Clearing the Site: From Vainglory to True Glory (Isaiah Sermon 3 of 81)
May 04, 2008 | Andrew Davis
Warnings, The Power of Sin, Judgment, Prophecy, Courage
I. Bookends of Grace Surround Severe Judgment
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a huge pile of debris was left on ground zero - twisted steel, gutters, rubble and other wreckage which continued to smolder for five months after the attack. It was dubbed “the pile” by those who worked there. On May 30th, 2002, there was a significant ceremony. The last piece of steel from the World Trade Center was removed from the site. It was draped in an American flag and recycled as the bow of the new San Antonio class amphibious assault ship, the USS New York, and the term pile was no longer used after this. Now the clearing of ground zero in New York city was essential in order to go ahead with plans for building the proposed Freedom Tower in its place. Without the clearing of that pile of smoldering rubble, the Freedom Tower, 1776 feet tall, could never be built.
And so it is also with the work of God in redemptive history. Across human history with the city that we know as Jerusalem and in our own individual hearts spiritually, until the wreckage that sin has left is removed the work of God cannot proceed. The building site must be cleared. It must be cleansed and then the building of God can be established. Biblically then the building site is ultimately the hearts of its people, the hearts of the people of God. That is the building site. I believe it also a physical Jerusalem as well. It’s both. The building that He is building is called, in Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem, a Holy City, a combination of a spiritual and physical dwelling place where the eternal God, the Holy God, will dwell with His people, His cleansed people forever. And they will see His face and He will be their God. And they will dwell in His presence forever and ever.
The rubble then is the residue of human arrogance and defilement and sin that must be purged. It must be removed or that eternal structure cannot be built. So it is then that we come to Isaiah 3 and Isaiah 4. In Isaiah 3 we see the destruction of the city of Jerusalem because of human sin, and a pile of rubble. A “heap of ruins,” it's called in verse six. But it must be cleared so that the New Jerusalem can be built. It is a passage that speaks a word of warning to our own nation, because there are many similarities spiritually between the Jerusalem that was cleansed and cleared in Isaiah 3 and our nation of the present time. And it is a word that speaks to each individual Christian, a word of warning of the need for repentance and personal faith and prayer. As I've said before, I say it again. I renew this encouragement and exhortation to you, to not let there be a distance between you and Isaiah and the people that he writes about. Find yourself here and you will be well. Find ground for repentance and humbling of yourself before God's mighty hand and He will lift you up. Don't keep a distance between you and the people of Jerusalem. I say that to myself and to all of us.
The Mountain of the Lord (Isa. 2) and the Branch of the Lord (Isa. 4)
As we look at the unfolding glories of Isaiah's prophecy we have what I call bookends of grace. We have two bookends of grace surrounding a pile of rubble. Bookend number one, we have Isaiah chapter 2, the mountain of the Lord's temple established as chief among the mountains, raised above the hills, and all nations streaming to it, a vision of glory. Bookend number two, we have Isaiah 4, the branch of the Lord established as beautiful and fruitful and glorious in Mount Zion, and a canopy of glory over Mount Zion, and there will God's cleansed and glorified people dwell forever and ever. In between, you have wreckage. You have a city destroyed because of human sin. And that's what we're looking at today.
Great Judgment Clears the Building Site (Isaiah 2-3)
Great judgment clears the building site - Isaiah 2, which we looked at last week. All lofty, arrogant human structures are removed and the Lord alone will be exalted. Isaiah 2:17 says, “The arrogance of man will be brought low, and the pride of men humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”
And then in Isaiah 3 the Lord takes away. He takes away. He removes. He clears. Do you see it? Verse one, right away. “For behold, the Lord God of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah supply and support. All supply, support of bread, and all support of water.” He is removing the supports, the supply systems. Later in verses 18-20, the Lord snatches away the finery of the daughters of Zion, “the bangles and head bands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms.” He takes it away. He's clearing it, as though the building site is being cleared for a spectacular new building that will last for all eternity. That's what I see. And so in judgement, in a terrible chapter of judgment, still there is God's grace immediately after in chapter 4. And we'll look at it today.
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity put it this way,
“Imagine yourself living in a house and God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You know these jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on Earth is He up to? Well, the explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting an extra floor up there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but He is building instead a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
So that is the clearing and the adjustment and the cleansing and the rebuilding that I see here, so that God can dwell with us for all eternity.
