A Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, 16 July 2006
The theme that we’ve been working through is the relationship between God and those who are his people - when they sin. That’s what the theme of Isaiah, Chapter Three is. In Chapter Two, last week, we looked at God’s judgment on idols and idolatry, and how He was going to destroy all the idols on the final judgment day at the end of time. In Chapter Three, horizon moves closer. God is expressing His outrage at the humanism of His people, and promising a more near-term judgment for them, which is fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity.
Isaiah was prophesying late in the late 700’s (B.C.), at a time when the Babylonian Empire had not yet risen, and Judah, his homeland, was in decent shape politically. But he is warning them that if they find their fulfillment and delight in the things of this world - especially in their human interests, God will bring judgment on them for that. And that’s what He did in about 100 years. He brought the Babylonian army into Jerusalem just as we read in Second Kings. That army destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took everyone out captive.
· 2:22 Cease from the man, in whose nostrils is breath,
o for of what account is he? 3:1
o For behold, the Lord Jehovah of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply,
§ all support of bread, and all support of water; 2.
§ the mighty man and the man of war,
§ the judge and the prophet,
§ the diviner and the elder, 3.
§ the captain of fifty and the high of rank,
§ the counselor and the wise artisan and the expert charmer. 4.
o And I will place boys for their princes, and capricious ones shall rule over them. 5.
o And the people will be driven,
· a man by a man, and a man by his neighbor;
· the youth will be insolent to the elder, and
· the despised to the honorable. 6.
§ Thus a man will catch his brother in the house of his father, "A cloak to you; a leader you will be to us, and this ruin shall be under your hand"; 7. in that day he will speak up, saying: "I will not be a healer! In my house there is neither bread nor cloak; you shall not place me as a leader of people." 8.
o For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen,
§ because their speech and their deeds are against Jehovah, to defy His eyes of glory.
o 9. For the look of their faces testifies against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide [it].
o Woe to their souls, for they have dealt evil to themselves. 10.
· Tell the righteous that [it is] well, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. 11.
· Woe! To the wicked is evil, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.
· My people, your guides mislead, and they have swallowed up the course of your paths. 13.
· Jehovah has taken His stand to contend; he stands to judge peoples. 14.
· Jehovah will enter into judgment
o with the elders of His people and its princes:
§ "It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
§ 15. What’s with you? You crush my people, and you grind the face of the poor!" declares the Lord Jehovah of hosts. 16.
o And Jehovah says: Because the daughters of Zion
· are haughty and walk with outstretched necks,
· winking with their eyes,
· mincing along as they walk,
· jangling anklets with their feet, 17.
§ therefore the Lord will scab the scalp of the daughters of Zion,
§ and Jehovah will lay bare their private parts. 18.
§ In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19. the ear-rings, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20. the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the scent bottles, and the amulets; 21. the signet rings and nose rings; 22. the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23. the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. 24.
· Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and
· instead of a belt, a rope; and
· instead of curly hair-do’s, baldness; and
· instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and
· branding instead of beauty. 25.
§ Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. 26. And her gates shall lament and mourn;
§ She shall be cleaned out and shall sit on the ground. 4:1 And
§ seven women shall take hold of one man in that day saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes. Only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach!”
What do we do what God takes things away from us? Why does God take things away from us?
If I were to go and grab my infant daughter and yank her away from her mother, what would she do? What’s going to go through her head? ”You took away something I want! Waaaaaaaaa!” My wife would have to spend the rest of the service trying to quiet her down! Especially if our baby was nursing and I yanked her away, ”You took away my food, my comfort!” My intent, if I were to actually do that, would be to demonstrate to you how important it is look to God for what we need. But my daughter would not be on board with that idea, she would just make a fuss because what she wanted was just taken away from her. That’s an illustration of what this chapter is about. God sometimes takes things away from us, and we need to respond by coming closer to Him and looking to Him for what we need rather than putting up a fuss because something got taken away from us.
