Isaiah 29-32: The Tapestry of Justice
Updated: May 5
Last time, we looked at what Isaiah had to say about Judah’s sin, the sins of her allies and enemies, and the judgment those sins required. This time we get to look at the promises Isaiah had woven in, right there between the woes.
Other than Judah’s deliverance from the Assyrian armies, this prophecy seems to be for the time of the end, when Jesus sets up His Kingdom and begins His thousand-year reign. Although these promises are addressed to Judah, they reveal the nature of God and He doesn’t change on account of His audience.
While studying chapters 29-32 I’ve come to realize that in the light of truth and eternity, things I once considered negatives aren’t negative at all. I thought the word “judgment” signaled trouble ahead. In the Bible, anyway. But oddly enough, I thought of other judgments as good—like Judge Judy giving each party what was fair: “Ruling for the plaintiff in the amount of $500.” And Judge Judy was always right. Always. So why did I think of Bible judgment as a negative thing? I guess it was because of the sketchy destiny of those who wouldn’t know the truth when He comes. I knew the earth would be restored, but what of all those people I’d heard would burn in hell?
Well, since then I’ve come to believe that hell is reserved for those who actually reject their Savior, not those who are strangers or misinformed. I’ve also come to understand that God is a judge, not a plaintiff with an ax to grind. And that this just Judge is a lover of mercy. Always. I can’t find a place in the Bible, Old Testament or New, where one who was sincerely repentant or whose penalty was paid by someone else was condemned to death (meaning eternal damnation) for their sin. In some cases, an intercessor would appear before God and say, “Give them mercy.” And God did. Abraham interceded for Lot (Genesis 18), Moses interceded for the children of Israel (Exodus 32), Jesus interceded for those who crucified him (Luke 23:34), and right now, He’s interceding for us (Romans 8:34). When the law says “Guilty!” the blood of Jesus says “Mercy!” (Hebrews 12:24). And when Jesus cries “Mercy!” the merciful Judge says, “They’re free.”
That would be enough good news for one day, but I promised we’d look at some promises, so here we go:
Man’s sin is no match for God’s love.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (30:18)
Isaiah says “yet” because he had just recited Judah’s rude response to God. When God said come rest and repent, the people of Judah said no. “Yet,” Isaiah says, “He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice.” So God’s idea of justice is to show grace and compassion to those who won’t listen to Him? I guess so. I’ve quoted this once or twice or three times before, but as Mike Bickle says, “God’s judgments remove everything that hinders love. There is no contradiction between God’s judgment and God’s love.” (Do you know that by heart yet?) It’s pretty evident in the prophecy of Isaiah that whenever God renders judgment, it’s for the sake of love.
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. (30:19)
Man’s weakness makes way for the power of God.
It was when Judah had come to the end of their strength that God made short work of their foes:
Brought low, you will speak from the ground;
your speech will mumble out of the dust.
Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth;
out of the dust your speech will whisper.
But your many enemies will become like fine dust,
the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.
Suddenly, in an instant,
the Lord Almighty will come
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. (29:5-6)
Fine dust has no chance in a windstorm and chaff has no chance in the fire. Poof! They’re gone. Just like that.
Man’s confusion makes way for the wonder of God.
Therefore once more I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (29:14)
When the wise are left without their wisdom and the intelligent lose their smarts, what’s left? Only to wonder what happened. And the result?
Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction. (29:24)
Man’s ignorance makes way for God’s instruction.
I’d always imagined the Kingdom of God populated with people who knew everything and did everything right. Wrong again. I’ve learned that the thousand-year reign of Christ will be a time for those who aren’t yet perfect to listen, to learn, and to grow.
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (30:20-21)
I certainly don’t look forward to adversity and affliction, but as hard as they are they don’t last, and the wisdom they yield is eternal.
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. (32:3)
The deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. Once more the humbled will rejoice in the Lord, the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. (29:18-19)
Can you imagine what it will be like for the deaf to hear? Or the blind to see? Or the humbled and needy to have cause to rejoice? If you’re not deaf or blind or humbled or needy—probably not. But we will get to see their faces when they do. Bonus.
The sorrow of a generation makes way for an eternal legacy.
Have you ever thought about your legacy? What you’ll leave behind when you leave? I really hadn’t thought about it until recently. Now I do, almost daily, and scriptures like these are responsible:
No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
no longer will their faces grow pale.
When they see among them their children;
the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. (29:22-23)
When I first became a disciple of Jesus, talk of “the Tribulation” was all the buzz in Christian circles. Things were getting hard so He must be coming soon! When I finally decided that history was interesting, I learned that things today really aren’t any worse than they were in Jesus’ day. Really. It's true. Jesus and the two thieves weren't the first or the last men to be crucified in Jerusalem. And then there’s...Oh never mind. This was supposed to be a happy post.
Anyway, way back when, in the early eighties, having children was the furthest thing from my mind. I gave no thought to leaving a legacy, only to leaving “the late great planet earth.” Well, time passed and I had kids, and I learned what God has to say about investing in the next generation. For the nation of Israel, their legacy was in their land. From generation to generation the land was passed from father to son. To lose that land was to lose themselves. Most thought all was lost when they were exiled, their tribes dispersed and their temple destroyed. They no longer had a legacy; they were wanderers with no identity. Yet years before, God had promised they would see with their own eyes the work He had done among their children and they would say it was awesome. Hear, hear! I don’t think His plans for our children are any less awesome.
While the work of the enemy will be destroyed, the beauty of Eden will be restored.
He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted. (30:23-31)
Man’s sin has certainly taken a toll on the earth, but in God’s justice, it will be restored. What God called “good” will be good again and man’s work will be tending, not toil (Genesis 1:9-31; Genesis 3:17-19). All of this will be going on inside the city gates while the flip side is happening outside. Justice is being established and all that hinders is being removed.
In Chapter 32, Isaiah describes society when the justice of God is restored. He has beautifully woven God’s promises into what’s been called “The Book of Woes” and here are some shiny strands in the loom:
See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Righteous rulers with love for their people.
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The fearful heart will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected. (32:1-5)
Strong citizens with strong hearts.
The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks Till the Spirit is poured on us from on high…
Did you see that? Right in the middle of a wasteland where donkeys and sheep roam free, the Spirit of God will be poured out and everything will change!
…and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness will live in the fertile field.
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free. (32:14-20)
So there it is. God’s justice. Peace in the midst of destruction, shelter in the time of storm. Even if I don’t get a donkey or a cow, I will be blessed indeed!