THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Contending Against the Lord
Isaiah 3 SCC 2/24/13
There comes a time when the people of God, who choose to counter the moral and revealed word of God, can expect judgment from God. If you claim to be God’s people and adopt a temporal worldly philosophy of living, you can expect to be held accountable for that before God. You can also expect his discipline while alive here on earth and his judgment of you on that day. You cannot contend against God and all His expectations of you, and not have him contend against you. Here is the lack of qualified leaders and the consequent collapse of society resulting because God’s people put their trust in people rather than in Him. This is evident in Isaiah’s warning that God will remove the leaders and Judge the society they were the product of.
GODS JUDGMENT REMOVES ALL THAT GIVES US STRENGTH, SUPPORT, AND PROTECTIVE LEADERSHIP
Israel’s breakdown in national character and seriousness is noted by stages in Israel’s degradation. With the breakdown of their society the people will be placed in jeopardy, their lives and families threatened by the chaotic governmental breakdown.
1. Good leaders disappear 1-3
3:1: Here is the emphasis on the lack of qualified leaders and the consequent collapse of society that would result because God’s people put their trust in people rather than in Him. God was going to remove what was essential from Judah and Jerusalem. This is suggesting that every type of support will be removed. The figures of bread and water stand for food and drink—famine will come—but in a larger sense these things also represent all that is essential to the nation. It is God who removes all of Judah's support, strength, and idolatrous leadership.
3:2-3: The Lord would remove the leading men in the military, political, religious, and commercial spheres of life. These were people the Israelites depended on. This happened when the Babylonians conquered the city and the land (2 Kings 24:14) and earlier when the Assyrians defeated Israel. In other words, God is going to remove any sense of governmental order and replace it with a sense of governmental futility. What good is it going to be to rule this people in this place? All whom Israel depended upon for survival and security would crumble from beneath them.
3:4-5: This lack of leadership would result in incompetent individuals seeking and gaining positions of
authority (cf. Lev. 19:32; 1 Kings 3:7). Judah's elder leadership will be removed even to the highest levels. Ineffective and senseless young people will lead. Verse 4 is reminiscent of the reign of King Rehoboam. Looking ahead, wicked King Manasseh began ruling over Judah when he was only 12, and Kings Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, who followed him later, proved capricious. Good government is one of God’s best gifts to a sinful human race. Society becomes divided as age gaps open up and respect for the respectable breaks down (v. 5). Inexperienced youth, now in charge, would be unable to stop oppression and societal conflict.
3. Unqualified people get pressed into leadership, and a spirit of despair dominates elections vv. 6-7
3:6-7: Things would become so bad that the possession of a mere coat (an outer garment) would lead others to thrust its owner into leadership despite his protestations. Any type of superiority will seem like an indication that the possessor can provide desperately needed authority and power. Yet the chosen leader will refuse to take responsibility, even lying about his resources, because what he would rule is only a ruin and because he knows he lacks the qualifications to lead. The breakdown in the societal character only creates generational tensions, societal tensions, and family tensions.
The reason for these conditions is that we are defying god by depending on humans rather than on Him
1. They speak, act, and rebel against the lord 8
3:8: Everything the nation said and did was against the covenant God of Israel. Their conduct clearly displayed their blatant disregard for the will of God embodied in the Law of Moses. It was entirely against the Lord. They defied Him even while His glorious presence was among them. They did it right before His face not behind his back.
2. They flaunt their evil 9
3:9: Instead of bowing before God’s glorious face, the Israelites were with brazen faces rebelling against Him, as the people of Sodom did. So it would go hard for them. “Woe” is an interjection of threat or distress. The Israelites had brought the judgment of God on themselves by their pride. These Judean leaders (and their families) were flaunting publicly their pride, wealth, and exploitation of the weak and powerless of society. Humans break themselves on God's standards. We reap what we sow. The coming disaster is brought on by themselves.
3. The impending disaster is distressing 10-12
3:10-11: The faithful minority, however, would not simply get lost in the judgment of the unfaithful majority, but the Lord would remember them and send them good. Sin does bring its own wages. Here the long-term blessing of the righteous contrasts with the short-term blasting of the unrighteous. There were these two groups among God’s chosen people then as there are now. The faithful frequently suffer along with the unfaithful, but their ultimate ends are very different.
