The Word Made Fresh
1This is what Isaiah saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2In the future, the mountain where the LORD’s house stands shall be established as the highest of all the mountains. It shall be raised above the surrounding hills, and all the nations shall be drawn to it. 3Many people will come to it. They will say, “Come, let’s go up to the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob. There God may teach us, and we will learn to walk in God’s paths.”
Instructions will come out of Zion; the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4God shall judge between nations and make rulings for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not attack nations, nor shall they learn war ever again.
5Come, descendants of Jacob. Let us walk in the LORD’s light. 6You have abandoned the ways of your people, O Jacob. They have been influenced by palm readers from the east and soothsayers like the Philistines. They hold hands with foreigners. 7Their land is full of silver and gold. There is no end to their riches. They possess many horses, and their chariots cannot be counted. 8Idols fill their land, and they worship things their own hands have made. 9As a result, the people are humbled and brought low. Don’t forgive them. 10Let them hide among the rocks and cower in the dust, terrified of the LORD and afraid of God’s majesty and glory. 11Their haughty eyes will be lowered, and everyone’s pride will be humbled, and the LORD will be lifted up in that day, 12for the LORD of hosts has established a day against all the proud and lofty things that have been lifted high. 13That day shall stand against all the cedars of Lebanon and all the oaks of Bashan that have been lifted up, 14and against every high mountain and lofty hill; 15and against every high tower and fortified wall, 16and against all the ships and all the magnificent craft of Tarshish. 17The people’s haughtiness shall be humbled and everyone’s pride will be leveled, and the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. 18All the idols will completely disappear.
19Hide for fear of the LORD! Go into the caves among the rocks and into the holes in the ground and hide from the terror of God’s majesty when the LORD rises up to terrify the earth! 20On that day the people will throw away their silver and gold idols which they made for themselves to worship; throw them away to the moles and the bats. 21And they will enter the rocky caverns and craggy clefts, to escape the anger of the LORD. They will hide from the glory of God’s majesty when the LORD rises to terrify the earth.
22Turn away; don’t listen to mere mortals who have only breath in their nostrils. What do they really account for?
1-4: Isaiah “sees” a word, that is, a pronouncement. He describes a vision of the rise of Mt. Zion as the world’s religious center where people come from all over to learn of God’s ways. When that time comes, when every nation seeks God’s ways, then peace will reign supreme.
5-9: God invites Jacob (Israel) for a “walk” and explains where they’ve gone wrong. They have forgotten their covenant with God and have been influenced by the religions of the peoples around them, particularly the Philistines, and have been enamored of foreign soothsayers. They have admired the silver and gold idols and longed after the wealth their neighbors possess.
10-18: Isaiah tells the people to hide, for God is going to come and punish their pride and haughtiness. The pronouncement against the cedars and oaks, the high hills and towers deals with pagan practices that used idols carved from tree trunks and altars of sacrifice on hilltops and mountains. The high towers and fortified walls and merchant ships are seen as symbols of godless cultures against which God will pronounce judgment.
19-22: Isaiah tells them to hide in caves and holes to escape the “terror of the LORD” (verse 21). They will throw away their idols to the moles (if they hide in a hole) and to the bats (if they hide in a cave) because they will finally see that their idols are worthless. Verse 22 adds that, when it comes to God’s judgment, human beings are just as worthless as idols for they have only the breath that God gave them in the first place.
God’s anger continues to burn, and Isaiah is telling the people that they have a lot to atone for. They are going to suffer the consequences of their fickleness. We always do suffer the consequences of our behavior. A loving God often postpones our punishment until we are no more; we are judged in the life to come for the life we have lived. What changes do we need to make in our behavior?