Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 4:2-6
Sermon Title: When Loss is Gain
Memory Verse: … I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.
In the very beginning of Isaiah, we see a picture of the spiritual condition of the people of Judah. Despite God’s great blessings, they forsake the Holy One of Israel. They are so sinful; they deserve the same punishment as Sodom and Gomorrah; which is complete annihilation. It is only by God’s grace that He spares a remnant.
Rulers only care about personal gain and ignore the needs of widows and orphans. Their fake, hypocritical religion stinks in the nostrils of God. People don’t worship God, but worship idols instead.
God invites the people of Judah to reason with Him. They may choose to continue in their rebellion, but, if they do, God promises they will face eternal destruction. The second choice is to repent and obey God’s commands. If they repent, God will wash them from their sins and restore them to be God’s people. The cleansing and restoration will not be easy. It involves removing their filth in the same way a fiery furnace removes the dross from silver.
After God’s work is complete, when the righteous are restored and the wicked destroyed, Isaiah reveals a vision of the New Jerusalem. The prophet paints two pictures; with each picture showing the city from a different perspective.
The first picture of the New Jerusalem is painted in chapter 2, verses 1-5. God’s cleansing results in a beautiful work. Jerusalem, with Mount Zion as the focus, is the attraction of all the nations and people of the world. The glorious Messiah of Israel sits upon Mount Zion as Lord of the nations. He teaches people His ways and judges people with righteousness. The Prince of Peace brings a cessation to all war. Weapons become tools of agriculture. The New Jerusalem is a picture of the glory of heaven.
The second picture of the News Jerusalem is painted in chapter 4, verses 2-6. This picture is the same New Jerusalem, but it is different. We will look at this picture later.
The pictures of the New Jerusalem are bookends to chapters two through four. In-between the bookends, the prophet Isaiah unveils the old Jerusalem and how it will become the New Jerusalem.
Two items of note: Isaiah’s audience and his writing style
As we read Isaiah, we need to realize there are two categories of people hearing Isaiah’s proclamation.
The first category is people who sin and refuse to repent. They will not be citizens of the New Jerusalem. They are guilty of rebellion, and will not change. Isaiah is making it known to unrepentant sinners that God’s wrath will come upon them in full-force; both in life and eternally. There is a very important reason for God to prophesy their destruction. In doing so, God is letting all people know that what comes upon these people is not an accident. The impending destruction is not because of the superiority of the invading armies, but because God does not tolerate rebellion.
The second category of people hearing Isaiah’s prophecy are those who are guilty of sin; but repent and return to God. God will work to cleanse and restore them, and the invading armies will be the work of His hand. In the end, they will be citizens of the New Jerusalem.
Isaiah’s primary literary style is prose. English poetry is based on Greek and Latin poetry which is written chronologically. Hebrew poetry style is unfamiliar because it is not chronological. To help us understand, there will be times we will rearrange the verses in order to simplify the content. Doing this will not change the meaning, but it will make it easier for us to understand.
It may seem odd to deliver words of judgment using a poetic method. After all, who writes words of doom and gloom with beautiful poetry? Not Isaiah! The prose style is a clue to how it should be understood. Poetry is most often used to express beauty. The richness and beauty of the book of Isaiah are found, not in the words of judgment, but the words painting the glorious picture of the Messiah. Isaiah’s primary subject is not the doom and gloom of sin. His subject is the beauty of God’s sanctifying work and the Messiah who saves. The backdrop of judgment provides the frame for the glorious picture of God’s work of salvation. God deserves all the glory.
We will read chapters three and four by first looking at the sins of the people. Then, we will read the verses describing what God will do to burn and cleanse the sins from the people.
Sins of all 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. 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.
The people of Judah are blatantly sinning against the Lord, just like Sodom. They are in open rebellion. Their sin is written all over their face. They don’t desire God’s presence. They can’t stand to be in the same room as God. Woe to them, for they have nobody to blame but themselves.
Sins of rulers
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. 13 The Lord arises to contend, and stands to judge the people. 14 The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses. 15 “What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord God of hosts.
God establishes rulers to bring about justice and righteousness. The rulers are to be men of valor, knights in shining armor, who point people toward God as valiant men. The disadvantaged are to look at rulers as a blessing and help.
The rulers of Judah are a far cry from God’s purpose and plan. The rulers consist of women and children, not men of valor. They steal and plunder from poor people. They are oppressive rather than uplifting.
