Isaiah 2-3: It is well.
Updated: May 5
Remember what I said about quick turnarounds? Here’s one: Isaiah 2-3
Isaiah just gets done telling the people about the glorious days ahead, how the church will be on display before the nations, revealing the glory of God, while the nations are peacefully at work replanting the garden, when BOOM! He brings them right back down into their reality. “You, LORD have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob.” Heartless? No, necessary. The LORD had forsaken His people because they had forsaken Him. They were trying to find security in so many things: witchcraft, wealth, military strength, and the idols they had created with their own hands. (How absurd is that?) All were bound to fail. They should have known better! Isaiah is livid! According to the commentators, his plea, “Don’t forgive them!” probably means, “You aren’t really going to forgive them, are you?” He knows God by now. Forgiveness and restoration are on their way.
But first, the prideful have to be brought low; the fearful presence of the LORD has to scare the arrogance right out of them. Isaiah warns that before it is all over, they'll be hiding in the rocks and scrambling underground to escape from the splendor of His majesty. (I've always thought that splendor was a beautiful thing, but then, I've never seen His Majesty's splendor. Perhaps I need to change my definition.)
Some of the things that have to be brought down: Trees. In that region, the cedars and oaks were national treasures; things made by God had become a source of human pride. Creation suffers the sin of humanity. Mountains and high hills. Their man-made authority structures supplanted the authority of God, and government devoid of God has a shelf life. Lofty towers and fortified walls. Impressive military defenses gave them a false sense of security. Things change. Technology advances. Trading ships and stately vessels. Having the means to build empires had made the nations self-sufficient. But winds shift. A COVID-19 blows in.
While hiding out with bats and moles, the descendants of Jacob finally realize that their idols and every other source of security are worthless. The LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
These “promises” weren’t for Israel and Judah only. The word “people” in verse 9 is adam--all of mankind--all whom God has given breath. So we have to find ourselves in the metaphors somewhere and recognize the things in our lives that are affronts to God. Thank God for the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin, but I want to go beyond washed to pleasing. How about you?
The next instruction is pretty clear: Stop trusting in mere humans. We may not glory in oak trees or hide behind fortresses, but we often depend on man to deliver us. Why? How? Our governments are filled with leaders who are immature, insincere, insecure, and capricious. (I just learned that word. It means “given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.“) Scary.
Here's what Motyer says about societies without solid leadership:
"Society becomes divided, the age-gap opens up, values are at a discount and those who should be despised take the initiative. An air of despair dominates elections. All this arises from moral and spiritual causes. It is not the result of failures of policy but of speaking and acting against the Lord...” (Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah, pg. 59. InterVarsity Press)
By the way, he wrote this way back in 1993.
These days, you don’t have to listen in on a conversation very long before someone brings up government leaders, and it’s usually not to sing their praises. The whole idea of leadership and government has fallen into disrepute. Scandals, self-advancement, unwillingness to accept responsibility when things go wrong... Thinking about it all, all the time, is a guaranteed ticket to hopelessness. Or riots. If the news, or Facebook, or your coffee klatch are your main sources of information, you’re probably depressed. Or angry. Or self-righteous.
“Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.” Isaiah 3:10
There is another kind of righteousness: the righteousness that comes from living in the shadow of the Almighty. His righteousness becomes ours because of proximity. We'd be wise to draw close. Here is His wonderful promise to Isaiah and to us: “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.” Notice that the righteous aren't promised immunity. Like Isaiah, we have to go through much of this right beside the arrogant. But the LORD’s promise to His people: “It will be well.”
There is a filter found in the presence of God: wisdom. The wisdom of God brings everything, everything that matters anyway, into focus. Entering the presence of God simply means turning your attention to Him. Singing to Him. Talking to Him. Listening. You may not hear anything, but your eyesight will change. That's what this psalmist found out. I'm so glad he wrote it down:
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills... Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence...
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply.
Till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors...
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds." Psalm 73 - A song of Asaph