II. Loss of Stability (Verses 1-15)
The “Pillars of Society” Are Gifts of God
Now it begins here in chapter 3:1-15 with the loss of stability. The pillars, humanly speaking, are getting pulled out. They are just getting pulled out and the wreckage comes as a result. Look at verses 1-3. “See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water, the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the soothsayer and elder, the captain of fifty and man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.” These are the pillars of society, humanly speaking. Pillars are a source of support. They hold up buildings. These people hold up everyday life in society. They are pillars, the daily existence by which the inhabitants of that city made their life through the world. Now you remember the story of blind Samson whose eyes were put out by the Philistines. He was brought to the temple of Dagon, the false god. And the boy who was leading him by the hand asks him, “Can you put me at the place where there are the big pillars that support the whole building?” That has to be one of the stupidest moments in biblical history, matched only by Samson's own stupidity when Delilah kept asking, "How then can we destroy you?" And Sampson toys with that question. But he returns the favor here. And remember he has his hands on the pillars that hold up the entire temple. And with awesome strength he pushes them out, and the whole structure comes crumbling down. Thousands were killed.
Perhaps you remember from last year a bridge in Minneapolis. The repair, the on-going upkeep, had been neglected. Perhaps it had a fresh paint job every year and looked good. But it was structurally unsound and people died as a result, because the bridge came crumbling down. So when the pillars are removed, everything falls. I think that is what is going on here. God is threatening to remove all the structural supports of Jerusalem and Judah. He starts with the stable food supply, all supplies of food and all supplies of water. God created us needy and dependent. We must have that steady stream of food and water. So He is going to remove that. I believe he is speaking here of both the Assyrian and then later the Babylonian invasions, when the people were starving and the food supply and the water supply were destroyed and the people would starve. But then he goes on to talk about other pillars, about human beings who play certain key roles in Jewish society. They are leaders and skilled craftsmen and counselors and people who play a certain role.
Let's start with the issue of good leaders. A godly king who rules with justice provides incredible blessings for his nation. Now Isaiah 3 depicts a total vacuum of leadership, the scourge of anarchy, and therefore resulting instability. So we see the removal of godly leadership. Proverbs 28:2 says, "When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order." And so He is going to remove these godly leaders, these qualified men who are able to lead. They are removed. They're not there. But he goes on to talk about military heroes, “the hero and warrior…, the captain of fifty and man of rank” (verses 2 and 3). These are all military terms and it has to do with the removal of a man who will stand in the gap at the key moment of battle and turn the battle with great courage and conviction. They are removed from Judah and Jerusalem. He is going to remove them. There won't be any at that key moment.
You remember back in the day of Judges, when God was judging his people for sin. And then He would raise up a judge. He would raise up a Jephthah or a Gideon or a Samson. And they would stand there, like Shamgar standing with an ox goad. Now it takes courage to face an army with an ox goad, but he was a courageous man. I don’t know much about him, but I do know this. Any man who will face an army with nothing in his hand except an ox goad, that is a courageous man. He is a hero and he was able to turn the battle from just sheer courage and conviction, by standing his ground. But in this final assault from the enemies of God, from Babylon in the end, there would be no hero to stand in the gap. There would be no courageous man to turn the battle. They'd be gone.
A nation depends in times of great trial on heroes who step forward and lead. I was reading recently about General George Washington in the winter of 1776. Of course there had been the glorious moment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I think it is hard for us to imagine how much courage it took to put your name on that document. Someone once said, "We must hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately." So it took a lot of courage. They had to have the victory. They had to have the military victory and by the end of the year it was looking very bad. General Washington had been thoroughly beaten in New York, barely escaping with the remnant of his army. He was across the Delaware river, licking his wounds and trying to hold the army together. The British were in strong control of three states and things looked very, very bad at that point. General Washington had lost about ninety percent of his army and panic and despair were spreading through the states. And he wrote privately of his opinion that the game was almost up. He knew that an army lives even more on morale and a sense of the certainty of victory than they do even on food. They will go a long time without food, but if they think they are going to lose, they will give up. And so at Christmas time in 1776, he crosses the Delaware (a very famous painting). He goes across. He catches the Hessians sleeping, defeats them, captures a thousand men, and turns the tide of battle. He was a great, great courageous hero at that particular moment and it took incredible courage to do it.
