Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Isaiah 3:9-12

9 The expression of their faces bears witness against them,
And they display their sin like Sodom;
They do not even conceal it.
Woe to them!
For they have brought evil on themselves.
10 Say to the righteous that it will go well with them,
For they will eat the fruit of their actions.
11 Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him,
For what he deserves will be done to him.
12 O My people! Their oppressors are children,
And women rule over them.
O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray
And confuse the direction of your paths.

God, through Isaiah, is continuing to explain to Judah why He is at His wits' end with them. 

The NASB uses "the expression on their faces" (vs. 9), suggesting that their sin is truly outwardly visible. Other translations and more literal renderings offer a more accurate picture. "In Isaiah 3:9 [speaking of the King James Version], 'the shew of their countenance' is a bad translation for 'their respect of persons.'" [Burton Scott Easton, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] The idiom suggests that the partiality of Judah--seeing themselves far above others, including God--bore out in all their doings. Can't help but recall the word of James:

"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors."
--James 2: 8 and 9

Clearly, the people were not loving others according to the true law, much less were they loving themselves as God would have them.

How obvious was this? Verse 9 continues, "...They display their sin like Sodom." The prophets love to bring back Sodom, I'm discovering. If there were a most hated place by God, Sodom would certainly rank right up at the top. Their open displays of promiscuity and sinfulness (Genesis 19:5) led to God bring down the gauntlet upon the nation--and, thus, for the prophets to echo their story over and over in an appeal to the heart of God's people to examine themselves.

"Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD."
--Genesis 13:13 (or, as some translations would say, "wicked and sinners exceedingly")

Still in verse 9, "Woe to them!" Although this points to consequences to come to the people, this is a much deeper sentiment than just a reference to impending captivity. Again, other translations get to the root: "Woe to their souls!" Such an easy point to gloss over, but it's crucial to follow this through. Sin goes deeper than just the misdemeanor of the moment.

"Note, the condition of sinners is woeful and very deplorable. Note, also, it is the soul that is damaged and endangered by sin. Sinners may prosper in their outward estates, and yet at the same time there may be a woe to their souls. Note, further, whatever evils befall sinners it is of their own procuring...."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

What Matthew Henry says in his commentary about sinners prospering, is supported in God's Word, difficult as it is to read, perhaps:

"Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly."

--Ecclesiastes 8:12 [italics mine]

Make sure you take the entire verse and concept together. Will we sometimes see sins go unpunished here on Earth? Will we see those who seemingly should be called out 'guilty' proceed forward in their life and ways as though nothing ever happened? The answer is yes. ON EARTH! "In their outward estates," as Matthew Henry puts it. But, as we know from Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." What is going to happen after Earth? God will not let sin win--EVER! So, can He stand and watch as His people continue in their attitude of sin, supposed witnesses of Him to the world? No way! Not with eternity in His eyes.

"The dealing of his hands will be done to him...."
--Literal translation of Isaiah 9:11b

The righteous will inherit Heaven, and the wicked will inherit what they dish out as love to their neighbors!

Verse 12 speaks of women and children. Most of you probably realize that these were not among the well-regarded people in this culture. God's eyes saw them differently, of course, but in the eyes of the people, women and children were low in the totem pole. (Remember that "partiality" evidenced in the character of the people, as mentioned in verse 9.) We had read earlier in the beginning of Chapter 3 about the "capricious children" who would be ruling over the people in these days. Isaiah ties in women with government in this verse, which would have culturally illustrated additional weakness in the leadership.

"Those who guide you lead you astray and confuse the direction of your paths." (vs. 12) Remember, again, from the beginning of the chapter, "...The mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet," etc., etc. (Isa. 3:2- ) These are the ones the people had put in place of God. The self-appointed guides were guiding them into evil. How they had forgotten the wisdom of Solomon!

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
--Proverbs 3: 5 and 6 (King James Version)
Judah's heart was wicked and filled with trust in themselves. Their ways turned crooked, as they should have, given that the nation no longer acknowledged God nor followed in His way. Although some, for the short term, would seem to succeed in their sinful living, God would, and will, have the final word. Judah had forgotten the word of God, the word of the wise appointed by God, and the God's word spoken through the prophets.

And what of ourselves? In a world that looks much like Sodom, in whom do we seek our righteousness that we might be rewarded with the eternal fruit of Heaven?

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
--Hebrews 12: 1 and 2
"God will judge".... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 3:13-15

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).