THE WHOLE EARTH IS HEADED FOR CATASTROPHIC DEVASTATION AND ONLY THE REMNANT REMAINS TO PRAISE GOD
Where is this earth headed?
– The evolutionists have their answer: They have bought into Charles Darwin’s theory that via natural selection, mutations over time continually bring about small increments of improvement – so things are getting better and better. Do you think?
– -The environmentalists have their answer: Mother Earth has existed for millions and millions of years (maybe it is billions now – the time estimate keeps getting longer with every analysis) – but recently man has arrived to bring pollution and degradation so that the planet as we know it is gradually degrading; we need to invest all our efforts in trying to stave off the eventual collapse – So they vote for slow degradation as opposed to gradual progress
– The nihilists have their answer — Life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value – therefore they reject the validity of all morals and religious values – Basically their answer is that the world is not headed anywhere and who cares
– The existentialists have a slightly different twist — A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts. Your personal experience is the only thing that really matters.
– The hedonists run with that philosophy in the direction of therefore, let’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
But the Creator of this earth has His own plans for its destiny. Just as Isaiah the prophet demonstrated in chapters 13-23 that God is sovereign over the affairs of all nations and will bring judgment against self-reliance and pride, so God has His sovereign plan for this earth. God is in the business of establishing His kingdom. The final chapter has already been written. He will reign victorious over all.
You know those highway warning signs: “Danger ahead.” That is certainly the case for the end times scenario for this earth. The earth is passing away. Or how about those highway signs that would warn that the bridge ahead is out? You wouldn’t just blindly continue on and drive off the precipice into the oblivion below. Yet despite God’s warning signs, most people continue on down the road with no thought to where this earth is headed.
THE WHOLE EARTH IS HEADED FOR CATASTROPHIC DEVASTATION AND ONLY THE REMNANT REMAINS TO PRAISE GOD
We are beginning a short new section this morning – chapters 24-27 which hang together as a unit. We had been looking at the judgments on individual nations. Now the prophet speaks of universal judgment — all the individual streams flow into an ocean of catastrophe. A contrast is going to be painted between the City of Man (called in chap. 24 the city of chaos) and the City of God – much like Augustine’s famous treatise. Motyer’s [MawTEAR’s] analysis breaks down the chiastic structure of these 4 chapters with the central point of emphasis being 25:6-12 regarding Mt. Zion – the repeated use of the phrase “on this mountain”.
Delitzsch states, these chapters “form the finale to chaps. 13-23, and that in a strictly musical sense. What the finale should do in a piece of music–namely, gather up the scattered changes into a grand impressive whole–is done here by this closing cycle. . . . The whole of this finale is a grand hallelujah to chaps. 13-23, hymnic in its character, and musical in form, and that to such a degree, that, like chap. 25:6, the prophecy is, as it were, both text and divisions at the same tome. There was no other than Isaiah who was so incomparable a master of language
Constable: Many commentators refer to this section as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse” because it reveals the culmination of history, though strictly speaking the language used is not apocalyptic but eschatological. These are prophecies regarding the eschatological day of the Lord. Later scriptural revelation enables us to locate these judgments more specifically in the Tribulation, at the return of Christ, in the Millennium, and at the very end of human history on this earth. . .
This passage contains many connections with the Flood narrative (Gen. 6—9). Essentially, what God did in Noah’s day—i.e., the preservation of the righteous—He will do in the future Tribulation (cf. Mark 13).
[Also references Gen. 1-3 and the Tower of Babel judgment]
Van Parunak: two major sections of judgment (24:1-12; 16b-22) alternate with a distant echo of songs of praise (13-16a, cf. 23). This section is marked by frequent mention of the “earth” –
used 17 times in the chapter – not just some local judgment affecting only the land of Judah
I. (:1-12) CATASTROPHIC DEVASTATION AND GLOOM ON THE ENTIRE GUILTY WORLD IN THE DAY OF THE LORD
A. (:1-3) The Extent of the Devastation — Guaranteed to be Complete and Total by God
1. (:1) Catastrophic Devastation (inclusion with vs. 3)
“Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants.”
Beall: The use of hnehi plus the participle indicates a sense of immediacy:– “Behold, the Lord is about to”
Van Parunak: This emphasis [multiple uses of word “earth’] suggests that the disaster described here is not particular to Israel, but (like the burdens) encompasses all the earth, Jew and Gentile alike. . .