Sins of women
16 Moreover, the Lord said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps and tinkle the bangles on their feet,
The women think highly of themselves because they are adorned with the trappings of the world. They are taking short, choppy steps because they wrap their ankles with dainty chains intended to create beauty and bring attention as they strut around. And, they are seductive. They are seeking the attention of men by flirting with their eyes.
Don’t just look poorly on the women. The men are equally guilty. The women are doing what the men desire. The men not leading the women as they should. They are busy chasing the immoral women. The tentacles of sin and immorality corrupt the women. The men have not protected their women and led them in the ways of the Lord. The entire culture is corrupt and immoral.
God intends to cleanse the nation of Judah to bring to fruition the New Jerusalem. All people will be involved in the cleansing, both the righteous and the wicked; just as God promises in Isaiah 1:24-25.
The washing takes the form of removing the filth of sin. His goal is to remove their pride.
1 For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah
Both supply and support, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water;
God hates their pride so much; He will go to great lengths, even removing the essentials of bread and water.
Removal of leaders
God says He will remove all the people of influence, the leaders (not the rulers).
2 The mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder,
3 The captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the expert artisan, and the skillful enchanter (orator).
When the Babylonians take the Israelites captive, they don’t take the common men, they take all the talented and influential people. They take captains, judges, carpenters, potters, wise people, public speakers, and anybody else who stands out. The Babylonians take the cream of the crop and leave the rest behind.
Removal of leaders – Result
Isaiah describes what will happen after the removal of the leaders:
4 And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them, 5 and the people will be oppressed, each one by another, and each one by his neighbor; the youth will storm against the elder and the inferior against the honorable. 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.”
The result is anarchy. Children rebel. Neighbors fight. There is no respect in society. It becomes so destitute that, if a man has a coat, people will want that man to be their ruler. God’s removal of the cream of the crop results in the collapse of society.
Removal of vanity
God addresses the pride and immoral women of Judah. The women of Judah believe the things of the world are what makes them beautiful. The men of Judah are encouraging their women to look like the women of the other nations; to look worldly. God looks upon them and is disgusted, so He removes their vain beauty.
17 Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the Lord will make their foreheads bare.” 18 In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19 dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, 20 headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 21 finger rings, nose rings, 22 festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, 23 hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.
Removal of vanity - Result
24 Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; instead of a belt, a rope; instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.
When God is finished, the women become grotesque, and they stink. When they walk down the street, people will look the other way.
Removal of husbands
The last removal is tragic. Isaiah speaks of an impending mighty battle. The people of Judah put their faith in horses and chariots, but the Lord will teach them the folly of their ways.
25 Your men will fall by the sword and your mighty ones in battle. 26 And her gates will lament and mourn, And deserted she will sit on the ground.
The women lose their husbands.
Removal of husbands – Result
The battle will be an excessive and unbelievable loss of life.
1 For seven women will take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach!”
After the men die, the ration of men to women will be seven to one. The shortage of husbands has women begging for men to care for them. They will even propose that the men will not have to be burdened with their care if only their shame of being single in a society where being a single woman is one of shame. What man will want a woman who stinks, has a plucked-out scalp and wears a sackcloth dress?
Word of Assurance
In the midst of the proclamation of the Lord’s punishment, we see the Lord address both audiences in Judah. The Lord tells Isaiah to give the word to the righteous that all will be well with them.
10 Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, for they will eat the fruit of their actions.
For those who repent before the Lord, God promises He will care for them. They will still live in dire conditions. There will be no leadership, many will die, but the Lord God promises they still belong to Him. He wants them to know that tragedy may happen, but they are to look past the tragedy and know they will live as citizens in the New Jerusalem.
11 Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him.
For the wicked, all will not be well. It will go badly, and they will reap what they sow. The wicked deserve every bit of punishment because they rebel against the Holy One of Israel.
God’s Remnant, Cleansing, and Restoration
We finish with Isaiah’s second picture of the New Jerusalem.
2 In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.
The branch of the Lord is the Messiah. He is spoken of as the Branch in other prophetic writings (Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zec. 3:8; 6:12). Jesus the Messiah will be the glory of Israel. The fruit of the earth are the nations which come to the mountain. The other nations are the fruit of the Nation of Israel because they bring the world the Messiah. The adornment will not be an outer adornment, but an adornment of spiritual fruit; they are adorned with the fruit of the gospel.
3 It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem.
Those who are left, are those who live in the New Jerusalem; which is the city of God in heaven. The Branch of the Lord gives them His righteousness, and they become holy. They are recorded for life, which means their names are written in the Book of Life. The Psalms, Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and John’s Revelation all talk of the book of life (Ps. 69:28; Ph. 4:3; Rev. 13:8).
