emptying of the earth will show no distinction between classes. Everyone alive will be affected by its spoiling.
”So the earth mourns, droops wearily down; the world languishes and droops; the high and mighty languish in grief. They’ll be burned up, leaving very few people to survive.
The earth is polluted by those who live on it; they pay no attention to God’s teaching. They violate His directives and break the everlasting covenant.”
Man’s sin affects his habitat.
”Consequently, a nasty curse consumes the earth, and those who inhabit it are to blame for it.”
God made man earth’s steward, so the earth is affected by man’s curse. In return, man is affected by the earth’s decay. It’s one of those “what goes around comes around“ things.
Before I read verses 8 and 9, I hadn’t really thought about earth’s ruin affecting man’s joy, which is surprising given my fascination with creation. Unspoiled nature makes me happy. It causes me to sing and even dance sometimes. But as earth’s beauty is erased, man’s joy will be extinguished.
”No more music, no more songs, no more dancing to tambourines, laughing with revelers, or playing the harps. People don’t drink wine and sing with pleasure anymore; the stronger stuff is mostly bitter to those who drink it…”
As the earth languishes, so does the joy of mankind. The songs of the world are stilled. No music from man. No music from nature. No bird songs, no babbling brooks. A world without joy is a world without life.
”The chaotic city is in shambles, (Hebrew: tohu wabohu – the same word describing the earth before God said, “Let there be light.”— Genesis 1:1-3 )
and every house is boarded up so no one can go in. People rebel in the streets, demanding wine. All joy turns to gloom; happiness has been banished from the land. In the city nothing is left but desolation, and the gate is battered and ruined.
This is how it will be on the earth for the nations— only a few survivors will be left— as when an olive tree is shaken and a few olives hold on or when the grape harvest is in and a few grapes remain for gleaning.”
No more wine. Lots of fear. Nothing like the garden God made for man. Nothing like the Messianic kingdom He’s promised. So given all that, the earth will be destroyed.
And then Isaiah brings us around to redemption again:
”But people will take joy again. They will shout out and sing of the Eternal One’s majesty across the ocean.“
And the remnant invites the nations to sing:
“Join in the song and praise the Eternal from the east. Praise the Eternal, the God of Israel, all along the coast of the sea. Listen and you can hear the merry voices from the corners of the earth singing, ’Honor to the Righteous One.’“
And Isaiah says,
“But as for me, I say, ’I am wasting away, wasting away. Woe is me!’
I can see treachery, treachery, and it wears me down. Traitors deal in treachery.“
Wait. What’s up with that, Isaiah?
It’s rather surprising that in the midst of good news, Isaiah responds the way he does. Motyer explains: “Though he has heard and called for the son of the remnant, he cannot abandon himself to joy because he has also seen the reality of sin and the curse…Isaiah now feels the condemnation of others as deeply as once he felt his own.” (Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah, pg. 203. InterVarsity Press)
In the light of the earth’s restoration, Isaiah grieves for those who will be destroyed. I'll ask it again: can a prophet be a true prophet without being an intercessor? If this study of Isaiah has any effect, my hope is that we would all become intercessors, pleading for man before God and God before man.
“Terror, pit, and trap face you, you people of the earth. And whoever runs from the sound of terror will only fall into a pit; when he climbs out of the pit, he’ll run and be caught in a trap. The sky above will open up and the ground below will quake—nothing will be safe. The earth is broken and shattered and splits apart. It shakes and quakes violently. Like a drunk, the earth staggers and reels; it shudders and shakes, like a shack in the wind, For its rebellion weighs so heavily on it, that it will fall and have no chance for repair.
On that day, even the heavenly powers and earthly rulers will feel the Eternal’s punishing wrath. They’ll be gathered up like prisoners, thrown in a dungeon, and suffer the punishment of God after many days.
Nothing will be safe—the traitors to God’s covenant, the earth under the curse, those heavenly powers and earthly rulers who led the rebellion—all will suffer the judgment of God. Isaiah saw what the apostle John would see in the revealing of Christ’s coming: it’s both good news and bad. But it’s all necessary, and it all points to the end when God’s victory will be complete.
“There is no contradiction between God's judgment and God's love. God's judgments remove everything that hinders love.“
— Mike Bickle
And when they do?
“A shadow of shame will settle over the full moon and bright sun, and their brilliance will begin to fade…
Fear not! That’s not a negative. The words Isaiah uses here for sun and moon aren’t the words used in Genesis for the astronomical bodies. Rather, they’re poetic terms used to compare the fading brightness of the lebana – the white one – and the chammah – the hot one – with the brilliance of the Eternal One.
“for the Lord Almighty will reign
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and before its elders—with great glory.“
And the earth and I? We wait in expectation.