The statement of the coming judgment is chiastic, with descriptions of the judgment on the earth on the outside and the people at the center. The judgment here is depicted as due to an outside agent, whether the Lord (v. 1) or a military enemy (v.3).
a. lays the earth waste – to empty or lay waste
like taking a cup and turning it upside down and pouring out its contents
b. devastates it
These first 2 Hebrew participles sound alike – boqeq . . . bolqah – makes a very striking sound – use of assonance in this chapter – Isaiah is very skillful in his word plays – lost in our English translations (like my alliteration of my outline points is lost when you translate into another language)
Nah. 2:10 only other usage
c. distorts its surface – bend, twist – so it becomes unrecognizable
make it into a mangled mess – imagery of Noah’s Flood – upheaval from the foundations below – changing the contours of the earth dramatically
d. scatters its inhabitants
Gen. 11:9 – imagery of the judgment on the Tower of Babel – all the people were scattered
2. (:2) Class Distinctions Meaningless – 6 Relationships in Society:
“And the people will be like the priest,
the servant like his master,
the maid like her mistress,
the buyer like the seller,
the lender like the borrower,
the creditor like the debtor.”
All people stand on level ground at the foot of the cross – “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”
The problem is the same for all men – that is the message of Romans 1-3
Does not matter how much light you might have; does not matter if you are the heathen in Africa who have never heard the Word of God – Rom. 1:18-19
2:11 “there is no partiality with God”
3:19 all the world stands accountable and guilty before God
Cf. 1 Sam. 16:7 – no favoritism with God as there is with man – “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
You cannot buy your way out of this judgment
3. (:3) Catastrophic Devastation
“The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the LORD has spoken this word.”
“emptied there will be emptied the earth, and spoiled it will be spoiled” – Hebrew infinitive absolute construction for emphasis – repeating the same root of the word to give emphasis – we add the adjective “completely” in English to convey the meaning
Constable: The prophet predicted that the Lord would lay the earth (land) waste, the sum total of all the nations, including those representative ones condemned in the oracles. Isaiah always used “behold” to introduce something future (cf. 3:1; 17:1; 19:1; 30:27; et al.). He would do the reverse of what He did in the Creation, when He brought order out of chaos (cf. Gen. 1:2). He would devastate the earth, making it desolate. He would distort the surface of the earth, as when the Flood changed the topography of this planet. And He would scatter the earth’s inhabitants, as He did at Babel (Gen. 11:9). . .
The repetition of the revelation of this judgment (cf. v. 1), with the assurance that the Lord announced it, confirms its certainty (cf. 2 Pet. 3:5- 7; Rev. 6; 8—9; 15—16; 21:1). The fact of the earth’s destruction, rather than the precise methods and instruments He will use, were the focus of this prophet’s revelation.
B. (:4-6) The Explanation for the Devastation — God’s Curse Against Guilty Sinners
1a. Impact on the Earth and Its Inhabitants
“The earth mourns and withers,
the world fades and withers,
the exalted of the people of the earth fade away.”
Rom. 8:20ff – “creation was subjected to futility” … it “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now”
Motyer: The problem is not the external factor of drought but the internal factor of blight
Both the earth and its inhabitants – even the most influential and important – feel the impact of God’s judgment
2a. Root Problem: Sin and Pollution
“The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants,
for they transgressed laws,
broke the everlasting covenant.”
Motyer: (On the idea of polluting the earth see Nu. 35:33; Ps. 106:38; Je. 3:1-2, 9.)
1) Transgression of revealed truth – refused to hold to and live by divine revelation
2) Changing what was intended for perpetuity = introducing an innovative morality
3) Annulling, nullifying or setting aside the whole concept of covenant relationship and life
Environmentalists are concerned with the pollution of the earth … but they ignore the root cause of that pollution which is the sin of man.
Van Parunak: Isaiah describes this moral breakdown with three expressions.
• transgressed the laws –This is a standard way of describing disobedience. The laws are viewed as a barrier, which the sinner crosses. The plural is unusual (appearing 15x out of 233), and suggests that we are concerned not only with Israel’s law (usually referred to in the singular), but with the law of God written in the heart of the Gentiles. Paul describes this phenomenon:
Rom 2:14-15 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; Having a knowledge of the law, whether written or natural, does not guarantee obedience to that law. The nations can break the law of God in their hearts just as readily as Israel can break the law of Sinai.