We have got to turn away from all the things that we look to and hold up higher than God, and instead, behold Jehovah of Hosts. Turn away from men; look at Jehovah of Hosts. That’s what the last verse of chapter two and the first verse of chapter one is saying. If we don’t do that, just as Israel did not do that, God says in verse one, “I’m going to start taking these things away that you prop up your life with. I’m going to start taking them away. ”
There’s a section for men in this chapter, and there’s a section for women in this chapter. The section for men starts here in verses one and two. God is going to start taking away these things that men find their security in:
· The mighty man and the man of war, this is their army.
· The judge and the prophets, these are the people that influence decisions and make decisions. These are the leaders that God is going to pull away.
· The diviner and the elder. The diviner reveals the fact that Israel depended on fortunetelling and astrology.
· The captain of 50, and the high of rank; those who are actually governing, He is going to take those props away.
· The counselor, the wise artisan and the expert charmer - the artisan is the person who’s able to make things out of clay, or out of iron, or out of wood. That’s the business sector! God’s going to take the business sector away!
These are things that men tend to find security in. Our business, our government… God says, “If you’re going to be looking to man for these things, I’m going to start taking these things away because I want you to turn your attention and behold God!”
He goes on in verse four: not only is God going to take away these props, He’s going to put in things that are worse!
· Boys to be their princes. Capricious people - infants, people who are governed merely by their appetite and whatever they happen to want at the time. People like that, God is going to put into the leadership in order to make His people realize how bad off they are, and how stupid it is to be trusting man!
· This actually happened: 18 may be little older than a young boy, but the next-to-last king of Judah was 18 years old as king. Would you want an 18-year-old to be president of the United States? That’s not a good idea because there’s a great deal of wisdom and understanding that comes with age.
· Also, all the craftsmen were taken out of the city by Nebuchadnezzar. So were the princes, the nobility. All these men were captured and taken out of the city of Jerusalem and taken to Babylon. This literally happened.
And chaos resulted. Man against man, and people against their
neighbor, youth being disrespectful to their elders, a class struggle between
the despised and the honorable… Then you’ve got chaos in leadership: People
would become desperate for anybody to lead, and so you’ve got this picture of a
man and his brother, and the brother saying, ”You’ve got a coat, be a leader!”
Now, clothes were part of your wealth, for instance, when the Syrian army captain, Naaman, brought a gift to the king in Israel, not only did he bring silver and gold, he also brought clothes. The more changes of clothes that you had, the more wealthy you were. This reminds me of going to Uganda last year, and seeing people that only had one change of clothes. You just wrap up in a towel, and wash your clothes, and then you wear them again. So, I think that’s what it’s saying: “Oh, you’ve got some kind of wealth, you’ve got some kind of status, you need to be our leader.”
And the guy says,” I can’t handle fixing your problems; I can’t heal them! I not going to be your leader!”
And the reason all this has happened is that their deeds and their speech have been against the Lord in defiance of His face. Literally, it says His “eyes of glory.” God is a glorious God. Everything we do is in front of His face; He sees everything we do.
Have you ever been really thirsty at a restaurant, and ordered a big glass of iced tea? I prefer mine sweet, so a nice cup of mouth-watering sweet ice tea, with a lemon wedge on the side. You’re about to drink this tea, but you want to squeeze the lemon in first, but as you do so you hit yourself in the eye with a little squirt of lemon! All of a sudden you’re not interested in drinking the sweet tea, because your eye hurts. That’s the picture of what’s going on here. The root word for “defy,” in this translation, is to “make bitter.” When your speech and your deeds are not honoring to God, it’s like squirting lemon juice in His eye - it stings, it hurts! He will respond with distancing himself from the way you’re living, and He will seek to bring you back around.
