BRINGING THE REAL TO THE IDEAL (2:10 – 4:1)
Having been consumed by the ways of the world, Israel was in no position to be the instrument of bringing the nations of the world to God as promised in the Abrahamic covenant. The fulfillment of the covenant was in jeopardy. Yet the Lord had foreseen this and prepared the way for Israel to accomplish her servant role. In order for Israel to become the servant of God, she must become free from the grips of the world, discover her sacred duty, and then devote herself wholly to the work of the Lord. When this happens, the ideal state will finally be achieved.
Isaiah 2:10 – 4:1 reveal how the Lord will bring about the humility of all his children. In these verses it is shown that man’s dependance upon man will never bring about the ideal state but will only lead to captivity, destruction, and death. In order for the ideal to be achieved, man must be brought to depend upon God by being humbled! God will compel his children to be humble by taking away the things in which they have misplaced their trust.
These verses are divided into two sections: the first part is concerned with the gentile nations while the second part is concerned with Israel.
Part One: Humbling the Nations of the World (2:10-22)
The Exalting of Jehovah in the Last Days (2:10-16)
Before Isaiah revealed the humbling process through which Israel must pass, he spoke of “the day of the Lord of Hosts” coming “upon all nations.” This seems to have reference to various times when the Lord has attempted to humble all people, whether it be through war or natural disasters. It certainly has reference to his second coming when the “tares of the earth” are “bound in bundles” and made ready to burn (D&C 88:94).
10-12 The phrase, the Lord of Hosts (Heb. Jehovah sabaoth) literally means Jehovah, head of the military forces. In the present context, it means that Jehovah is a “man of war” ready to carry out his judgments upon the wicked.
Whenever “the day of the Lord of Hosts” comes upon his people, it is a time of great panic and fear for the wicked. The arrogance of man’s wicked ways will give way in the presence of the supreme being as shame envelopes their souls. In this state, men will do anything to hide from God and his judgment. The story of the rebellious Alma the younger illustrates this well. After the angel of God appeared to Alma, warning him of his eventual destruction if he did not repent, Alma was struck “with inexpressible horror” at the “thought of coming into the presence of” God. Indeed, his shame caused him to hide in a self-imposed three-day coma. He had hoped to “become extinct both soul and body” so he would not be brought before God to judge of his evil acts (Alma 36:6-16).
At his second coming, men will try to hide themselves from God. In comparison to the grandeur of God, who is all knowing, all powerful, and sovereign over all the universe, men will see the futility of their own actions. Man’s efforts to achieve greatness through wealth, power, and idols, “the work of their own hands,” will appear as nothing when viewed against the god of true greatness; “and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” But the fact of the matter is, man cannot hide from God. Their actions will be accounted for.
13-16 These verses list examples of the various things that men in the time of Isaiah esteemed as great and impressive–the cedars of Lebanon were used by kings of great status to build their magnificent palaces and temples; high mountains and hills were the places where men worshiped their gods; great trust was placed in fortifications consisting of high towers and fenced walls; through merchant ships, men could receive the fine things of life from any place in the world, making for themselves a pleasant life. But when “the day of the Lord of Hosts” comes upon men, all these things will be brought down; “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down” like trees bowing and finally collapsing in the face of a hurricane gale, “and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”
The Futility of Man’s Achievements (2:18-22). The last verses of Isaiah 2 portray the futility of man’s efforts to achieve anything of lasting value. Their vain imaginations have conjured up many things, none of which will save them from the wrath of God at his coming.
In the end, the greatness of their idols, or “the work of their own hands” (2:8), will be worth nothing more than to be thrown into caves where bats and moles live.
20 This verse is the crux of this section and is cleverly structured: the phrase his idols of silver, and his idols of gold is found at the end of the first set of parallels whereas to the moles and to the bats come at the end of the last. Of this, Oswalt has noted: “Thus the effect is to juxtapose the supposed preciousness of the idols with the squeamishness felt toward the small, unclean rodents. Mighty gods? Hardly. The same people who made the idols for themselves to worship (a telling phrase) now fling them away to their true domain. The God who alone is worthy to worship has appeared” (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39, p.128).
22 The last verse “contains a brief appeal to the reader not to let himself be impressed by men and all their achievements, but rather to heed the warning contained in the preceding prophecy that all man’s works will eventually come to judgment”(R. E. Clements, Isaiah 1-39, p. 46).
Part Two: Humbling Israel (3:1 – 4:1)
The Removal of Judah’s Leadership (3:1-7).
The first word of this prophecy, for, suggests that this chapter continues the thought of 2:10-22: the Lord will humble mankind by taking away the things they have put their trust in. The difference is, this chapter focuses on Judah and Jerusalem, and not “upon all nations.” In this chapter, Judah and Jerusalem illustrate the humbling process that would be experienced by the whole House of Israel. Indeed, history bears out that the description of Judah’s disgrace found in this chapter was similar to that of the northern kingdom of Israel. 3:1-7 addresses the folly of man’s dependance upon human leadership.
1 The first verse speaks of food and water being taken away from Judah and might seem out of place in a section dealing with the imprudence of placing complete trust in human leadership. Yet, the bottom line for having political leadership is to assure that the basic needs of people are met. The humbling of Judah will begin by removing the basic necessities of life. In Hosea, a similar scenario is described in a prophecy against Israel. The Lord, warned that if Israel didn’t repent of living after the manner of the world, he would “strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst” (Hosea 2:3).
2-3 Judah’s bread and water will be taken away by removing her leaders: the military leaders (the mighty man, the man of war or warrior, the captain of fifty), the political leaders (the judge, the ancient or elder, the honorable man or man of rank, the counselor), and the religious leaders (the prophet, the prudent or soothsayers, the eloquent orator or diviner). Further, the cunning artificer or skilled craftsman will also be removed. The removal of Judah’s leaders and craftsman would spell disaster for the chosen people. Yet this is precisely what the Lord intended for in so doing the chosen people might turn to their God for guidance and direction.
4-5 However, with all the leaders removed, Judah will turn to children (the incompetent, the immature) to lead them. This will lead to an ineffectual, self-serving government where all will be oppressed. Eventually, as this government begins to collapse, anarchy will prevail. No respect for any governing official will be the rule.
6-7 These verses show by graphic example how bad things will get among the those in Judah. A man who owns his own coat will find himself being asked to rule the people with the injunction, “let not this ruin come under thy hand.” The message of verse one now finds its fulfillment: the leaders, who are to insure the basic needs of the people, cannot. The man with the coat sees that there is no future for the people and that their confidence in him is vain for he cannot change the present circumstances. Therefore, he declines the responsibility.