• changed the ordinance –An “ordinance” is literally something engraved on stone, and therefore intended to be permanent. The verb rendered “changed” is usually intransitive, but a homograph (coming from a different protosemitic guttural, cf. the Arabic) means to pierce through. It describes what Jael did to Sisera with the tent peg. The imagery is graphic: they have dared to lift up their own chisel to God’s unalterable ordinance, and shattered it.
• broken the everlasting covenant —A number of “everlasting covenants” are described in the Bible, including that with Abraham (Gen 17:7, 13, 19; 1 Chr 16:17 = Ps 105:10), the Sabbath (Exod 31:16), the showbread (Lev 24:8; cf. Num 18:19; 25:13), David (2 Sam 23:5; Isa 55:3; 2 Chr 13:5), and a future covenant (Isa 61:8; Jer 32:40; 50:5; Ezek 16:60; 37:26). The past ones all have to do with Israel, and the future covenant will be unbreakable (cf. Jer 31:32). There is one “everlasting covenant” in the past that bears on Gentiles, and that is God’s covenant with Noah.
2b. Divine Response: Accountability and Judgment
Therefore, a curse devours the earth,
and those who live in it are held guilty.”
1b. Impact on the Earth and Its Inhabitants
“Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned,
and few men are left.”
Grogan: These verses are characterized by a strong moral tone. The true and living God carries out his judgments on moral principles, not as the expression of an arbitrary will. If human kings experience his righteous wrath, it is because their actions and their way of life are contrary to his will.
C. (:7-12) The Emotion Accompanying this Devastation — Replacing Shallow Joy (Gaiety) with Deep Gloom (another chiastic arrangement)
1. (:7a) Good Times Gone – Source of Joy Removed
“The new wine mourns,
the vine decays,”
2. (:7b-9) Gaiety Replaced by Gloom
“all the merry-hearted sigh.
The gaiety of tambourines ceases,
the noise of revelers stops,
the gaiety of the harp ceases.
They do not drink wine with song;
Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.”
3. (:10) Gutted and Boarded Up (vs. built up and fortified)
“The city of chaos is broken down;
Every house is shut up so that none may enter.”
No specific city in view here – not speaking of Jerusalem – because the judgment is universal – this is more like Vanity Fair – more like the symbolic city of Babylon in book of Revelation which stands for the entire anti-God world system; the City of Man
Tremendous fear leading to isolation rather than hospitality – let’s cower in our own homes and lock ourselves down and see if we can ride out this devastation …
Won’t do you any good to build a nuclear bomb shelter …
2. (:11) Gaiety Replaced by Gloom
“There is an outcry in the streets concerning the wine;
All joy turns to gloom.
The gaiety of the earth is banished.”
Oswalt: Where there was an abundance of wine, there is now none and those who have developed a dependency are in desperate trouble.
1. (:12) Ghost Town Left — Destroyed and Defenseless
“Desolation is left in the city,
and the gate is battered to ruins.”
A1 The source of joy gone (7a, 2 lines)
B1 Joy stilled, satisfaction gone (7b-9, 6 lines)
C The city broken and empty (10, 2 lines)
B2 Satisfaction lost, joy banished (11, 3 lines)
A2 The source of security gone (12, 2 lines) — destruction coupled with defencelessness
The line enumeration is based on setting out the Hebrew text in fifteen lines, mostly of three words each. The “feeling” is as of a series of hammer blows, as if we were watching the city being brought to ruins. The subtle use of assonance cannot be reflected in translation but proclaims Isaiah’s authorship in every division of the poem, if not in every line.
Constable: Wine, which people use to escape feeling the effects of sin, ultimately proves ineffective. Its source, the grapevine, decays (as a result of drought? cf. Rev. 6:5-6), and even the constitutionally lighthearted cannot escape groaning. Music, likewise, cannot keep people’s spirits up continually. . . Modern existentialist writers have done a good job of articulating the meaninglessness of life without God that Isaiah also described here.
[cf. message of Ecclesiastes]
Beall: V 8 continues with the imagery of the cessation of joyful music. This is the opposite of what is described in Jer 33:10-11
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place – of which you say, “It is desolate, without man and without beast” — in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, 11 ‘the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: “Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever” — and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the LORD”.