By the way, getting rid of soldiers, getting rid of good judges, having younger leaders, and being ruled by the whims of the majority of the people (democracy); these are not good things, these are bad things - punishments from God. You may have never thought of them as such, but that’s why we need to read God’s Word. God’s Word helps us straighten out our messed-up thinking and understand what is truly good and what is bad. The things God is outlining here in Isaiah 3 are actually the curses that God outlines in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26, where He said hundreds of years before, “If you do not keep this covenant relationship with Me, then I will sell your children into slavery, I will give you bad leaders…”
And these curses actually happened because they did not respond.
Romans chapter 1 describes the same kind of conditions today.
verse 18: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness (turning away from the one God to something else) of men who suppress the truth in righteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them. Since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, understood through what has been made, so that they were without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but became futile in their speculation. Their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools, exchanging the glory of the image of the incorruptible God for the image of corruptible man. God gave them over to their lusts (the capricious men), their bodies would be dishonored. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and served the creature, rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. And for this reason, God gives them over to degrading passions… Verse 28: They don’t acknowledge God any longer. God gave them over to their deprived minds that do the things that which are not proper: Filled with unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, haters of God, insolence, arrogance, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.
This is the result of turning away from God. These are the curses that follow. “Woe to the wicked,” He says in verse 11, “for what your hands have done will be done to you.” The guides are no longer guiding people in the truth and righteousness (which is what God had commanded them to do in Isaiah 1:17):
“Correct the oppressors.” The word “correct” is the same root word as this word, your “guides.” They’re supposed to “correct” the oppressors, but instead they are becoming oppressors themselves.
And so God rises up as the prosecuting attorney in verse 13. That judge sits to hear the case; He rises to give the verdict, and it is the prosecuting attorney who stands and accuses. And he’s got two people in His sights that he’s accusing.
God has already called the men of Jerusalem “haughty” in chapter two. Now he is looking at the women, and God is going to punish them too, because these women have set their hope, their security, their delight on things that are not God.
The two main things that God is going to remove from these women are:
They are walking with their noses in the air, winking with their eyes... The eyes are part of the way a woman can attract a man, and they’re using that to the fullest. The way a woman walks also speaks of what she’s after. Luther, when he translated this, called it “swinging her hips”. It was in style then to wear anklets, and they would attach little silver chains between their anklets, so when they walked they couldn’t take a very long step because the chains would get in the way. (The things we do for fashion!) So they’re taking little prancing steps because of these chains, and their ankles are jingling as they walk because of all the anklets… Drawing attention to whom? To themselves.
God is a jealous God, He can’t stand it when we draw attention to something other than Him. When women dress in a way to bring attention to themselves, that is something that God hates. It’s squirting lemon juice in His eye. And so He says I’m going to start taking away these things that you’re taking delight in, women:
· Instead of your beautiful hair, I’m going to make it shaved and put scabs on it. The word for “scabs” may also have to do with the hair being “matted.” He’s going to bring ugliness to the hair that you used to attract attention to yourself, in order to teach you to put your attention back on God. Also, the scabs could be related to sexually transmitted diseases.
· Verse 17 also talks about the rape that the women were humiliated by when the Chaldean soldiers came into Jerusalem.
· God says He’s going to take away all their beauty props:
· All the ear-rings, and the bracelets, and the headdresses, and instead of perfume, rottenness.
· Instead of a belt, a rope. The Chaldeans are going to tie a rope around your waist and drag you away by it because you’re a captive.
· Baldness instead of the hairdos.
· Sackcloth: uncomfortable, cheap clothing. Clothing of the slaves.
· Branding instead of beauty. The hot iron brand on the forehead that marks you as a slave. A captive nation, you will be dragged into Babylon.
A caveat here: there’s nothing wrong with looking beautiful. We’re not to purposefully look ugly or purposefully avoid any adornment, but, as Peter says in I Pet. 3:3, don’t let your beauty come from these props. “Let not your beauty come from the outward adornment” of ear-rings and all this, “but from the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” What makes you beautiful, ladies, is not your outside, but your heart - your ability to trust God and to be at peace. That’s what makes you beautiful.
