Summary: Don't take God’s grace for granted; remember that with the privilege of being God’s people comes the responsibility to remain faithful; to allow God to be God in every part of our lives. God judges the people of Israel with a view to their restoration
The great temptation for Christians as well as for the Jews is the temptation to take God’s grace for granted; even worse, to feel a sense of superiority, of smugness, because we’re part of God’s chosen people. The way to overcome that temptation is to remember that with the privilege of being God’s people comes the responsibility to remain faithful; to allow God to be God in every part of our lives.
That was the thing that the people of Judah had forgotten. As we’ll see in a moment they’d ignored God’s laws and God was about to punish them by removing his protection from them.
As we come to ch 24-27 we find a global vision on a massive scale. It’s as though the camera pans out from Jerusalem to the whole earth. As we look on we see God’s judgment engulfing the earth.
You may have noticed that there are great similarities between Isaiah and the book of Revelation and here’s another. Here we find a tale of two cities similar to the message of Revelation. God is about to judge all those who rebel against him yet at the same time a remnant of the Lord’s people will be saved from destruction and brought to security in a future Zion, the city of God. But first let’s look at the beginning of Ch 24.
A. The preservation of the Lord’s people in the midst of devastation. 24:1-20
The first thing we find is the natural order of the world being turned upside down. No longer are the rich and privileged immune from suffering. “As with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; etc.”
The old world order is being turned upside down. And the forms of devastation are comprehensive. First military conquest, vs1-3, then environmental devastation, vs4-6. And why is this about to happen? Because they’ve transgressed laws, i.e. they’ve simply disobeyed God’s word; they’ve violated the statutes, that is they’ve altered God’s law, introduced their own variety of morality. We saw this in ch5: “Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is 5:20) We see it in our own day, don’t we, where people derive their morality from opinion polls rather than from God’s word. And thirdly they’ve broken the everlasting covenant, - they’ve stepped out of the covenant relationship with God. And the result? Well it’s the same as the result of the fall isn’t it? “Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.”
In the life of the people it’s like the song of the world is being stilled (7-12). Their song of confidence and contentedness in their rebellion will cease as they finally realise their true condition.
It’s a chilling image isn’t it? As though the music box has finally wound down and we’re left with nothing but the silence before the storm.
But then in the distance we hear the song of the remnant rising in praise of the Lord. “14They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; they shout from the west over the majesty of the LORD.” There are still those who long for the Lord to reign, who remain faithful even as the rest of the people’s rebellion plays itself out.
And notice that the singing comes from the west and from the east. This isn’t just a remnant of Israel there are others who rejoice in God’s justice. And so we come to the climax of these chapters. Here we see
B. The inclusion of all people into God’s new creation and the blessings of Mt Zion - 25:1-12
Here we see the aftermath of God’s judgement. The cities are destroyed, the palaces of evil are no more, ruthless nations have been overthrown.
Yet on God’s mountain there’s peace and prosperity. There “the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.” It makes your mouth water doesn’t it? What a celebration! How amazing that the whole earth is destroyed, yet on God’s holy mountain people enjoy the bounty of God’s blessing.
And it isn’t just that they’ll receive God’s blessing. He says “And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isa 25:7-8) Sounds like Rev 20 doesn’t it?
And the faithful will say: “9Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”