Van Parunak: This paragraph is the first time he mentions the “city,” an important motif throughout this section. The reference is not to any one specific city, but to the notion of city life in general. The notion of a city often carries negative connotations. Cities require coordination and organization, and foster the growth of human government, with its usurpation of God’s authority. . .
Throughout this section we will see the initial condemnation and destruction of the city of man’s strength, but also the anticipation of the city of God, organized under his rule.
The city of confusion is broken down:– “Confusion” is תהו “emptiness, formlessness” as in Gen 1:2. Here is a paradox: structure is the very essence of a city, but this one has become unstructured.
every house is shut up, that no man may come in.–Another paradox: houses exist so that people can enter and leave them and find shelter, but these houses have become impenetrable.
II. (:13-16a) WORLDWIDE SONGS OF PRAISE FROM THE MEAGER REMNANT GLORIFYING THE LORD
A. (:13) Meager Gleanings After Harvest
“For thus it will be in the midst of the earth among the peoples,
as the shaking of an olive tree, as the gleanings when the grape harvest is over.”
Only a small remnant escapes the devastation of the Tribulation Period and enters into the millennial kingdom to offer praises to the Lord
Cf. Is. 17:6 – Isaiah had used this same imagery earlier to speak of the judgment of Ephraim in league with Damascus – now he expands the reference to include the remnant from all the world there will be Philistines, Assyrians, ones from Moab and Syria … but only a few
B. (:14-16a) Majestic Songs of Praise From the Ends of the Earth
“They raise their voices, they shout for joy. They cry out from the west concerning the majesty of the LORD. Therefore glorify the LORD in the east, the name of the LORD, the God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we hear songs, ‘Glory to the Righteous One,’”
1. Intensity of the Praise
– raise their voices
– shout for joy
– cry out
2. Worldwide Scope of the Praise
– from the west
– in the east
– in the coastlands of the sea
– from the ends of the earth
3. Focus of the Praise – 4 Perspectives on the Lord of Hosts
– the majesty of the Lord
– the name of the Lord
– the God of Israel
– the Righteous One
cf. Matt. 25:21, 23
CONCLUSION: (Part 1)
Remember the book by Francis Schaeffer: How Should We Then Live? – The Bible has the answer for us:
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
– Let’s examine our passions. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”
– Let’s examine our priorities. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
– Let’s examine our pursuits. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Don’t try to hold on to this world and the things that pertain to it.
Make no mistake – God has spoken – “The world is passing away.”
* * * * * * *
Second Cycle of Judgment and Praise
Cf. the images of devastation from the Philippines over the past week – just awful scenes; cf. images from earthquakes, etc.
Complexity of end time events; We know there are multiple judgments involved; we turn to last chapters of book of Rev. for a chronology; here we have the closest parallel in the OT in terms of some type of ordering of events; do not look to see anything here about the rapture of the church – not in view here; so this passage says nothing about validity of pre-trib rapture, vs. post-trib; but it has a lot to say about the validity of the pre-mill position
III. (:16b-22) CATASTROPHIC DEVASTATION OF ESCHATOLOGICAL JUDGMENT
A. (:16b) Perspective of the Prophet – Still Living in the Present
“But I say, ‘Woe to me! Woe to me! Alas for me!
The treacherous deal treacherously, and the treacherous deal very treacherously.’”
Returning to the here and now – after seeing into the future
– Persistence of sin – causes us hardship right ow
– There must be some future accountability – righteousness of God yet to be seen
– Cannot put our trust in any of the leaders of the nations
– God is still on His throne
Do our political leaders deal treacherously today? Does this have consequences for us in the here and now?
“What a Friend we have in Jesus” = faithful and true; we know what it feels like when others deal treacherously with us – make it our goal within the church to be faithful friends; people you can count on
Motyer: Parallel to the world and its people withering under the blight of sin (4-6), another voice speaks of personal wasting away. Within chapters 13-27, this cry is parallel to 21:3-4, where Isaiah, even though he had wished the destruction of Babylon, went into shock at the horror he foresaw. So here, the implications of the fall of the world city – the curse falling on earth and people alike (4-6) and no escape possible (17-18) – are like a wasting disease within himself. Though he has heard and called for the song of the remnant (15-16), he cannot abandon himself to joy because he has also seen the reality of sin and the curse.
Isaiah returns now to the present affliction where the nation of Assyria under Sennacherib is making so many promises of potential peace that are nothing but blatant treachery. Just as he experienced personal “Woe” because of his sinfulness before the vision of holy God (Chap. 6), now the prophet experiences “Woe” because of the pressure of his immediate national crisis. Some final accounting by the Lord must take place in the future so that justice can be enacted and accounts can be squared.