The end of this chapter shows these devastated women. Their physical beauty has been taken away, and their wealth that allows them to be glamorous is taken away. Their modesty and honor has been stripped away, and their men have also been taken away.
God says, “I’m also going to take away your men because you’re relying on them instead of me.” The men will die in battle, and so that’s why the gates will be empty in verse 26. The old, retired men sat at the gates and served as judges, using their wisdom to decide cases and talk about things, but now the gates are going to be empty because the men are dead. The city of Jerusalem is going to be empty, cleaned out, and left like a woman desolate, sitting on the ground, and desperate for a husband.
That’s what Isa 4:1 is talking about. There’s not enough men to go around. The women want to have children; they want security of a husband, and they’re going to be so desperate that seven of them are going be willing to go to one man, promising to take care of their own needs, and not even ask him to provide for them. That’s desperation!
Why does God take away things like this? Why would God do this to us? Why do we experience loss, why do we feel like we’re losing things that we enjoy? There are things in our lives that we enjoy and God just suddenly ripped them out. Why does He do that? I believe it’s because He’s calling us back to Himself.
In Ezekiel chapter 16, we have a picture of this woman when God is been removing things out of her life, too. If you look the beginning of this chapter, it says God gave those things to her in the first place because He loved her. God talks about how He gave birth to this baby girl.
v.6 I passed by you, saw you squirming in your blood, and I said, while you were in your blood, “live.” And then I multiplied you. You grew up, became tall, reached the age of fine ornaments. [She is maturing physically.] I saw you, I spread my skirt over you, I clothed your nakedness, entered into a covenant with you, so that you would become mine. I bathed you with water, washed off your blood, anointed you with oil, I enclosed you with embroidered cloth and then put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet. I wrapped you with fine linen, covered you with silk, adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and necklaces on your neck… I gave you flower and honey to eat.
All of this finery, God gave to her in the first place because He loved her and was lavishing His love on her. But then what did she do? She started using those things to draw attention to herself and lifting her attention from God, her lover, to these things that God had given her. And that’s why God says. “I’m going to take these things back out of your life until you turn back to me.”
Ezekiel 16:27: “You play the harlot; you multiplied your harlotry. You made Me angry, behold! I have stretched my hand out against you and diminished your rations. I delivered you up to the desires of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines who are ashamed of your lewd conduct.
So here it is again in Ezekiel: God says, “You turned away from Me so I’m going to diminish these things in hopes that you’ll turn back to me.”
In Isaiah 4:4 we have this stated explicitly: It speaks of the time when the Lord will have “washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the blood stains from her midst by a spirit of judgment, and a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over [her] a booth for shade during the day and a refuge of shelter from the storms and rain.” His gloriousness, pride, honor, holiness, life! These are all things promised in chapter 4 - This is God aim, this is God’s goal! He wants to see them cleaned up; He wants to see them blessed, so He first removes the distractions from our lives in order to turn us back to Himself and regain the intimacy that He desires.
Revelation three has the same concept:
Are you a place in your life where you are saying, “God, You’re taking away things from me that I love! You’ve taken away from me things that really made my life easier. It’s something that I enjoy. Why can’t I have that?” If you’re feeling that way, your response needs to be to run to God and say: “I’m sorry, God. I turned my attention towards the things You’ve given me, and I see now You took them away in order to get my attention. I want to be restored in fellowship with you, God.”
Maybe this is not happening to you, but you are startled to see the judgment that is beginning to fall in our culture. It’s alarming to see how wicked people are getting. It’s alarming to see how God’s judgment is already falling: diseases, depression, death, evil things we see around us, flagrant violations of God’s Word, people displaying their sin openly like Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s alarming! The word for you on that is: “It will be well. Tell the righteous, it will be well with them.” If you have found your righteousness in Christ, don’t be alarmed. It will be well if you continue to hang your hopes on Him, and find your righteousness in Jesus and live your life to His Glory…it will be well.
Special thanks to Joe Catudal for transcribing this sermon from its original audio format!