Summary: Our passage presents another analysis of Jerusalem and Judah, and gives us more insight into the political and social condition.
Isaiah 3:8-15 Court in Session
9/3/00e D. Marion Clark
We are in the midst of a gloomy section of judgments and analyses of Jerusalem’s and Judah’s condition that began with 2:6 and will run through 4:1. Really, from the beginning Isaiah’s message has been one of criticism of their condition and warning of judgment with a scattering of hopeful words (1:18,26,27) and one section of promise (2:1-4). This is the kind of stuff John’s disciples appreciated. Our passage presents another analysis of Jerusalem and Judah, and gives us more insight into the political and social condition.
Isaiah cries out: 8 Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling. The nation is going down for the count. Or perhaps a better imagery is that of a drunk staggering on the street, about to collapse in a stupor.
What’s the problem? It’s the same as Isaiah opened his book with: they have rebelled against me [God] (1:2). Their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. Now, Isaiah has already explained some of these “words and deeds.” They include hypocrisy in worship, violence, oppressing the needy, not providing justice, idolatry, practicing divination and the occult, and pride. We know these things are bad, and Isaiah has already labeled them as rebelliousness, but here he presents them in the harshest light: they defy the glorious presence of the Lord.
Remember who the people of Judah and Jerusalem are? They are members of the covenant nation of God. Jerusalem is the home of God’s temple, God’s dwelling place. Judah is supposedly God’s kingdom on earth. It is the holy land, the place of God’s presence. And he dwells not just in the land, but among the people. They are to be a kingdom of priests, a people who mediate before God on behalf of everyone else. They possess the Law of God. They are suppose to model before the world the kind of people who follow the one true God. They are suppose to declare his glory to the world.
Instead, they live just as the world does, and in many ways worse than the world. Thus, instead of magnifying the glorious presence of the Lord, they are defying it. They are making the statement: we will live for our own glory.
Verse 9 points out their arrogance again. They are brazen about their rebelliousness; they act proud about their offense:
9 The look on their faces testifies against them;
they parade their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
They have brought disaster upon themselves.
They are not like the Pharisees, that’s for sure. They do not bother to appear to be pious. They would not have blatantly defied God, but their demeanor and actions show clearly that the religion of the covenant have no place in their hearts.
Note Isaiah’s dire conclusion: Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. Their own sins will bring judgment. They will not escape. God will not be mocked; he will not allow sin and injustice to go unpunished. And they have no one to blame but themselves.
Now, I had mentioned that in this gloomy section of doom and criticism are words of hope and encouragement. Verse 10a presents one: 10 Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. You can imagine the concern of those few people who do follow the Lord when they hear these words of impending doom. Are they too to be caught up in the judgment? Yes and no. Yes, they are living in a land that will be destroyed, and, yes, they will get caught up in it. But they will not share the worse fate of the wicked – the perishing of their souls.
11 Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them!
They will be paid back for what their hands have done.
That is a more awful word than we realize. Our earthly minds run like this. We think of punishment and reward in earthly terms. On a side note, that’s why Scripture uses earthly language and we in turn misinterpret it. We see only the judgment and reward that takes place in this life, neither of which carries the full force intended. The judgment to come on the wicked is not merely that their homes will get knocked down, or they will lose their land, or even that they will be killed. The disaster upon them is the loss of their souls. The sins, remember, defy the glory of God. The penalty for such a crime is damnation.
Likewise, the reward of the righteous is not merely good health or protection from invading armies. It is the very salvation of one’s soul. The fruit they will receive is the fruit of salvation; it is entering into the glorious presence of God. The righteous, the truly righteous, remember, may come before the righteous God. Isaiah is saying to them, “Take heart; it will be well with you.”