B. (:17-20) Permanent Destruction of Polluted Earth in Catastrophic Final Upheaval
2 Pet. 3:7-13
1. (:17-18a) Inescapable Dangers
“Terror and pit and snare confront you, O inhabitant of the earth.
Then it will be that he who flees the report of disaster will fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare;”
The great leaders of the world like Sennacherib who act with such pride and arrogance in their rebellion, will be reduced to trying to escape the inevitability of the judgment of the Lord which will not make any class distinctions among the various inhabitants of the earth.
Language sounds like Tribulation Period – just before the return of Christ … could also be at the end of the Millennial Kingdom
2. (:18b-19) Irrevocable Fracturing of the Earth
“For the windows above are opened, and the foundations of the earth shake.
The earth is broken asunder,
The earth is split through,
The earth is shaken violently.”
Earthquakes of severe nature
Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again
Imagery brings us back to Noah’s Flood – a worldwide phenomena; only place of safety was within the Ark provided by God for salvation; only 8 people saved out of maybe 1 billion on the face of the earth
3. (:20a) Two Images of Instability – Where is the earth heading?
a. Reeling Drunkard
“The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard,”
b. Tottering Shack
“And it totters like a shack,”
Constable: vs. 20 — The prophet compared the earth under divine judgment to a reeling drunkard about to collapse and to an old shack about to fall down. A drunkard falls because of internal weakness, and a shack gives way because of external pressures. What causes the destruction is the guilt of transgression that weighs heavily on the earth. This fall will be irrevocable.
4. (:20b) Ignominious End
a. Crushed by Guilt
“For its transgression is heavy upon it,”
b. Annihilated Forever
“And it will fall, never to rise again.”
Beall: The language used here is very similar to Amos 5:2, a passage which was probably written earlier (“The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more”).
C. (:21-22) Punishment of Satanic Hosts After 1000 Year Period of Confinement
“So it will happen in that day, that the LORD will punish the host of heaven, on high, and the kings of the earth, on earth. And they will be gathered together like prisoners in the dungeon, and will be confined in prison; and after many days they will be punished.”
Motyer: This is what they chose: a world without the ordering hand of God and this in faithful divine justice, is what they got.
Van Parunak: The dualism of “the high ones” and “the kings” recalls the contrast between the king and prince of Tyre in Ezek 28, or the prince and kings of Persia in Dan 10:13, or the dual use of “principalities and powers” in the NT of earthly (Titus 3:1) and heavenly (Eph 6:12) political entities. God will judge both the human rulers of the nations and the spiritual powers who stand behind them.. .
There are other biblical references to this sequence of imprisonment followed by judgment.
• Jude v. 6 records that the angels who sinned in Gen 6 are now imprisoned, awaiting “the judgment of the great day.”
• Rev 20:1-3, 7-10 record that during the Millennium, Satan will be imprisoned, only to be judged at the end.
IV. (:23) SONGS OF ETERNAL TRIUMPH — KINGDOM OF GOD EXALTED IN THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH
A. Comparison to Imposter Gods Who Will be Ashamed
“Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed,”
Constable: The moon and sun, the most glorious rulers of human life, in the physical sense, will be ashamed by the appearance of an even more glorious ruler (cf. Rev. 21:23). The sun and the moon were important gods in the ancient Near East, but no god can stand beside Yahweh. Isaiah’s is a poetic description of relative glory. Isaiah did not use the astronomical words for moon and sun here but poetic equivalents, the “white” and the “hot.”
Motyer: They will be abashed and ashamed, hanging their heads in shame at being such poor things by comparison!
B. Coronation of the Lord of Hosts on Mount Zion
“For the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,”
Hallelujah Chorus – “And He will reign forever and ever”
C. Celebration of His Eternal Glory
“And His glory will be before His elders.”
Van Parunak: Who will form the Lord’s court in the future day of which Isaiah speaks? We have some clues in the NT.
Mat 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:
John’s vision of the heavenly assembly includes both the “beasts” (cherubim) and the “elders”(representing the believers),
Rev 4:4-6 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.… and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
Rev 19:4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
Incredibly, the Lord associates us with him in his final glorious reign.
2 Pet. 3:11-13 “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”