In our day, I think the soldiers who are risking their lives for the stability of Iraq are modern day heroes. We have one in our midst every week. You need to get to know Scott Smiley. He's sitting there a few pews back. I asked if I could use his name. He is a soldier who went out to Iraq and stood his post courageously week after week. Then on April 6th, 2005, he lost his eyesight in a suicide car bombing. And I think that is where his courage really took over. Because as a strong and committed Christian, he continued to be a witness, an encouragement, an example to people on how to overcome great obstacles. Please get to know him. He is here today. I think he is a hero, and I think our country has been blessed again and again by men who will stand in the gap at difficult places, in difficult times, and be a hero, a captain of fifty, a man of rank. But by the time this country, Jerusalem, Judah, is ready to fall, there is nobody like that. They are gone. The pillars are removed. There is no man who will stand and do that. They are all gone and woe to that nation that runs out of heroes and warriors at the time of crisis. And that is exactly what is going to happen to Judah in Jerusalem. There is no warrior, no captain of fifty. They're gone.
God Removes These Pillars
God removes these pillars. Why? Well, first and foremost, as an act of judgement, bringing the sins of Judah and Jerusalem down on their heads. Secondly, it is an act of vindicating God's holiness. God is saying, “You can't play with my laws.” God cannot be mocked. “So I am going to remove these leaders from you.” And ultimately, as I see it, because I love to declare this, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more, as an act of mercy to clear the sight so we can establish what will last forever.
And so he removes them and the result is anarchy. The leaders are removed. The nation staggers, the nation stumbles, the nation falls. Now God's ordinary pattern of leadership is to raise up qualified men. He raises up mature men. He seasons them. He trains them. He prepares them to bear the burden of leadership. And yes, men, from the very beginning in Genesis 2 when God raised up Adam and he was alone and his wife had not yet been created, He established a man as a leader, not just in his own home, but Adam, we believe from Romans 5, is the federal head of the whole human race. And so he is the leader of all of it. He is the head. Now we know he sinned. And in Adam, we all sinned. But he was the head, and God therefore established men as leaders. But in Judah and Jerusalem, the men are dead or they are removed. All that are left are women and children and unqualified men, wicked men who shouldn't be leading anything at all. And so in verse four we have young children becoming rulers. “I will make boys their officials.” Look at it. “Mere children will govern them.” And whatever men there are left squabble over who is going to lead based on the most ridiculous terms. Look at verses six and seven. It's stunning. “A man will seize one of his brothers at his father's home and say, ‘You have a cloak, you be our leader. Take charge of this heap of ruins.’" Is that all it takes, a cloak, at that point? If you have a cloak, you can be king of the pile of ruin.
But he doesn't want the job. He says, "I have no remedy. I have no food or clothing in my house. Do not make me the leader of the people." “Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling.” There are no leaders. There's no one that can step up. And the total absence of qualified male leadership results also in women ruling, and children. Look at verse 12. “Youths suppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.” God has ordained men to lead. A society like this that we're describing here in Isaiah 3 has totally broken down, fallen apart, and an indicator of that in verse 12 is that there are women leading.
Now Isaiah 3:12 is a fascinating verse for a nation like ours at this critical moment in history, about to perhaps elect a woman president for the first time. And we consider ourselves enlightened. We consider ourselves advanced and believe you're somewhat of a Neanderthal if you think it's not God blessed, that it's not a godly thing. But I have a simple question to ask Christians. What does the scripture say? Does Isaiah 3:12 support the direction of our country? Are you willing to be seen to be a Neanderthal and backward and to say the Lord has established men to lead, godly qualified men, and it's not a moment of enlightenment and something we can take pride in when a woman rules a country?
So, Isaiah 3:12 indicates how far Judah and Jerusalem have fallen. And the result is anarchy, an almost total loss of societal structure, when might makes right. Look at verse 5. "People will oppress each other - man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the base against the honorable." That's the result. Once you have anarchy, then might makes right. Whoever is the biggest bully rules and takes over.
The Root Cause
Now, what is the root cause of all of this? Look at verses 8-11. “Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying His glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them. They parade their sin like Sodom. They do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.” These verses describe why it's gotten like this, why God is pulling the pillars out, why there are no qualified men to lead, why there are no heroes, why all the pillars are removed, why the supply of food and water is taken. Why? Because of defiance of Almighty God, because of violations of His law.
