Ah! How she has become a whore –
The trustworthy town!
Full of judgment,
Righteousness used to lodge in her,
But now murderers!
Your silver has become dross,
Your liquor diluted with water,
Your princes stubborn,
And in league with robbers.
Each and every one loves a bribe,
And pursue all sorts of deceptions.
They do not provide justice for the orphan,
And the widow’s case does not come before them.
This is the decree of the Sovereign,
Yahweh of Hosts,
Potentate of Israel –
Oh! I will relieve myself of my adversaries,
And I will avenge myself on my enemies,
And I will bring back my hand upon you,
And I will refine, as with a cleansing agent, your dross,
And I will remove all your base metal.
And I will bring back your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the start.
Afterwards, you will be called
“City of Righteousness”
The Trustworthy Town.
Zion will be ransomed with justice,
And her repentant ones with righteousness
And shattering for those who are rebelling, and the sinful
All at once!
And those who forsake Yahweh are finished.
For they will reap shame
From the fine trees which you have desired,
And you will be dishonored by the gardens
Which you have chosen.
For you will be like a great tree withering in its foliage,
And like a garden which has no water.
And the strong will be tinder,
And what he has made a spark,
And they will burn, both of them together,
With no one to put the fire out!
Sin is a corruption which promised well-being, a deceiver who speaks words of affection but hides insidious cruelty in its intentions. Isaiah pictures God’s people as corrupted and transformed by their dependence upon idols, and their association with injustice as that which corrodes their beauty and dilutes their potency.
Like a valuable metal which has been mixed with worthlessness, or a diluted drink, watered down and worthless, injustice has corrupted their whole society. The courts are corrupted by partiality and power-hungry judges who abuse their power to line their own pockets. The governors are equally corrupt, seeking power and wealth and leaving the weak and vulnerable and unjustly treated alone to fend for themselves, rather than seeking to protect the innocent and provide for the powerless, which is what God had ordained powerful people to do. Thus, the whole society was breaking down, corroding, and was close to being burned up like tinder, which they planted as beautiful trees, but did not water with worthwhile water.
Sin is just that, promising power, promising greatness, but merely starving the life out of us personally, and out of us socially. The center cannot hold when power becomes the greatest treasure. We were not made to hoard or control or treasure such things with no boundaries. And having listened to the siren’s surreptitious song, God rose up to avenge and to cleanse.
He avenges Himself against his enemies and cleanses His people from their corruption all at once! In one motion of judgment and mercy He judges his enemies and restores his people. How would he do this?
Zion would be ransomed, purchased back at the cost of God Himself. He would do it! And her repentant ones would be purchased with righteousness and ransomed with justice and vengeance would be poured out upon those who continue in their rebellion - and this is all at once.
Well, Isaiah paints a picture here which he does not answer until chapters 53 and 54, but there is a hint in verse 28, “those who forsake Yahweh are finished!” God finishes it against those who forsake him. And God finished it by becoming the one who forsook Him. When Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken Me?” he was crying out as one who was forsaken by God because He had taken upon himself the place of one who had forsaken God. We are restored because He stepped into our place and bore the flaming vengeance of God against us who forsook Yahweh.
In His Son, in Himself, God restores his flock as sons (53:6) and grants the righteousness of God which we corrupted with our sins (54:17). The garden which we tried to grow will be burned up, but God will plant a new tree which will span the river of living water which flows from His throne, and its leaves will be the healing of the nations (Rev 22:2). God will undo the corrupting and destructive effects of sin because His justice and His mercy were issued all at once at the cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore, He is both just and the justifier of those who are united to Jesus by faith.
Flee from sin, my friends. It will only bring corrosion of your life. And rest in the Messiah, Jesus the Righteous One, who stands in your place so that you might be granted the fullness of His resurrection life.