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Perhaps as God’s people heard Isaiah prophecy against different nations and cities, they were tempted to nod along in agreement.  “I’m glad that he mentioned Babylon, I knew they had it coming.”  “Oh I’d never really thought about Trye and Sidon before … but he has got a point you know.”  Then there’s that shocking moment when Jerusalem gets a mention. The realisation that they are included. 

Are we in danger of reading Isaiah and thinking that it’s all about those people in cities and countries hundreds of years ago and nothing to do with us.  They were barbaric, cruel, unjust, idolatrous. We are different.  Before we become complacent, the prophet widens his terms of reference.

Read Isaiah 24

God will act to empty the whole earth.  It is possible to read this here as referring to the specific land of Israel and that will fall desolate but even within that context, the point is being made that no one has a free pass to escape God’s judgement. In any case, there are clues later on that God’s verdict is on all places and all people.  What I think we see here is a vision of the specific fate of the land of Israel as representative of all creation (v1).

God’s judgement des not make distinctions based on class, wealth, religiosity or role in society (v2 -3). The land itself is described as suffering as well as the different peoples in it because of human failure to obey God and to keep covenant with him (v4-6).  Even the things that they turn to for enjoyment or to help them forget pain and misery such as wine fail and only bring sadness (v7-12).

Verse 13 talks about the response to an olive tree being beaten, to loosen its fruit or the gleaning of fields at harvest.  This perhaps points to two things. First that judgement will also be complete but also a hint that if Israel is often compared to the olive tree then her judgement is in some sense on behalf of all, there is a suggestion of substitutionary atonement here.

So, when people see that judgement is fulfilled then there is rejoicing and thanksgiving all around the world (v14-15). Yet we should not be too quick to rush to rejoicing because a cost has been paid, if there is a substitute who has experienced rejection and betrayal (v16). So, verses 17-23 return to the theme of world-wide and even cosmic judgement, all of which is designed to prove that the Lord reigns.

Through the Gospel lens

Isaiah helps us to see that there is a narrowing down of focus t show that God’s purposes will be fulfilled for all peoples through one people but more specifically through one person.  The whole world, not just Israel deserves judgement and justice but Jesus Christ has taken that judgement on himself.  However, those who choose to remain outside of Christ and even mock him must still face a final day of reckoning.  Sin and evil are judged and punished on one of two days, either on the day when Christ bore our sin on himself or on the day when he returns as judge and king.


Meditate on v23

the Lord of hosts reigns

We often focus on what the Gospel does for us but ultimately it is not about us.  The whole purpose of God’s great redemptive story is so that we will see that he reigns and so that he gets all the glory.

Lord God, we known that we deserved to be punished for our sin. Thank you that Christ took our place. Help us to glorify your name.

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