Good Leaders Rule With Justice (Isaiah 32:1-8)

Isaiah 32-33 (32:1-8; 9-20; 33:1-16; 17-24)

"See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice" (Isa 32:1, NIV).
  • Isaiah 28-29 spoke of false leaders.
  • Isaiah 30-31 spoke of false counsel.
  • Isaiah 32-33 speak of the true leader and the characteristics of his reign. This section can be divided into:
    1. The nature of true leadership (32:1-8). His reign is characterized by righteousness and justice (Isa 32:1).
    2. The Spirit as being necessary for true leadership (32:9-20).
    3. The necessity of divine intervention on Judah's behalf explained (33:1-16).
    4. A graphic illustration of the rule of the King (33:17-24).

I. True Leadership (32:1-8)

Who is the king in Isa 32:1? There is some debate as to whether this is a prediction of the messianic king because the language is more prosaic than in 9:1-6 and 11:1-16. But what is described is more than the best of human kingdoms and leaders. There seems good reason to see this as God's promise of his Messiah in view of the failure of all human leaders. [Even if human leaders will all fall short, they are nonetheless still responsible for their failed or sub-optimal leadership.]

Rulers under the messianic king will be a blessing to their people. "Each man" (Isa 32:2) probably refers to the "rulers" (Isa 32:1). Rules who are a blessing are described in four vivid similes:
  1. "shelter"/hiding place from the wind.
  2. "refuge" from the storm.
  3. "streams of water" in the desert.
  4. "shade"/shadow of a great rock in a weary/arid/parched/thirsty land.
This is a drastic reversal of conditions that resulted from Isaiah's ministry (Isa 6:9-10). Instead of deafness, blindness and dull, insensitive hearts, eyes will see, ears will hear and listen (Isa 32:3), and hearts will understand (Isa 32:4a). Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel make similar promises about the human heart in the new messianic age (Jer 31:3; Eze 36:26), where the king's subjects will want to know his will and obey it. Also, as intimated in 2:1-5 and Isa 66:19, the Israelites will be able to declare God's Word to the nations with fluent and clear speech (Isa 32:4b).

Contrast between the fool and the noble (32:5-8). As in the Hebrew language it is easy to confuse the fool (nbl) and the noble (ndb). In Hebrew thinking, the fool, like the scoffer (Isa 28:14) is a strongly negative term. It describes someone who has consciously rejected God and his ways (Isa 32:5; Ps 14:1; 53:1). It is not merely, as in English, someone who is stupid and ridiculous. In fact, the fool in the Bible may be someone who is brilliant and attractive. He has simply built his life on a lie: I am accountable to no one but myself. He has also dedicated his life to propagating that lie. Thus, the ethics of the Bible is foreign to him. The only language he understands is power and control.

A "noble" is gracious, giving and generous to others. Many times in life, a fool is treated as someone honorable--a noble--simply because he has gained power, status, positions of influence and wealth. This is NOT the pattern in the Messiah's kingdom. Those are called noble whose actions are noble, that is, generous and giving (Isa 32:8). The plans and deeds of noble persons are for others, not themselves, not necessarily just their own families or clans or ethnicities. They have learned that the gracious God can be trusted to supply their needs, and thus they no longer need to be grasping but can be giving.