Sounds like Jerusalem and Judah had it pretty good, right? Look over that list of material provision (support system, food, water) and leadership (military, judiciary, teachers, advisers, craftsmen, and someone who may have been a charismatic speaker or influencer). The use of the phrase skillful enchanter gives us a hint that they weren’t sourcing any of their things or their leaders from the right place.
We worship a culture of youth and have for a long time, and here God gives people what they want, youngsters in charge, with disastrous results. People begin to take advantage of each other and the honorable suffer at the hands of these childish rulers. One guy with an intact coat will be grabbed and thrust into leadership, if anybody can make him do it. Apparently nobody will have much more than a coat in those days. Certainly not a will to give proper leadership.
Verses 8 and 9 make it clear that the people oppose God and flaunt their rebellion. When disaster comes, they can’t pretend it wasn’t their own fault. Public sins have public consequences.
Time to reassure the righteous in verse 10. No matter how bad things seem to get, it will go well with them. And in verse 11 another reassurance we often need when, as the Scriptures say in other places, this question hangs in the air: “Why do the wicked prosper?” God says things will turn bad for the wicked. “Let the punishment fit the crime,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado says. God says the wicked will get what they deserve.
Once again God restates in verse 12 that His people are oppressed because they wanted unsuitable rulers – immature, inexperienced, leading the people down twisting paths.
God will judge these rulers. Make no mistake. I’m pretty sure those crushing and grinding references refer at least in part to taxes. People tend to think that government takes care of the poor with welfare and social services. But it doesn’t work that way when corruption takes hold. God is outraged at the twisted mentality that steals from people who already have too little.
Verses 16-24 detail a culture that should be very recognizable to us today. Is it a sin to want to be beautiful and have pretty things? Look at the words used: proud, seductive. Women can bring down a whole culture by worshiping self, sexuality, beauty. Dressing little girls in revealing outfits is starting them down the road to sensuality without reserve. Females scream about their rights and their freedoms Modesty has become kind of an obsolete term but God hates that mentality.
God will send scabs into that beautiful hair. He will make it fall out, or pluck it out. All that long list of pretty things will disappear and be replaced by stench, coarseness, and disfigurement.
The men they have gotten themselves dressed up for will be dying in battle, trying to save their women, but failing. All that emphasis on self, on attracting attention, will change to mourning and loneliness.
Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. What clues indicate that God’s people were prosperous but not by depending on Him?
2. Briefly explain what kinds of oppression take place when the wrong kind of rulers get into power.
3. What are some proofs that these people deserve what they get when destruction overtakes them?
4. Give examples in modern culture of women lacking understanding of modesty.
5. Do you think women have in some cases made it more difficult for men to protect them? Explain your answer.
Your Turn in the Microcosm
Can you see any way in which Isaiah 3 resembles Leviticus? God spelled out laws, described beautiful garments, and even gave proper age ranges for his different kinds of servants. The story of Nadab and Abihu might help provide an example that parallels how people sometimes respond to God’s expectations. There are rewards and punishments in Leviticus. Step into the microcosm and share your observations on how we should really be seeking God’s blessing or avoiding His wrath.
Image Credit: Artist August Riedel Title: Judith Current location: Neue Pinakothek Source/Photographer: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Wikimedia Commons