What are we to make of the events recorded in Isaiah 3? It’s a pretty devastating pronouncement of judgment upon God’s people, Judah. What’s going on here?
Isaiah chapters 2-4 all go together. Isaiah 2:5-22 outlines the spiritual idolatry of the people of Judah and their pride. For years they had been placing their trust in their own resources and turning to idols (2:6-8).
God’s people had embraced a society of “tolerance”, welcoming “things from the east”, “fortune-tellers”, and walking in agreement with those who follow after the gods of foreigners (2:6). They had become fat and rich, trusting in the security of their military might and their wealth (2:7). Their land was “filled with idols” (2:8).
In 2:11-21, the Lord warned Judah through Isaiah that a day of judgment was coming and they were not safe from judgment simply because they were of the people of Israel. Isaiah warned Judah that “the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (2:11).
Chapter 3 is a chilling picture of what this judgment from God will look like. While this judgment was partially fulfilled when Judah was taken away into captivity by Babylon because of their unrepentance and idolatry between 597-587BC, this is also a foreshadowing of final judgement. This final judgment is THE “Day of the Lord” that the prophets and the New Testament speak of (see Isaiah 13:9-11, Zephaniah 1:14-18, Revelation 6:15-17).
So what’s with chapter 3? Chapter 3 outlines the social collapse of Judah that would immediately precede the coming day of judgement. Because of their pride and idolatry, Isaiah warned that society would break down. Shortages of supplies (3:2), the disappearance of military and social leadership (3:3-4), and a spirit of rebellion and division would set in (3:5).
Verses 6-7 even describe how the political system would fall apart, with unqualified and unwilling candidates thrust into leadership.
And why did all of this come upon Judah? Verses 8-9 give the answer:
“For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying His glorious presence. For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves”.
All of these things would be brought about by the Lord upon Judah as judgment for their rebellion and idolatry.
I don’t know about you, but it’s hard not to think of our current circumstances as I read Isaiah 3. It seems as if our society in many ways is coming apart at the seams. But we need to be careful here. America does not = Israel.
As Romans 9-11 teaches, God’s people are those who trust in Jesus, not those who are born into a certain country or into a certain bloodline. But the principles in Isaiah 3 can certainly be applied to our present day circumstances.
We are living in a time and place where there is widespread idolatry, where the pride of man is lofty as ever, and where sin is flaunted like it was in Sodom. And it’s pretty obvious that we are seeing the early signs of God’s judgment upon our country.
Leadership is falling apart, justice is being eschewed, the political structure is in turmoil, and God and His law are being defied at every turn. “Good” is called evil and “Evil” is called good. But this is not a surprise to God.
God is not up in heaven fretting about the sad state of affairs in America. He is not wondering how He is going to take back control of our country. He is absolutely, completely, sovereignly in control of every single event that is transpiring. He causes and orchestrates it, all the way down to the hard-heartedness of the people and the moral insanity overtaking the populous at large.
This passage should be both comfort to Christians as well as a solemn reminder. It is a comfort because we know things are not spinning out of control. America, like other nations, will pass away. But this doesn’t need to lead us to despair. Because in the next verse, Isaiah 3:10, we read “Tell the righteous it shall be will with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds”.
While America (and every other nation) will undergo God’s judgment, God’s people will be preserved. The reason God’s people will be rescued is not because of our own righteousness, but because we have been clothed in Jesus’ righteousness.
All who humble themselves, repent of their sin, and trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection are forgiven of sin and receive the righteousness of God as a free gift. That means that even though we have sinned, God counts us as sinless in His sight. We are reconciled to Him by grace.
A Solemn Reminder
Isaiah 3 is also a solemn reminder. It’s a reminder that millions around us are perishing in their sin. Great leaders, military might, and money cannot and will not last. Sin inevitably corrupts and destroys everything that it touches.
1 John 2:17 says “This world is passing away along with its desires”. As we watch the societal structures around us deteriorate by the day, we’re faced with a constant reminder of this. But we have a hope that will not pass away!
So let Isaiah 3 drive you to call the people around you to repentance. Warn those around you that a day of judgment is coming. Be aware of the fact that much of the deterioration we see in our country is a result of God’s judgment.
Don’t place your trust in man or political parties or institutions. Instead, place your trust in Jesus and pray that those around you would humble themselves before God before the Day of the Lord.
Pastor, Pillar Church of Washington DC