Isaiah 32 is a chapter about things being set right in the world. It's set in a section that's comprised of warnings about the dangers of failing to follow God or of putting trust in a different protector. The message about God is that he requires a consistency and transparency in his creation and in his people. It explains why we see suffering in the world, and teaches us of principles to live by.
1. The World Made Right
In Isaiah 32, we see a vision of how things will be in the world when God's plan is enacted. It starts at leadership, with the promise that there will be a king and rule that is righteous and just.
Isaiah 32:1: Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice. WEB
Although we're in an era now where the political rulers have limited respect, and often treated with contempt to the favour of popularist views, the history of the nation of Israel shows that time and time again, the attitudes of the people are strongly influenced by the leaders of the society. So here we see the king reigning in righteousness as a light that shines giving hope for the common people.
There is a consistency that for things to be right in the world, the regard for God needs to run right through society - from top to bottom. In looking over the history of Israel, we can see evidence of this, with the times of faithful leadership leading to periods were the people followed God.
During the time of the Judges, there was a continual oscillation of the people between following God, and ignoring him for the alternatives. In Judges 3, God raised up Ehud as a Judge do deliver Israel. When they turned to God, they were released from oppression. However, after Ehud died and the leadership was lost, the people as a whole again forsook God.
Judges 4:1: The children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, when Ehud was dead. WEB
For the society of Israel to work, they needed a faithfulness that spread right through the society. A righteous king is a valuable asset.
Consistency to be Restored
When Isaiah 32 describes the changed world under the righteous king, it does so with slightly unexpected illustrations.
The most natural description of the glory of the future age comes in passages like Isaiah 65, where there is presented a picture of peace, joy and freedom from harm.
Isaiah 65:18: But be you glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying. WEB
However, in chapter 32, the emphasis is different. Instead, here we see a more fundamental change taking place. It's a change to make things right - to return things to the way they should be. The blessing is in that the reality is to match the appearance.
Isaiah 32:2: A man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as streams of water in a dry place, as the shade of a great rock in a weary land. 3. The eyes of those who see shall not be dim, and the ears of those who hear shall listen. 4. The heart of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. 5. The fool shall be no more called noble, nor the scoundrel be highly respected. WEB
It speaks of a time when things will work as they are designed: an eye that is made for seeing will be able to see, and the ear that is designed for hearing will be able to hear. Something that looks like an ear will truly be an ear, and someone who is in a position of nobility will truly be noble.
It confirms God's distaste for things having an appearance different to their reality:
Isaiah 5:20: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, And light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, And sweet for bitter! WEB
Under the rule of the righteous king, instead of this being a confusing and deceitful world, it is one where things are clear, and right and wrong can be seen.
2. Openness Of God
When we see God's position of desiring transparency and clarity, we may ask just how clear God is in the way that he deals with humanity. Sometimes, when disasters happen, and evil triumphs, we may wonder if God is really showing his justice. Does he make clear to us the nature of the world?
In the book of Amos, God had a message for his people Israel of impending punishment. In chapter 3, he expressed that because they were his special people, he would punish them for their sins. Amos then goes on to explain how they only had to open their eyes in order to see the punishments and actions of God around them.
Amos 3:3: Do two walk together, Unless they have agreed? 4 Will a lion roar in the thicket, When he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out of his den, If he has caught nothing? 5. Can a bird fall in a trap on the earth, Where no snare is set for him? Does a snare spring up from the ground, When there is nothing to catch? 6 Does the trumpet alarm sound in a city, Without the people being afraid? Does evil happen to a city, And Yahweh hasn't done it? 7 Surely the Lord Yahweh will do nothing, Unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets. WEB
The work of God is clear.
The evils in the world aren't some uncontrollable accident, or force of nature beyond God's control. Instead its a direct symptom of the state of the world that we are in. It leaves us with no excuse to think that all is right when in fact it isn't. It paints the world in the colour to appear as it really is.