4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning,
This verse tells how the Jerusalem of Isaiah’s day becomes the New Jerusalem of the future. It will be done through the work of God’s sanctification. He will wash His people and rid them of all their sins of bloodshed. God will do this in the ways Isaiah prophesies The spirit of judgment and burning are figurative ways of expressing God’s cleansing word which goes forth by the power of His Holy Spirit.
5 then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. 6 There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.
All of Mount Zion and the New Jerusalem will be covered with the glory of God. All those who assemble from all the nations, those spoken of in the first picture (2:1-4) will be cared for by the same God who leads the people from Egypt. Isaiah paints the picture of the cloud by day and the fire by night as a reminder of God’s leading His people through the wilderness as He did in Exodus 13:21. What a great joy to know that in heaven, the same God who delivers and guides during the Exodus is the same God for all eternity. He will protect and care for us. We need not worry about the heat or the storms.
Applying – Four Simple Truths
I ask that you listen carefully to these applications. As believers, we are responsible for applying this to our lives. Take time to discuss these applications with one another at home and in Christian fellowship.
1-Importance of inner beauty
The world values outer beauty, pretty men and pretty women. People scream with adoration and line the streets to get a glimpse of their heart-throb celebrity. They don’t care if the celebrity is unfaithful, mean, or ignore their children. Women scoop up magazines with fashion models adorning the cover and read how they may look like them, even though she sleeps with every guy in town. The world doesn’t care about the morality of a professional sports hero, as long as they play the game well and their favorite team wins championships.
We need to avoid vain beauty. Stop looking for compliments on your outer appearance. Seek to be complimented on your humility, righteousness, and holiness. Don’t spend two hours on your outer appearance (exercise, make-up, etc.) and only ten minutes in prayer and Bible reading.
Husbands, compliment your wife on her inner beauty. Teach your daughters the dangers of putting too much emphasis on their looks. Beauty is only skin deep. Single men and women, seek a spouse who values righteousness and holiness more than appearance. Change and refine your taste for what you find attractive to be in keeping with what God finds beautiful.
Be careful of pride. Our prideful flesh will covet vain compliments. Our pride will have us lie in bed with the devil himself if he whispers just the right sweet nothings. “You are so strong and handsome.” “Your figure is amazing.” Blah blah blah (you get the idea).
I am not saying we need to look like slobs and just let ourselves go. We need to have the right priorities. Be aware of how much time and resources are spent on our outer appearance.
God looks at the heart. The only beautiful people in heaven will be those who are beautiful because they are pure and holy.
2-God will radically cleanse us of pride
Don’t take warning the against vain beauty lightly. God loves His children. If He must, He will remove the pride of having “well-set hair” and replace it with “a plucked-out scalp.”
God is willing to go to great lengths to get our attention. Cancer, automotive accidents, house fires, and even death are all fair and just tactics. We know God goes to great lengths because He sent His beloved Son to die on the cross for our sins. There is nothing more extreme than that.
God cleanses His children with ludicrous, abundant grace. He pours out immeasurable love to rid His people of evil and to make them holy, righteous, and happy.
Every child of God will experience the cleansing of God. He will apply soap that will sting the eyes and fire that will burn away the dross. God’s cleansing is painful and often brings tears. The Bible says,
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Heb. 12:11)
3-Do not assume to have the mind of God
Stop looking at life as though we know why things are happening. In other words, do not look at circumstances and draw conclusions. Yes, God sends trials and difficult times to sanctify people. But, don’t assume it is for the sanctification of the person directly experiencing the trial.
Job is righteous, and horrible things took place in his life. Would we say the Jews stone Paul because his gospel message needs correcting? Would we say Daniel and his friends deserve Babylonian captivity? Does Jesus deserve the cross?
God’s ways are above our ways. It is very prideful to presume to know the underlying reason events happen in life.
4-God’s cleansing is for our good – loss is gain
God purposefully paints a picture of the New Jerusalem, so we will not lose hope. It’s always helpful to know the outcome. God is removing wood hay and stubble and replacing it with precious gems and a Pearl of great price. God will never remove from our life what we need. He is a good, Father.
We need to believe God is cleaning and removing stuff in our life for our good. Trust God.
MAIN IDEA: Be willing to allow the Lord to take away everything for the sake of gaining Christ
The Apostle Paul sums up these chapters in Isaiah well when he says:
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)