Chapter 32 divides roughly into two halves; the first giving a grand vision of Israel under the rule of a righteous king and noble princes (1-8) and the back half giving a warning of immanent disruption and disaster to the “complacent daughters” of Israel (9-20). While the final section warns of coming disruption, it does look past the near-term trouble to a future time when God’s Spirit brings a welcome renewal to the nation (15-20). As is often the case, these pronouncements are like pieces of a quilt stitched together to form a consistent pattern: near term judgment upon the nation of Israel but longer-term blessing for God’s people.
The chapter opens with a glorious picture of Israel rightly ordered under the leadership of a “king” who reigns in “righteousness” (1). This king is assisted by “princes” who also “rule in justice” (1). Godly leadership is a welcome relief for the nation after so many ungodly rulers and rebellious people. This good king and his assistants are beautifully pictured as “a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land” (2). Godly leadership shelters and refreshes people.
When Israel has this coming, righteous king, the people respond positively. The eyes of God’s people, so often shut tight in spiritual blindness, “will not be closed” (2). Their ears, so often plugged and dull of hearing, “will give attention” (2). Those who formerly were quick (“hasty”) to opt for their own desires and designs will “understand and know” (3). Those who stammered to speak truth “will hasten to speak distinctly.” In other words, when the righteous king and his just princes are in power, society changes for the better.
In this properly ordered realm, fools will no longer enjoy a place of honour and privilege: “The fool will no more be called noble” (5). The foolish leaders who mislead people by speaking “error concerning the Lord” will be silenced. Their foolish words, which never benefited others but left “the hungry unsatisfied”, will finally be stilled (6). Self-serving scoundrels who deprived the poor and needy of justice, will be replaced by “noble” leaders who plan “noble things” and stand on “noble” principles (8). The nation will come under God’s righteous rule and experience the blessing He brings.
Beginning in verse 9, Isaiah brings a message to the “complacent” women in Judah (“complacent” repeated in 9,10 and 11). These women who live “at ease” (9, 11) are to “rise up” (9), wake up and listen up. “In a little more than a year”, they will be at ease no longer (10). Life is about to get much harder as “pleasant fields” become overrun with “thorns and briers” (12, 13). The palace will be “forsaken,” cities “deserted” and “joyous houses” emptied (13, 14).
The “daughters” of Israel will soon trade complacency for consternation. They will remove their fine clothes, putting on “sackcloth” and beating their breasts in grief (11, 12). Having taken for granted the easy life they enjoyed, they will be jolted by the swift and painful reversal their nation will experience. They didn’t see it coming, but they will not be able to miss it when it arrives.
This devastation and desolation will remain “forever” (14), which is “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” (15). When God pours out His Spirit, He restores His people and their land. Once again, the “wilderness becomes a fruitful field” (16). Justice and righteousness take their rightful place in society (16), leading to the happy effects of “peace” and “quietness and trust forever” (17). Then God’s people will “abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places” (18).
Verse 19 has caused translators much difficulty as the Hebrew syntax is obscure. It speaks of hail bringing down forests the “the city” being “utterly laid low.” Then, in a seeming shift in tone, the chapter ends with a blessing on those who “sow beside all waters” and let their oxen and donkeys “range free” (20). This could be a quick glance back at the desolation (13-14) that precedes the coming of righteousness and peace (17).
Behold Your God
The Lord uses godly leaders to rightly order society. The opening verses in chapter 32 detail the positive effects of having a “righteous king” and noble “princes.” These godly leaders protect (shelter—2) and refresh (streams—2) those in their realm. They turn the society so that it’s no longer upside down. Fools, instead of being “called noble,” are seen for what they actually are. Scoundrels, who took advantage of others with their “wicked schemes” and lying words” (7), give way to noble men who make “noble plans” and take noble “stands” (8).
The Lord shakes up the spiritually complacent by upsetting their world. The complacent women only “rise up” (or wise up) when God brings in disruption and desolation. Sadly, complacency is only cured by difficulty and deprivation. How much better for us to fight off complacency by staying attentive to God and active in obedience.
The Lord’s Spirit can restore what His judgment has desolated. While He sends disruption to shake up and wake up the complacent, He also sends His Spirit to restore righteousness and peace among His people (15). In fact, without the coming of His Spirit, the desolation our sins cause remains “forever” (14).
Here Am I
I want to be a noble man who makes noble plans and takes noble stands. In contrast to fools and scoundrels who mislead people about the Lord (“utter error concerning the Lord”—6) and leave people spiritually hungry and thirsty (6), I want to be a noble man and leader. A noble leader makes “noble plans” and stands on “noble things” (8). This kind of leader serves as a shelter from the storm and as a stream in dry places (2). The Hebrew term for “noble” has the idea of generous and willing; it’s translated as “honourable” in the NET Bible and as “generous” in the New Living. Noble leaders have generous, willing hearts that seek the welfare of others.
I want to live “in quietness” not in “complacency.” The wealthy women in Judah are living “at ease” in a complacent way, taking for granted the prosperity they currently enjoy. What they fail to see is that it will soon be gone. They have a false sense of security, devoid of devotion and dependency upon the Lord. While God does not want His people to live “in complacency”, He does want them to “in quietness and trust” (17). He wants us trusting in Him, experiencing His peace and rest.