In the garden of Eden, after the sin, the punishment described to Adam set the standard of what was going to follow:
Genesis 3:17: To Adam he said, "Because you have listened to your wife's voice, and have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, `You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground for your sake. In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Thorns also and thistles will it bring forth to you; and you will eat the herb of the field. 19. By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return." WEB
From that point forward, the earth was still going to reflect the true nature of the world, and not hide the presence of sin. The thorns and troubles would be a reminder of which path humanity was on. God, in his justice, required a consistency
Consistency: World Shows its Nature
In Isaiah 32 we see mention of the thorns and briers in the land, symbolising the hardships of the people. They had been people who were at ease and complacent. Their erring away from God had left them exposed to the curse that the sinful world is under.
Isaiah 32:13: On the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yes, on all the houses of joy in the joyous city. 14 For the palace shall be forsaken; the populous city shall be deserted; the hill and the watch-tower shall be for dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; WEB
While ever the society was corrupt, it was going to appear corrupt. God was allowing the flawed nature to show through as part of making it consistent and transparent.
However, in the future, there was going to be a change. There was going to be a change where the righteous would rule, and evil would be done away with. Under these conditions, the land would again appear fruitful, and the lifestyle innocent.
Isaiah 32:15: until the Spirit be poured on us from on high, and the wilderness become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be esteemed as a forest. 16. Then justice shall dwell in the wilderness; and righteousness shall abide in the fruitful field. 17 The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. 18. My people shall abide in a peaceable habitation, and in safe dwellings, and in quiet resting-places. WEB
Covered to be Revealed
As humans, we tend to like to hide things. When we build buildings, we carefully panel and hide the features that aren't so pretty. When we build cars, we go to all sorts of troubles to avoid the heads of screws being visible, lest people should be distracted to see the ugly mechanics of how its really held together. When it comes to our lives, we hide the things that we don't want revealed. These might be the things that demonstrate who we really are.
Society covers up the signs of evil, because we would rather believe that things are alright. When a disaster occurs, we may doubt God, and consider it something unfortunate that happened because it was beyond his control to stop.
Similarly, in life we can be led to think that a double-existence will work. We can be left with a nominal service to God, but our inner dreams and motivations somewhere else.
We are warned though, that the hidden will be revealed. No matter how clever we get in creating a complex life of appearance and reality, eventually it will be reduced to simplicity and consistency. At the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had built up a complex lifestyle, and the warning was given to them that this was a hypocrisy that would be torn down:
Luke 12:1: Meanwhile, when a multitude of many thousands had gathered together, so much so that they trampled on each other, he began to tell his disciples first of all, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2. But there is nothing covered up, that will not be revealed, nor hidden, that will not be known. 3. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light. What you have spoken in the ear in the inner chambers will be proclaimed on the housetops. WEB
Ecclesiastes 12:14: For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil. WEB
1 Corinthians 4:5: Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each man will get his praise from God. WEB
3. People: Inside and Out
In Isaiah, we see how the nature of a person is seen in their actions. The fool is known by his speech and actions:
Isaiah 32:6: For the fool will speak folly, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice profanity, and to utter error against Yahweh, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and to cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. 7. The instruments of the churl are evil: he devises wicked devices to destroy the humble with lying words, even when the needy speaks right. WEB
The contrast is in the actions of the noble:
Isaiah 32:8: But the noble devises noble things; and in noble things shall he continue. WEB
The word here describing the “noble”, has meanings both of one generous and liberal, and also that of a noble or prince. When we see this in the early writings, we see it speaking of people who are willing to be generous:
Exodus 35:5: `Take from among you an offering to Yahweh. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, Yahweh's offering: gold, silver, brass, WEB
But then, in the later writings, we see it has taken on the meaning of the nobles or princes,
Psa 118:9: It is better to take refuge in Yahweh, Than to put confidence in princes. WEB
It seems that the nobles and princes were named this way to reflect the character that they should have. They were to be rulers who would look after their people. Their name should follow their deeds. We see in Proverbs how consistency is needed for things to be right.