3:12: Isaiah personally bemoaned the plight of the people (“woe” and “O my people”) who had already begun to experience the frustration of incompetent leaders and who would have to endure still more of the same. A child king possibly controlled by (1) a strong "Queen mother" (2) the child king's wives or
(3) the women at court, is figurative of the weak and inexperienced leadership in the nation. Children, in spite of their lack of maturity, experience, perspective, and wisdom, were nonetheless needed to lead adults. Unqualified and inexperienced leaders were leading the people astray and giving them confusing directions concerning God’s will. God’s special gift to his people through history involved furnishing inspired leaders. Now He would withdraw them.
4. Defying God, He will be the ultimate Judge 13-15
3:13-15: The Lord enters into a dispute with His people's leaders (elders and princes). They have destroyed His community ("vineyard," v. 14). They have taken advantage of the poor, helpless, and powerless of society. They used the legal system inappropriately to their advantage, and must now stand before The Lord’s judgment. The prophets hold Israel/Judah accountable to the requirements of the Mosaic covenant, obedience had consequences and disobedience had consequences! The Lord is the ultimate judge of His people, and He would contend with His human representatives who used their positions to fatten themselves rather than feeding their people. Their possessions witnessed to their stealing from their neighbors. The vineyard is a common figure for Israel. The people belonged to the Lord, not these abusing leaders who crushed them and ground them down to get out of them as much as they could for themselves.
CONTENDING AGAINST GOD POTENTIALLY CORRUPTS EVERYONE JUSTIFYING THE JUDGMENT OF GOD
1. Pride leads to corruption 16-17
3:16-17: Pride led these women to walk with their noses in the air, assuming superiority over others, and to draw men to themselves. They glanced coyly to see whether others noticed their elegance. They took small steps to give the appearance of humility and drew attention even to their feet. Everything they did was designed to attract attention. God would humble them by making the hair that they loved so much a patch of scabs and the foreheads they decorated so carefully bare. Having delighted in immodest exposure, God gave them over to it. He did not condemn their luxurious lifestyle as much as their arrogant spirit, which their lifestyle demonstrated. These proud, well-dressed, wealthy exploiters will be humbled!
2. Seductive beauty is replaced with humiliation 18-23
3:18-23: The Lord proceeded to condemn 21 (seven times three, a full measure) other personal decorations that evidenced pride, many of which were popular in Isaiah’s day and some of which are still popular now. Many of these items originated in cult and in magic rituals. Again, these things are not wrong in themselves, but they may assume too much importance in a person’s life. ‘In That Day’ these women will not care what they look like being in such distress when Babylon eventually comes. The Lord will cause the soldiers to take away all of these trappings, fine jewelry and wardrobes.
3. Jerusalem will be disgraced 24-26
3:24: Disgrace would result from trusting self rather than God. These five exchanges (instead) and more took place when God humbled Israel in exile. They all represent the results of divine judgment for self-exaltation. Taken captive by Babylon ropes would pull the women along and sackcloth would replace their seductive undergarments. Their captives scarring their former beauty would brand them.
3:25-26: The woman in view is Jerusalem personified as weeping over the losses. She is seen as having lost her providers and defenders and all on whom she depended. She is utterly without joy and alone. Jerusalem alone. The city would be destitute of both men and women with a hopeless future of any inhabitants and the joy of a robust population. Every strata of society will be touched by this carnage.
1. If we fail to stop our sin, it can infiltrate and penetrate its influence in the lives of others around us. We do not sin in isolation. Every sin is a beachhead for further sin. It’s influence only deepens, hardens, and advances within our realm and sphere.
2. God will not and cannot let sin go unchallenged. For us today it begins with conviction, and then discipline, and finally judgment. Paul says we lose reward and Hebrews says there is a day when we will have to face it. But if we refuse to do anything, like Israel, you will have to give account for it.
3. Pride and self-will and an independent spirit will always attempt to encourage us to do what we want. To believe that we know better than God what serves our best interests. And this is where the struggle is for us—who knows better what is in my best interest—the same struggle as in the garden.