Tuesdays with Isaiah (Isaiah 3)

Continuing the theme of God’s coming judgment on the pride and disobedience of Judah, Isaiah, in chapter 3, presents a sad and sobering picture of the devastating results of God’s coming judgment. 

In verses 1-7, the Lord announces he will remove “support and supply” from Jerusalem and Judah.  He will take away their supply of food and water (1) and the support of competent leaders and protectors (2).  He will remove civility and respect from society (5). He will also remove the spiritual imposters who helped lead Judah into sin (“skillful magician and the expert in charms”—3).

In place of capable men, Judah will be left with “boys” as their “princes” and “infants” as their rulers (4).  No one will be eager to provide leadership or help (“healer” or “binder of wounds”—7) for the nation in ruins (6). As a result of the leadership vacuum, chaos will ensue, and people will “oppress one another” and treat each other with disrespect (5).

Isaiah reiterates the reason for God’s judgment and Judah’s brokenness: “their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence” (literally “the eyes of his glory”—8).  They are openly evil as they “proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it” (9). 

The Lord has Isaiah remind the people of a truth they have chosen to ignore: it will “be well” with the righteous (10) but go “ill” for the wicked (11).  God has taken his rightful place as Lord and Judge and is about to deal strongly with the leaders of the nation who have misused their power and abused the poor (13-15).

But it is not only the men in positions of leadership who are headed for God’s judgment, it’s also the proud, wealthy “daughters of Zion” who fixate on fashion and pamper themselves.  Verses 16-23 read like a fashion catalogue for stylish women.  Isaiah lists 21 clothing items or fashion accessories worn by the wealthy daughters of Jerusalem: from anklets to headbands to rings and veils.  This amazing abundance of fashion articles speaks to the wealth and priorities of the women in the city.  In contrast to what the Lord says he’s looking for 1 Peter 3:1-6, these women are focused on external beauty only. 

As a result, the Lord is bringing a horrifying judgment on these women.  They will be embarrassed and exposed (17), their beautiful garments exchanged for a “skirt of sackcloth” (24).  They will wear the wardrobe of prisoners.  Pride will vanish as beauty becomes branding (24).  They will be treated as cattle not pampered like princesses.

All this will come upon God’s people because they have forsaken Him.  They’ve turned from His ways and defied his glorious presence.  Therefore, he will send devastation and humiliation that brings the haughty down to the dust.

Behold Your God

The Lord judges a nation by removing internal supports as well as bringing external attacks.  To judge his sinful nation, the Lord not only brings foreign oppressors to attack (25), but he also removes what’s needed for a society to function well.  He takes away “support and supply”, leaving a nation in dire need of the basics: food, water, good leaders and good will.  The nation crumbles from within as it faces attacks from the outside.  The external attacks further degrade the internal resources.  All this is seen as God’s judgment on his people.

The Lord is gloriously awesome and entirely aware.  The sinful words and deeds of the people of Judah defy God’s “glorious presence.”  The literal rendering of this phrase is “the eyes of his glory.”  The Lord is both high above (glorious) and acutely aware of his people (eyes).  He sees the spoils of the poor in the houses of the rich rulers (14).  He watches the women strut around with haughty hearts (16).  He is both transcendent and immanent.

The Lord holds leaders accountable for providing honest, godly leadership.  The Lord is well aware of the injustice inflicted on the poor by the powerful.  He sees the pride and pomp of the wealthy women who only pamper themselves.  When people misuse and abuse the power and privilege God grants, he ultimately removes it.  He is a righteous God and Judge with a concern for justice and righteousness.

Here Am I

I am always dependent on the Lord’s provision and protection.  Judah doesn’t realize God’s goodness and gracious provision and protection until he removes it (1-3).  It’s easy to take his “support and supply” for granted, assuming that we are responsible for the bounty and safety we enjoy.  But like our very breath, as soon as the Lord withdraws it, we perish.  We are not autonomous or self-sustaining.  We are continually dependent on God for all that makes life livable and enjoyable.

I must keep my deeds right before the Lord if I want it to be well.  Judah is indicted for speech and deeds that “are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence” (8).  I must strive to keep my words and actions in line with God’s glory.  This will mean speaking and acting with integrity, compassion, justice and humility.  This is fitting in light of my glorious God.

Obsession with fashion is an evidence of a proud and wayward heart.  When wealth is used selfishly to pamper and accentuate external beauty and pomp, there is an underlying heart problem that God detects and detests.  He is looking for the inward beauty of a godly, humble heart (1 Peter 3:3-5; 1 Timothy 2:9-10).

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