Prov 17:7: Arrogant speech isn't fitting for a fool, Much less do lying lips fit a prince. WEB
James 2: All or Nothing
In the new testament, we also see need for consistency in both the internal and external and external aspects of life. In James 2, we see the theory about how the law may be kept,
James 2:9: but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. NKJV
The law was an all-or-nothing affair. Either one had to obey all of the law, or else was condemned as a sinner under the law. You couldn't get value from partially serving God.
Faith and Works
James demonstrates that faith and works go hand in hand. Here, faith is something that is inside the person, and works are concerned with how the person relates to the rest of the world. So faith can be something that is invisible and internal, while works can be something that is seen, and external to the person.
Faith is important, because it's the fundamental aspect of the way that someone relates to God. However, for there to be the consistency that God requires, the external needs to match the internal, and consequently, works match the faith.
James 2:17: Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. NKJV
Hence, for this internal and external consistency, there is no value to a faith, unless it is mirrored by the actions it should provoke. Similarly, there isn't value in doing grand and imposing actions, unless there is a faith in God driving it.
4. The Strength we Depend On
Just as there must be consistency between the visible and the internal, so also must there be a consistency in where we place our trust. We see in Isaiah, that the people had to decide where they would place their trust for their military security. They were warned against placing their trust in the might of the armies of Egypt as their defence against the Assyrians,
Isaiah 31:1: Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they don't look to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek Yahweh! WEB
Trusting In Egypt
Egypt appeared to be a strong protector for the against Assyria. It was a protector they could see, and they felt that when it came to war, they could better trust Egypt than their God. There would be things that they would call on their God for, but in war it was different.
This illustrated a divided attention. The people were inconsistent in their trust in God. The trust was only in a part of their life, and not right through it. God was reminding them that he was a God that oversaw their whole life, so it was far better to turn their whole lives to him
Isaiah 31:3: Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit: and when Yahweh shall stretch out his hand, both he who helps shall stumble, and he who is helped shall fall, and they all shall be consumed together. WEB
To be a follower of God, it means being consistent, and being a follower in all aspects of life. That means
- when in conscious service to God
- at work
- when behind the wheel of a car
- following pursuits of leisure
It means having a single focus to life, and not a double-minded one.
In the message to Laodicea, they mixed the hot and cold, to become lukewarm in the eyes of God,
Revelation 3:15: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth. WEB
Just as no value in being a partial follower of the law, there's no value in being a partial follower of God.
Jesus - the strength who we are
In his creation, God requires a clear form, structure and consistency. As part of this, His justice has determined that the penalty for sin is death. As much as human society likes to believe the serpent in saying this is not really the case, the word from God is continually to say that it is an immovable statute of the creation. God's consistency in creation requires that justice be not overlooked. So, from generation to generation, we see each suffer under sin, and then the consequent death.
Romans 5:12: Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned. ... 14. ... death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren't like Adam's disobedience, ... WEB
As desperate as that situation is, God did have a solution planned, right from the time of Eden. It wasn't a solution that involved God redefining his standards and going back on his word, or breaking his justice. Instead, it was a neat and just solution that allowed us to take on a new identity, and leave behind our sinful self.
Romans 6:4: We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. 5. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; WEB
God provided Jesus so that we could become part of him and participate in the resurrection he is deserving of.
But in the keeping of the consistency of God, not only does this give us life, but gives us an opportunity to live in the life of God's only begotten son. Jesus himself described how his disciples would be able to pray to God on his behalf.
John 16:26: In that day you will ask in my name; and I don't say to you, that I will pray to the Father for you, 27. for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from God. WEB
It's an opportunity to live our life as if it is the life of Jesus - To think and do things as if we are the son of God, and to be able to speak to God in prayer as if we are the son of God.
Romans 5:1: Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2. through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. WEB
It's truly a great privilege, and one that's all part of the consistency of God. He is a God who displays and requires consistency and transparency:
- From the top of society to the bottom
- Between the true nature and the visible
- The inner person, and outer appearance
- The covered being revealed
- In the strength we depend on
- In his salvation