Friday, April 07, 2006

Isaiah 3 - The sins of Israel

This chapter reads like poetry with all of its visual metaphors.  One of the verses that impresses itself most on my mind is because of the striking visual images it describes:


24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of ca stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.


The interesting thing I learned from the footnotes is that “burning” in this verse is in reference to being branded as a slave.  The Lord is warning Israel of their fate if they do not repent: destruction, poverty, and slavery.  I supposed we can take that to be in both the spiritual and temporal sense.

I am always interested in the “why” question.  Why will the calamities prophesied come upon Israel? Here are the verses in this chapter that seem to answer that:


8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

14 The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.

15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

16 Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:


My interpretation yields the following list of grievances against Israel:


-          The things they say and do are not in harmony with the gospel. (they are hypocrites)

-          They are open in their sinfulness, which is comparable to the sins of Sodom.

-          Instead of caring for the poor, they take from the poor to enrich themselves

-          The rising generation is not humble and indulges in self-adornment and the appearance of wealth.


One of the most insidious things about sin is how subtle it comes upon us and how it justifies itself.   I believe Isaiah wrote such clear and scathing rebukes because he wanted the people to wake up to what was really going on.  Think about it- nobody walks out their front door in the morning saying, “G’Bye dear!  I’m off to grind the faces of the poor!”    Instead, we gradually and incrementally heap upon ourselves treasures and possessions because we “need” them, or even because we want them and feel like we deserve them, not realizing that this selfish behavior is making the situation of the poor worse.    In the mean time, the Lord is looking down on this in disappointment, so he speaks through his prophet and says something to the effect of, “why are you doing this?   Can’t you see the poor among you?  Why aren’t you lifting them up and blessing them the same way I am blessing you?” 



These thoughts weigh a lot on my mind because it makes me think seriously about the differences in my standard of living and that of others.   I have to ask myself seriously if the Lord is happy with what I am doing with the great blessings and wealth he is giving me.    I can’t help but think this is the design of Isaiah, to get us to think about these uneasy questions.



No comments: