Summary: The message is a call for Christians to vigorously pursue the life to which Christ calls us. The alternative is to be unfruitful and barren.
“In that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low,
and the fat of his flesh will grow lean.
And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain
and his arm harvests the ears,
and as when one gleans the ears of grain
in the Valley of Rephaim.
Gleanings will be left in it,
as when an olive tree is beaten—
two or three berries
in the top of the highest bough,
four or five
on the branches of a fruit tree,
declares the LORD God of Israel.
“In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.
“In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.
“For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;
therefore, though you plant pleasant plants
and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,
though you make them grow on the day that you plant them,
and make them blossom in the morning that you sow,
yet the harvest will flee away
in a day of grief and incurable pain.”
t is possible for a Christian to be barren and unfruitful even while having knowledge of Christ the Lord. This possibility is clearly presented in Peter’s second missive. There, Peter concludes his instruction in Christian responsibility for growth by saying, “If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” [2 PETER 1:3-8]. If we will be fruitful we must know how to avoid being barren.
As was true for our Jewish forebears, we Christians are prone to neglect the lessons of history. We often ignore the warnings arising from judgement of the people of God; however, we ignore such warnings at our own peril. Paul cautioned the Corinthian saints against ignoring the warnings arising from Israel’s history [1 CORINTHIANS 10:1-13].
In our text, Isaiah states that Israel had become barren because of three errors—errors that plague the churches of our Lord even in this day. Isaiah charged that Israel was suffering from a love of idols, a loss of memory and a loss of concentration. In a similar fashion, the professed people of God in this day are suffering from the same dreadful maladies that threaten the continued vitality of the congregations of our Lord.
You will perhaps recall that Isaiah delivered prophetic messages against several nations that surrounded Judah; Babylon, Moab and Damascus were warned as were Cush and Egypt—each being the focus of divine warning. At the time Isaiah delivered this prophetic warning, Syria served as a buffer between Israel and Assyria. No doubt, Israel felt secure because Syria was interposed between her and the Assyrians. Before warning Damascus of coming judgement, the man of God turned his attention first to Israel, and as is frequently the case, he telescoped prophesy to include the entire world during a future time referred to as “that day.” As Aram was destroyed, so all mankind will likewise face divine judgement in “that day” of divine judgement. It was as though destruction and restoration were telescoped into one great event, though the specific prophecies were in fact separated by millennia.
The message this day looks at the prophecy of judgement to come, with a view to challenging us in our own situation. If the words of the prophet apply to God’s people without restriction, as I believe to be true, we need to heed the warning that he penned.
Churches suffer from A LOVE OF IDOLS [VV. 7, 8]. “In that day” the churches, as is also true for Israel, will remember their “Maker.” The Israelites were idolaters of the worst sort. They had a reputation of following the Lord God of Heaven and earth, but their worship was perfunctory. Listen to Amos as he confronts God’s wayward people, reminding them of their idolatry. “Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god—your images that you made for yourselves” [AMOS 5:25].
You will recall that Ezekiel was God’s prophet who shared with God’s people the hardship of exile in Babylon. This courageous prophet exposed grossest idolatry among the religious and civil leadership—idolatry committed even as the people were enduring divine punishment. While in Babylonian captivity, this man of God saw the idolatry of God’s people and wrote the following words exposing the wickedness of the people.