In this chapter Isaiah turns his thoughts from a distant ‘day of the Lord’ to a judgment that would be much more imminent for Judah and Jerusalem. In fact it fell more than a hundred years after Isaiah wrote these words, but the prophet’s description was spot on. The calamitous punishment came at the hands of the Babylonians. Though all the people would suffer, the leaders would face the worst. Leaders bear the greater responsibility, both for what goes right and what goes wrong (James 3:1). In these verses Isaiah lists the key leaders who would be removed from Jerusalem, leaving only the poor behind (2 Kings 24:14; 25:18-21). I take (1b) to refer to the ”supply” that would be removed, and (2, 3) to the ”support”. The Message has it that God ”…is emptying Jerusalem and Judah Of all the basic necessities, plain bread and water to begin with. He’s withdrawing police and protection, judges and courts, pastors and teachers, captains and generals, doctors and nurses, and, yes, even the repairmen and jacks-of-all-trades.” Our trust must not be in any man or woman but in the Lord Himself. ”God would take away in His wrath everything that dethroned Him in the hearts of the people…Beware living on substitutes!” Warren W. Wiersbe: With the Word,p.454.
A football supporter was telling me recently about his team. They are not doing well in their league and the potential of relegation looms large. It would appear their confidence is shot to pieces. ‘No-one seems to want the ball,’ he said. Verses 4 – 7 describe such a situation politically, where no-one wants ‘the ball’. Usually it doesn’t take much encouragement to get people to become leaders! But here people will recognise that the situation is hopeless and not want office. In the vacuum created by (1-3) there will be poor and immature leadership (see also 12) and social anarchy will reign: ”I’ll put little kids in charge of the city. Schoolboys and schoolgirls will order everyone around…One brother will grab another and say, ‘You look like you’ve got a head on your shoulders. Do something! Get us out of this mess.’ And he’ll say, ‘Me? Not me! I don’t have a clue. Don’t put me in charge of anything.’ ” The Message. ”Generally men aspire to be rulers; the emolument and honour of the position are infinitely attractive… What a striking contrast is suggested to the love of Jesus Christ! ‘He saw that there was no man…therefore his own arm brought salvation.” He knew that if he espoused the cause of our lost race, it would involve Him in the bitterest agony and woe. But He steadfastly set his face to the accomplishment of our redemption.” F.B.Meyer: Great verses through the Bible,p.270.
There is no escaping the Biblical principle that we will reap what we sow (8-11). You cannot sow dahlias in your allotment and expect onions to come up! Here are key lines in this passage: ”They have brought disaster upon themselves…they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds…They will be paid back…” (9b, 10, 11: You will notice that this works both ways: sow goodness and that’s what will grow; sow wickednessand… you know the rest!!) What is fascinating here is that even as the ship is going down, and they are responsible for it, the people remain on deck shaking their fists at God. ”Jerusalem’s on its last legs. Judah is soon down for the count. Everything people say and do is at cross – purposes with GOD, a slap in my face. Brazen in their depravity, they flout their sins like degenerate Sodom. Doom to their eternal souls! They’ve made their bed; now they’ll sleep in it.” The Message. On Good Friday I took part in a small march of witness in our village, as we carried the cross up the High Street. Someone said to me afterwards that they could see the derision and even anger in some facial expressions. Whilst we are not the judges of what is happening in anyone’s hearts, it is certainly true that scorn and hatred can be writ large on people’s faces (9).
Note the promise to ”the righteous” (10). Even when everything is crumbling around us, let us not lose heart and just blend in with the crowd because it’s easier. We should continue to walk in God’s ways. We will not regret it if we do.
Prayer: I acknowledge, Lord, the feebleness of anything I try to rely on apart from you. It will not hold me. Forgive me if I ever, even for a moment, try to live on substitutes.