The Word Made Fresh
1Look, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and strip it bare,
ruining its surface and scattering its people.
2And it shall be the same with the people as with the priest;
with the servant as with the master;
with the maid as with the mistress;
with the buyer as with the seller;
with the lender as with the borrower;
with the creditor as with the debtor.
3The earth will be made a wasteland and completely ransacked,
for the LORD has said so.
4The earth will dry up and wither,
the whole world will languish and fail;
the heavens will languish along with the earth.
5For the earth lies spoiled under the feet of its inhabitants.
They have broken laws, violated statutes
and damaged the everlasting covenant.
6Therefore a curse gobbles up the earth,
and its inhabitants will pay the price for their guilt.
That is why the population will dwindle
until only a few are left.|
7The wine dries up and the vines die away
Until all the merrymakers sigh in despair.
8The joy of the timbrels is quieted;
the jubilant celebrations are stopped;
the mirth of the harps is quieted.
9They will no longer drink wine and sing.
Strong drink will be bitter to those who drink it.
10The broken city is ruined;
every house is closed up so no one may enter.
11In the streets the people cry out for wine.
All their joy has been turned away
and all their gladness is banished.
12The city is left desolate, its gates battered and ruined.
13This is how it shall be on the earth and among the nations.
It will be as when an olive tree is chopped away,
or as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is over.
14Listen: voices will be lifted up from the west, singing joyfully,
shouting for the majesty of the LORD.
15That is why those in the east should give praise to the LORD,
and along the coast of the sea the LORD’s name is lifted up,
the God of Israel praised.
16From every corner of the earth songs of praise are heard,
ascribing glory to the Righteous One.
And yet I pine away, and woe is me!
For the treacherous will deal very treacherously.
17That is why terror and the grave and the snares await you
who live on the earth.
18Whoever runs away when the terror comes shall fall into the pit;
whoever climbs out of the pit shall be trapped in the snare.
For the windows of heaven are to be opened,
and the foundations of the world shall tremble.
19The earth is completely broken and ripped apart;
the earth is shaken violently,
20and stumbles like a drunkard.
It sways like a broken-down hut.
Its mistakes are heavy upon it
and it will fall, never to rise again.
21That is the day in which the LORD will punish the powers in heaven
and kings in the earth.
22They will be brought together like prisoners in a pit.
They will be locked up in prison,
and after many days have passed, they will be punished.
23Then the moon will be embarrassed
and the sun will be ashamed;
for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem,
and before the elders the LORD will be glorified.
1-3: Chapters 24-27 have been called “the Isaiah apocalypse.” If you think it reads a bit like the book of Revelation, it’s because they both concern the end of days. The section opens with the earth’s surface buckling and laid waste. Everyone will be affected. The first three pairs — people/priest, slave/master, and maid/mistress — are social distinctions. The last three pairs — buyer/seller, lender/borrower, and creditor/debtor — are opposites in the marketplace.
4-6: The calamity, though brought about by God’s decree, is caused by the pollution of the earth’s unfaithful inhabitants.
7-13: Relentlessly, Isaiah describes the deteriorating situation of the people.
14-16: Unexpectedly, voices from the far corners of the earth, west and east, are heard in joyful song, but the prophet still is in despair. I have no explanation for this unless the idea is that people far away have revered God more than God’s own people. Still, the earth is folding up!
17-20: The earth is pictured staggering in death throes. The prophet imagines the destruction will be as complete as in the time of the Great Flood when “the windows of heaven are opened” (compare Genesis 7:11).
21-23: This time, though, the destruction is extended beyond the earth into the heavens. The sun and moon are ashamed for no good reason that I can see, while God begins to reign on Mt. Zion and now inexplicably the elders have survived the destruction of the world and are there to see the glory of God.
Isaiah’s vision in chapter 24 is unique, and there is no historical evidence that the picture presented here was ever realized. The one thing we can be assured of is that no matter how history unfolds, God is involved, and God is in charge.