9/30/2015

God Devastates the Earth (Isaiah 24)

Isaiah 24:1-23

"See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants—The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word" (Isa 24:1, 3).
  1. Earth destroyed (24:1-13). Humanity in chaos.
  2. Ultimate praise (24:14-16)...but present devastation (Isa 24:16b).
  3. Cosmic judgment (24:17-23)...ending in sheer glory (Isa 24:23).
The nations do not dictate what God does. The focus and overriding theme of Isaiah 24-27 is the worldwide triumph of God, not only over his enemies but also for his people. Isaiah moves from the particular statements of ch.13-23 to a broader, more generalized statement of God's lordship of the earth. Also, in Isaiah 13-23 the nations could be thought of as the main actors with the Lord reacting to them. Thus, one could get the idea that the nations are somehow originators of the events of history. Isaiah 24-27 corrects that impression. It is not God who reacts to the nations, but the nations who respond to him.

God is the sovereign actor on the stage of history. All things come from him, and all things must eventually return to him. He created time, and he will bring it to an end. Thus, Israel's hope is not to be in the nations of the world. They will wither away in a moment under God's blast. Rather her hope should be in the Lord, who is the master of the nations.

A contrast of cities and songs. This theme is developed by means of a recurrence of contrast: between the City of Man and the City of God. The former is cast down, forsaken, destroyed. The latter is a lace of security, abundance and life. There is also a contrast in song. In the former city of chaos, the drunken revelry which was there is now silent. In its place there comes from the ends of the earth the song of Judah, a song about a God who is strong enough to save the helpless and compassionate enough to redeem the sinful.
  1. Judgment (24): Cheating one's conscience (24:5).
  2. Response (25): Surely, this is our God (25:9).
  3. Thanksgiving (26): Trust God the Rock forever (26:4)
  4. Confirmation (27): God makes his vineyard fruitful through adversity and cleansing (27:1, 7-9).
I. The Strong City of the World is Crushed (24:1-23)

Universal judgment. The focus of Isaiah 24 is the destruction of the earth ("earth" occurs 16 times in 23 verses). The one who brings destruction is the Lord (Isa 24:1, 3, 21). The judgment is universal (Isa 24:1-3); everyone will be subject to it and no one will be exempt (Isa 24:2). Neither gender, nor rank, nor function will permit any to escape what God is bringing on the earth.

Judgment is the result of choices made. "The earth dries up and withers" (Isa 24:4) like a vine (Isa 24:7). All the merry making and gaiety associated with wine is stilled (Isa 24:8). The forced and artificial gaiety induced by alcohol (Isa 24:7, 9, 11) vanishes like a vapor before the awful realities of judgment and destruction. Why is such destruction and judgment coming? "They have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant" (Isa 24:5). Implicit here is the understanding that humans know enough to behave better than they do. Destruction is coming because humans have violated the terms of their creation. They cheat their own conscience. As a result, they are accountable to God and him alone, he who is the Creator of all the nations.

The earth as a whole is regarded under the image of a city (Isa 24:10). Why? The city offers wealth, glamour, excitement, pleasure, intrigue, and power--all the things humans are prone to sell their souls for. But as mighty and alluring as the city of earth is, a day of harvest is coming when all the fruit will be stripped off and nothing will be left of all the riches that earthlings thought were their own (Isa 24:13).

Isaiah 24-27 may be divided into two segments, 24-25 and 26-27:
  1. The city of the world (24-25): A strong city laid waste.
    • Its overthrow (24): The earth is crushed.
      • The destruction of the earth (24:1-13).
      • A dramatic contrast (24:14-18a).
      • The entire creation subject to God (2418b-23).
    • The response to its overthrow (25): God's feast.
  2. God's effort on behalf of his people (26-27): The Lord's day.
    • Judah's song (26).
      • Thanks for God's deliverance (26:1-6).
      • Dependence on God (26:7-19).
      • Promises to the faithful (26:20-27:1).
    • The Lord delivers Judah (27).