The once faithful Jerusalem has become like a harlot with their idolatry, corruption, and lack of justice. As a result, the Lord will turn His hand against them to refine and purify them. The Lord promises that one day He will restore Judah and Jerusalem – “Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
Isaiah speaks of what “shall come to pass in the latter days.” He says the day is coming where people from all nations will come to worship the Lord, and there will be peace. This day will come through the Messiah, who will first come to die for the sins of the world but then return to put an end to all war and conflict and establish peace under His righteous reign. Therefore, Isaiah calls for Judah to walk in the light in anticipation of the coming Messiah – “O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
The Lord desired for Israel to be a light to the nations around them, drawing others into fellowship with the Lord. Instead, they turned from the Lord and His ways and allowed the foreign nations to influence them with their pagan worship. In addition, the people became prideful because of their wealth and the work of their own hands which led to corruption. Therefore, judgment is upon Judah.
God rebukes the leaders for abusing their power by mistreating the people and using their positions for their own personal gain. Then Isaiah turns his attention to the shallow, rich, haughty ladies in Judah who are flaunting their fine clothes, headdresses, jewelry, and perfume. These women are much more concerned with the external than the Lord, and they use their sexuality to control and manipulate men. Therefore, the Lord says He will remove all of those external distractions – “Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench; 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. Your men shall fall by the sword, and your mighty in the war. Her gates shall lament and mourn, and she being desolate shall sit on the ground.” Then in what will she put her hope?
After foretelling of the coming judgment upon Judah, Isaiah gives a promise of hope. Isaiah says the day is coming when “the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious.” Isaiah is speaking of the coming Messiah, and in that day, the Lord will wash the filth off the ungodly women and the people of Jerusalem and restore them. Then the people will desire to be in His presence, and He will be a place of refuge for those who trust in Him – “And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.”
God refers to His people as a vineyard that He cared for and expected to produce good grapes; instead they produced worthless grapes. “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.” And since Judah was more concerned with building their own wealth, being drunkards, testing the Lord with their sin, exalting themselves, and taking justice away from the righteous, they will be turned over to their enemy. The Lord has seen all of their wickedness, and He will judge them by sending the Babylonians against Judah.
Tomorrow the Lord has a message for the surrounding nations. Keep reading. (Isaiah 1:21-5:30)