MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.8
Isa 3:18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces
Deception is a deadly thing. Jesus once told a parable about a rich farmer who kept building bigger and bigger barns to store his wealth (crops), and who concluded, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Lk 12:19) but he didn’t realise he was at the end of his wasted life: “But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Lk 12:20). Affluence is very deceptive. It can make us feel secure and in our (false) security we forget God and forget our spiritual wellbeing. Before we know where we are, disaster strikes and our lives collapse (see also Jesus’ parable of the two house builders – Mt 7:24-27).
After the verses we considered in the previous meditation, Isaiah goes on to speak against different groups of people. As we noted he speaks against a general group first of all, the wicked: “Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.” (v.11). Now we tend to think that ‘wicked people’ are really evil, but I suspect from what follows that it would include large numbers of our own society. “Youths oppress my people.” (v.12a) In some parts of Western society, certain parts of towns are ‘no-go areas’ because of youth gangs. “Women rule over them.” (v.12b) When God had ordained men to take the lead, the prophet speaks against the women who had taken control. How many people would this word upset today in the West? “The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people.” (v.14). Young people and then women and now leaders come under God’s spotlight.
See how the Lord comes to them: “The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.” (v.13). Our guilty consciences may make us feel that this is a bad picture but it is a picture of the Lord who comes to assess guilt or innocence and it is only the guilty who have cause to fear. Justice is about fair and rational assessment of the truth. The innocent have nothing to fear. Indeed the innocent can rejoice that injustices are about to be dealt with!
Sometimes people have funny feelings about God’s judgment, speaking harshly about Him, but look at see what He is moving against: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” (v.14,15). His vineyard is a picture often used of the nation, God’s people. He is speaking against those who have robbed from the poor, who have trodden them down. Wouldn’t we all cheer at this?
But then he comes back to the women: “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles.” (v.16). These are the affluent women of Jerusalem, the modern affluent girl power, full of pride, sexual desires and indifference to God. Affluence, we said above, is deceptive and these women are typical of the attitude of the people of Jerusalem and Judah. They think they are something and they care nothing about the poor who were referred to earlier. Ms Materialist cares nothing about God – or about others. Self-centredness is the name of the game.
Now we have considered in previous meditations the Lord’s intent, which is to draw His people back to Himself. In their folly they have made themselves weak and a prey to other nations and other ideologies, which is why they worship idols from elsewhere. The only way to bring them to their senses is to strip away their finery, strip away their material wealth and wellbeing. We can often cope with a reduction in our wealth, but the removal of our wellbeing really brings us down and brings us to our senses. So how is the Lord going to deal with them? “Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald.” (v.17). Oh my goodness, He’s going to attack their beauty and their makeup! He’s going to remove their fashion accessories by which they hold so much store! See verses 18 to 23 for a list of their finery with which they adorn themselves and which deceive them into thinking they are great and they are secure. He’s going to remove it all to bring them to their senses!
We need to understand here, or remind ourselves if we took in the previous meditations, that the Lord’s intent is to bring this people into a place of real blessing, instead of this surface, counterfeit. It is not only what people look like on the outside that makes them rich, it is what they feel like on the inside, how they think of themselves, of God and of others. A self-centred, self-serving people are not rich, however many bits and pieces they have to adorn themselves or their homes. It’s not wrong to have money and possession, but if we obtain those at the cost of losing our soul, we have indeed become very confused and deceived. In the materialistic day in which we live, we would do well to really thing about these things!