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Monday, May 26, 2014

Isaiah 3: Supply and Support

Isaiah 3: Supply and Support

God takes away food and water. He intends to allow the government to fester with superstition, immaturity and oppression. All of this because the people have defied the LORD in word and deed. They have flaunted their sin and ignored their doom. God stands in judgement against the leaders, condemning their mistreatment of the poor, and scorning their proud affluence. All of their shallow appearances of beauty will become rottenness; their tinkling songs will fade into mournful lament.

GOD TAKES AWAY SUPPORT AND SUPPLY (Verses 1-7)

God has determined that the people of Judah suffer severe shortage of food and water. Worse, their political, military, and religious leaders will deteriorate. Infantile rulers will allow insolent oppression to become rampant, and the people desperately look for a savior. But none will be found.

Isaiah 3:1 (ESV) For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water.

Verse one describes God's removal of all support and supply.

"Support" occurs only two other times in the Old Testament, and both instances refer to the LORD being our strength (2 Samuel 22:19 and Psalm 18:18). "Supply" occurs 12 times, with nearly every instance referring to a literal walking stick or staff.

This first main idea emphasizes the lack of good leadership, even more dire than the lack of food and water. The entire southern half of Israel, the region known as Judah, will experience a loss of strong, skillful leaders, replaced by insolent boys and infants.

Verses two and three describe the loss of spiritually mature leadership.

The image here is of someone attempting to evoke power or control by scratching secret markings or fabricating cultic art.

An amulet is an ornament or small piece of jewellery thought to give protection against evil, danger, or disease. It seems likely that such an ornament would often be stroked or touched, with a whispered prayer or satanic phrase.

To "divine" means to discover something by guesswork or intuition, from an Old French word meaning to predict.

Verses two and three list eleven examples of the "support and supply" upon which Judah relied and God took away. Within this list are references to occult magic and secret superstition.

This echoes Isaiah's words in chapter two, "fortune-tellers" and "idols". The leadership of Judah was proud of their power, both natural and spiritual. Their pride had led them to reject God Almighty and worship themselves and demons, imaginary and real.

In one sense, the LORD's rebuke and punishment of idolatrous Judah seems terrifyingly harsh, yet in allowing Isaiah to speak to the people, to warn the people, it's very clear that the LORD was extending mercy and patience even with such an antagonistic, paganistic nation.

What do you think?

Verses four through 5 describe the ineffective, immature leadership that will ruin the country.

The psalmists here describe a government led by toddling, distracted, obsessive infants who will act impulsively without regard for honor or respect.

What do you think?

God's harsh treatment of Jerusalem and Judah would be in direct consequence of their leader's defiant words and work against the LORD. They proclaimed their Sodom-sin and glibly misled the people they govern. They devoured and crushed the poor for the sake of their own comfort and affluence.

Isaiah 3:12 (ESV) My people - infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.

Verse eight describes the LORD's "glorious presence" which the leadership had defied:

The LORD's glorious presence is also described in the Book of Exodus:

Exodus 24:16-17 (ESV) The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

"In the sight" is from the same Hebrew word as "presence".

In these references "presence" means "in the eyes of the beholder". The leadership of Jerusalem and Judah defied God in their eyes. They defied seeing any splendor or greatness in God.

Verse eight decribes rebellious defiance.

Moses used this word, translated as "rebels", to rebuke the people who complained bitterly against God's lack of care in the wilderness (Numbers 20:10). The LORD Himself used this word to describe the great trouble in which Israel found itself much later under King Jeroboam (2 Kings 1426).

Here, in Isaiah 3:8, the people are described as having bitter, rebellious hearts against God. In words and deeds they expressed their deep-seated disappointment and resentment against God. In their eyes, God was far from being "heavy with splendor". Rather, they saw Him as burdensome, severe or dull...all things unpleasantly bitter in their sight.

What do you think?

GOD WILL STRIP AWAY ALL SOURCES OF PRIDE (Verses 16-26)

The "daughters of Zion" will lose everything that matters to them: clothing, jewelry, perfume, hair, and strength. They will be left sitting in rags on the ground, filled with lamentation and mourning.

Isaiah 3:17 (ESV) The Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.

Who are the "daughters of Zion"? The rich women of Jewish high society? Is this a figure of speech that refers to the leadership of the nation? Or is it a reference to all of God's people who have become defiantly rebellious and haughty?

We saw in chapter two that "Zion" was a literal reference to the high mount upon which God allowed the nation of Israel to establish their capital city, Jerusalem. Figuratively it referred to the LORD's protection, providence and prominence given to the people of His choosing.

"Daughters of Zion" occurs at least 76 times in the Old Testament, referring to all people chosen by God, ancestors of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, named the people of Israel.

Jeremiah's reference to "daughter of Zion" is a good representation of the biblical use of this phrase.

Jeremiah 8:19 (ESV) Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: "Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?"

Jeremiah describes the great lament of a people invaded by enemies and utterly crushed and ruined. Through Jeremiah the LORD calls the people "the daughter of my people". Jeremiahs quotes the common lament asking how they could be suffering so much pain if they belong to the LORD their King.

Zephaniah uses the same phrase to foretell of the LORD's mighty rescue of His people:

Zephaniah 3:14-17 (ESV) Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: "Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

What do you think?

This chapter began with a harsh rebuke of the leadership of Judah, with God punishing the leaders for their oppression and manipulative control (verses 12 and 15). But all the people, leaders and followers, are included in the reprimand. All "daughters of Zion" means all people called by the LORD to be His people.

The LORD is rebuking the haughty, shallow attitude with which His people regard their relationship with Him.

It seems very likely that this detailed list of dress and jewelery describes the people literally as well as spiritually. Specific articles of clothing and beauty accessories are mentioned. "Secret parts" is a gentle translation of a shockenly graphic description of the woman's body.

God has commanded Isaiah to proclaim an extremely harsh, truthful rebuke of His people.

Yet it would be a grave mistake to think God was only concerned about literal appearances. At the heart of everything mentioned in this message is a reference to a deeply spiritual issue.

Isaiah warns that the God will take away bread and water, yet immediately follows that warning with specific examples that involve government leaders, rather than food and drink. Isaiah refers to the rulers as "infants", which is obviously not a literal reference. The leaders did not literally "devour the vineyard". This rebuke strikes at the heart of spiritual shallowness. The people regarded themselves as greatly as they disregarded the splendor of God.

What do you think?