Now in chapter 1 Isaiah had already likened the people to Sodom and Gomorrah. He has already likened them to that. But now he says they parade their sin like Sodom. They are actually proud of sin. They are proud of what they should be ashamed of. One can scarcely read these words without visualizing gay pride parades, which we have here in our own city, and which we also see in Disney World and other places. They parade their sin like Sodom. They don't hide it. And it is amazing that there is an indication here that it would be better if they hid it. Now, we know from scripture that there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed. God is going to bring every secret out into the light of His presence. You can't hide anything. But it would be better if you did, that is the sense here, because there is a spreading contagion and corruption of sin when there is pride over what we should be ashamed of. That's why. That's why. That's why it is happening: defiant sin. And God will not be mocked. As a matter of fact, He can't be mocked. It is impossible to mock God. You’re really just mocking yourself.
And he zeroes in on specific wickedness by the rulers. See verses 14 and 15. "The Lord enters into judgement against the elders and leaders of His people." He is really zeroing in on leaders who have led them badly at this point. And I'll tell you, Isaiah 3 is a very, very important chapter in terms of the importance of leadership. How are you leading? Whatever position of leadership you may have, how are you leading? I tremble about the Supreme Court justices that legalized abortion in our country and led us astray. They are accountable for what they've done because leadership matters. How you lead matters.
Look at verses 14 and 15. "The Lord enters into judgement against the elders and leaders of His people. ‘It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?’ declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty." These leaders are using their position to crush the poor and needy. They are using their power to rob the weak of their possessions. They have forgotten. They have forgotten that all authority comes from the throne of God, and it will go back to the throne of God; all of it. And each mayor, each councilman, each representative, each senator, each governor, each secretary of this or that, each ambassador, each cabinet member, each judge, each king, each emperor, yes, each president will give to Almighty God a careful accounting of what they did with their leadership time. These people, these leaders led the nation astray. They led them into sin.
Now there is a place of refuge in the middle of all this, verse 10, just right in the middle. “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.” God knows how to make a distinction between the just and the unjust, between the righteous and the wicked. He knows how to do that. The principle of judgement day is always the same. God will give to each person according to what he has done. Now we Christians, we know to tremble at that. And then we realize that it's only by the imputed righteousness of Christ that any of us are called righteous, that Isaiah 3:10 is not a null set, an empty set with no human being meeting the criteria. There are righteous ones. You know how they are made righteous? By trusting in Jesus, by looking to His shed blood on the cross, by trusting that His righteousness can be yours by simple faith. I say to you, if that is you, it will be well with you. You will enjoy the fruit of your deeds. But in verse 11, “Woe to the wicked!” That's the message.
III. Loss of Unstable, Luxurious Vainglory (Verses 16-4:1)
Pampered Daughters of Zion Lavishing Luxury on Themselves
In chapter 3:16 up to chapter 4:1, he talks about the loss of unstable, luxurious vainglory. And it begins with the pampered daughters of Zion who are lavishing luxury on themselves. Look at verses 16 and 17. “The Lord says, ‘The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore, the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion. The Lord will make their scalps bald.’” So these arrogant women of Zion have all the tricks of the trade, it seems, for attracting men. Really seeking for lust, I think. They are fishing for lust. Not the godly love of a husband here, but there is a kind of trafficking and there is a bait being put out and the desire is this: please lust after me. They are haughty in their attitude, there are haughty airs. And there is a flirting with their eyes. It says in Proverbs 6:25, “Don't let her capture you with her eyes.” So they know how to use their eyes. They know how to use jewelry to attract attention, bells jingling on the ankles and saying, "Look at me, look at me, look at me!" And there it is. It's just, "Look at me. Focus on me, on who I am."
And look at the list of equipment needed for that. It seems to take a great deal to achieve. See it all in verses 18-23, “The bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.” Take a deep breath after that list! It's overwhelming the amount of equipment that these daughters of Zion need. God gave them an abundance of material prosperity. What did they use it for? They used it for vainglory. They used it to lavish on themselves this kind of luxury. In a few minutes, I am going to talk about the true beauty described by Peter, “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight” (1 Peter 3:4). But we don't see any of that here. No, we see equipment. These daughters of Zion have forsaken true beauty, which is piety before God, and traded it away for the counterfeit kind.
God Takes Away Their Luxury and Gives Them Judgment Instead
Therefore, God is going to take away their luxury. He is going to give them judgment instead. Verse 24, “Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding.”
