Isaiah 2:5-4:1 The Introductory Statement Of The Case Continues.
It is only in the light of the Lord that one can walk. Without the word of God there is no place for God’s people to stand, and no direction in which to walk (v. 5 Cf. Eph. 5:8). It is the light of the word which exposes the paganism of Judah’s religion. The LORD had forsaken the house of Jacob because they were “filled with eastern ways.” (v. 6a) Instead of looking to the prophets they turned to soothsayers, and instead of marriage within the covenant community, they were “pleased with the children of foreigners.” (v. 6b) They assumed that all was well, or at least they were not worried, since they had riches in abundance (v. 7). However, their land was also full of idols-the physical expression of their pagan religion. Their gods were but the product of their own fingers, just as their thoughts were the product of their own sinful imaginations (v. 8). They were worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (v. 9).
Rather than religious festivities, they should be hiding in a cave, “from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty.” (v. 10) This is a prelude statement to Isaiah’s experience of being overwhelmed in the Glory-Presence of the Lord of hosts (6:1ff). “The day of the LORD of hosts” has come many times in history, when the LORD comes upon “everything proud and lofty.” (v. 12) It will be a day of contrasting humilities-some to a god of their own making, and others to a humility before the Glory-Presence (vv. 11-12). Even the works of creation, which fallen man employs in his idolatry, shall tremble at His presence (vv. 13-14). However, mountains and hills also symbolize political powers, and in the day of the LORD of hosts, He and those hosts will also come “upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall.” (vv. 15-16) However, this judgment is interjected with a message of hope (2:1-4).
The coming of the promised One, and the establishment of God’s house, was one of these days of the LORD of hosts, and as Jesus made clear, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the onward march of His church throughout the whole earth (Mt. 16:18; 28:18-20). His kingdom shall continue to grow until it fills the whole earth, until He hands it to the Father with the defeat of that final enemy, death (Mt. 13: 31-33; I Cor. 15:24-28). However, with this visitation, men will wish they had gone to the cave earlier, “from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily.” (vv. 19b, 21b) This will be the fate of pagan man and his false religious worship, as all men are brought low, and the LORD alone is exalted. In that day men will finally cast their idols of silver and gold to the ground for all these are worth. Their idols symbolized not only their religion, but also their trust in riches.
The command to the covenant community is clearer than crystal-“Sever yourselves from such a man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for of what account is he.” (v. 22) As Paul will point out, this does not mean that we should not associate with those outside the church, but to sever ourselves from those who claim to be in covenant with the LORD but are unrepentant pagans in doctrine and life. This is a case where chapter divisions are not always helpful, for Isaiah continues on with this thought in this discourse. “For behold,” must lead us to ask “’For’ what?” What does the “For behold” refer to? Thankfully Isaiah tells us that “the Lord” who is also the covenant making and covenant keeping “LORD of hosts,” will bring His covenant lawsuit judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah-His own covenant house and nation, for forsaking the covenant. This judgment would include both resources and leadership, as covenant relationships always go through representatives (vv. 2-3).
In the beginning of his book Isaiah makes an introductory statement of the covenant lawsuit case which the LORD had against His people (Ch. 1), calling forth heaven and earth as His witnesses-to hear and testify (1:2). Now Isaiah continues with his introductory statement of the case (2:5-4:1). In effect, Isaiah as the LORD’s spokesman, is acting as His prosecuting attorney. However, the interjection of the hope of a future house (2:1-4) is a reminder that even within this judgment, the LORD would fulfill the destiny of His covenant people through a faithful remnant of election according to grace. For these, the covenant has always been one of grace, a reminder which he will repeat as he speaks of the renewal of Zion (4:2-6). However, with regard to this case, the LORD will punish the nation with immature rulers, and the people will degenerate to base rule. There will be no concern for one’s neighbour, which is what the law requires, and the young will have no respect for their elders (vv. 4-5).
Men will refuse the leadership, and children will be to stupid and disrespectful to know that they should. This is the cost of failed covenantal leadership. Many want the leadership mantel when all is well, but are quick to flee when judgment comes. The leadership themselves were guilty of sin in word and deed, as Isaiah has already pointed out, they perverted justice (1:21-23). They themselves joined with heaven and earth to witness to their words and deeds (v. 9). However, there is hope for the penitent remnant, who will be redeemed with righteousness (v. 10 Cf. 1:26-27). This lawsuit states that the wicked will be rewarded. We should also note that not only was it a curse to be ruled by children, but they would also suffer judgment by being ruled by women (vv. 11-12). Both were considered equally abhorrent! The LORD Himself will stand as their prosecutor, and “will enter into judgment with the elders of His people.” (v. 14a)
It is the leadership who will suffer the most, for plundering and crushing the people (v. 14b-15). Moreover, the LORD also charges the women of the nation in particular for their wanton eyes and haughty looks, for which they would be given scabs before nakedness (vv. 16-17). Instead of costly jewellery and sweet perfumes, they would be left with a stench (vv. 18-24a). “Instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-set hair, baldness; instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.” (v. 24bc). They would be branded as slaves of sin and appropriately judged. The men of war would fall, so they would be defenceless (vv. 25-26). The abandoned gates also symbolize the absence of judges, who would normally sit to adjudicate cases, and administer justice. It is in these circumstances, that these women will also plead for husbands to lead, such that their reproach might be taken away, but they will find none (4:1).