Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Isaiah 3: 6-8

6 When a man lays hold of his brother in his father’s house, saying,
“You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler,
And these ruins will be under your charge,”
7 He will protest on that day, saying,
“I will not be your healer,
For in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
You should not appoint me ruler of the people.”
8 For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen,
Because their speech and their actions are against the LORD,
To rebel against His glorious presence.

The description of the madness in Jerusalem becomes clearer through the capturing--or creation--of this dialogue here by Isaiah, as we continue reading in Chapter 3. Last week, we saw how all of the relational institutions of the city had collapsed. Lack of leadership left no one in charge and revealed the depths of the city's devastation, as no one wanted to be in charge.
Look at the dialogue in verse 6: "You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler...." Brings to mind my favorite phrase from Latin I: Vestis virum reddit. (Clothes make the man). If you had the dress, you could address the needs of the nation. You were qualified to be in authority over "these ruins." Matthew Henry, in his commentary, notes the manner by which those were sought to come to power--"When a man lays hold...." There was some violence involved! You can almost see a man grabbing his brother's cloak and forcefully shaking him into accepting his plight.

Yet, "he will protest," because "there is neither bread nor cloak." (vs. 7)
"In a collapsing society, someone who has as little as a decent suit of clothes will seem prosperous enough to be made a ruler. But when the people try to draft such a person, he will reply that his wealth is only an illusion; he has no better answers than they have."
--Reformation Study Bible

Deceptions run rampant.

The one who responds that he cannot lead, because he does not have, also says that he will not be a healer (vs. 7), or, more literally, he will not be a binder of wounds. I'm not sure I disagree, given what we've read of Judah and Jerusalem's condition. Who can put a bandage on all of the wounds? Israel [Ephraim], as we discovered in Hosea, sought outside help.

"When Ephraim saw his sickness,
And Judah his wound,
Then Ephraim went to Assyria
And sent to King Jareb.
But he is unable to heal you,
Or to cure you of your wound."
--Hosea 5:15

The wounds plaguing God's people were not wounds that could be healed through people in positions of earthly power. There would be no solace or understanding coming from the "capricious children" God would place in charge over His people. "For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen...." (vs. 8) God chose to let His people suffer the consequences of their choices, and their wounds would remain for a time--a long time.

Once again, Matthew Henry makes this incredible tie between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament salvation. There would be One who would come as leader and healer, to bind up our wounds, to be our ruler. In peace and humility.

"We may allude to this to show how desperate the case of fallen man was when our Lord Jesus was pleased to become our brother, and, though he was not courted, offered himself to be our ruler and Saviour, and to take this ruin under his hand."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Continuing with Isaiah 3:8, the reason for the stumbling and falling of God's people is due to "their speech and their actions." These two have always gone hand in hand, and they both stem from the attitude of the heart. What is the attitude? "Against the Lord," says verse 8. With that in the heart of the people--the wellspring of their lives--how could anything but a troublesome tongue and sinful actions follow? The later leader of the Jerusalem Church, James would leave his mark in the Word with his words on the dangers of the tongue:

"But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless."
--James 1: 25 and 26

Worthless religion in Jerusalem! Does one get away with such deception? Not when you're the people of God. This was an overt rebellion "against His glorious presence," as verse 8 concludes, or, in other translations, "against the eyes of His glory." Isaiah builds this picture of a people approaching God's face and, basically, spitting into it with their unbridled tongues and unholy regard. Attention-arousing behavior!

"The eyes of his glory--This is a Hebrew expression to denote 'his glorious eyes.' The eye quickly expresses anger or indignation. We perceive these passions in the flashing of the eye sooner than in any other part of the countenance. Hence, to 'provoke the eyes,' is an expression signifying simply to excite to anger, or to excite him to punish them. Lowth proposes to render this 'to provoke the cloud of his glory'--referring to the Shekinah or cloud that rested over the ark in the temple."
--Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Pretty powerful picture. God takes in so much. But He shows patience and mercy so many times when He could clearly show something else. But, as a Father, there comes a point when enough is enough. The Father had been provoked to respond. Judah and Jerusalem had brought God to that place, and He will rue their state in next week's verses.

"O My people!" God says.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 3:9-12

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).