The Fall of the Men Signals the End of Opulence
Why? Well, because the fall of men, the fact that there are no heroes anymore, no captain of fifty and man of rank, means the protection is gone. And this kind of luxury here by the daughters of Zion can only flourish where there are men to protect. When the men are removed, then they are vulnerable. Look at verses 25 and 26. “Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors dead in battle. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.” So, the women are helpless before the invading hordes. In they come, and the invaders will snatch away everything of value. Usually the invading army then violates the women and slaughters them, or carries them away as captives to live the life of a slave in somebody else's house. The physical defenses of the city are gone, and these women will suffer. And how the mighty have fallen! By the time we get to Chapter 4:1 it is a whole different situation. “In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, ‘We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!’" These once mighty women now beg for the lowest level of existence, seven of them willing to live together in some kind of an ad hoc harem under one guy's roof, having his name for theirs. They'll even pay their own way. They're willing, if he would just take them under his name. In that day, the disgrace of Jerusalem will be complete. So that's Isaiah 3 up to 4:1. It is a dismal picture, a picture of judgment, a picture of wrath poured out on the city of the eternal King, on Jerusalem. And why? Because the leaders have led them astray, and the people were corrupt and loved sin, and so God brought judgment.
IV. Gain of Stable, Luxurious Glory (Verses 2-6)
Oh, but redemption is drawing near, and praise God for it. You have to face the bad news before the good news looks as glorious as it should. And the good news is glorious. And it is infinitely more glorious than anything sin can do. Where sin abounds, grace becomes infinite. And so, we praise God for it.
And look what we have here in Isaiah 4:2-6. We have a gain of stable, luxurious glory. Look at these words. “In that day the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who will assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” Amen and amen! Oh, my friends, that is where we are heading. That is our future. That's a city of glory. And you know, if you read Isaiah 3 properly, you realize none of us deserve to go there. We don't deserve to be there.
The Branch of the Lord: Jesus Christ
But that, by God’s grace in Christ, is precisely where He is taking us, and it begins as it should with a focus on the branch of the Lord. There is going to be this branch of the Lord. Let's say His name is Jesus Christ. His name is Christ and He is the branch of the Lord. The image here is of a tree, a flourishing tree that has been cut down and there is nothing left but a stump. We get that in Isaiah 6. We get it again in Isaiah 11, the picture of a stump, the people of God. But from it springs forth the shoot, a grain shoot, and from that branch comes all life. And the shoot, the branch is Jesus, and all of us live in Him or we don't live at all. And so, the people of God are chopped down like a tree but out from it comes this branch.
Jeremiah speaks of the branch in Jeremiah 23:5,6. "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.'” I think, with humility and with reverence, insert one little word, because it is understood: “The Lord is our righteousness!” That is Jesus's name. We have no righteousness apart from Jesus. And we must have righteousness to dwell in the city that He is describing here. The branch is our righteousness. “I am the vine” (shifting the image a little bit). “I am the vine”, Jesus said, and “you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
“Apart from me you are dead, but in me”, says the branch, “you can live forever and ever.” The branch is Jesus. And He comes. And He's going to emerge, and He will be beautiful, and He will be glorious. Now like the Jews after judgement day there is no beauty or majesty naturally in Him. And especially not, my friends, when He is dying on the cross under the wrath of God. Isaiah 53:2, much later in this book, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” He was under the judgement of God. He was under the wrath of God. He was a cursed for us. Why? Because He was our substitute. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). To be Isaiah 3 for us, to be disgusting, wretched, Sodom-like sin for us. He made Him to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might be pure as the driven snow, so that we might be seen to be righteous. Oh, look to Christ! I don't know your hearts. I don't know what you are trusting in. But if you are trusting in anything but Jesus and His shed blood on the cross, you are lost. Look to Christ. Trust in Him. Say, "Lord Jesus, be my righteousness. Let your resurrection be my resurrection. I trust in you." And if that is you, if God is speaking to your heart right now, come and talk to me after the service> Or go through that door, and talk to the brothers and sisters that are going to be in the parlor. Say, "I want to know Jesus. I think I came to know Him this morning. I need to know more about that life. I want to be in Christ." Don't put it off.
Okay, so there is a glory in Jesus's death on the cross. Oh, but that future glory that we're looking at here is going to be beautiful, and it is going to be glorious. The branch is going to be beautiful and glorious, and so will the city be that He builds, where we will dwell forever and ever. Oh, you can't even imagine the ravishing beauty that will hit your eye at that point, how fantastic it is going to be, how beautiful the new Jerusalem will be. Matthew 24:30 says, “They will see the son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” He is going to be glorious in that day, and beautiful. Revelation 21:23 says, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Beautiful and glorious. And He is going to make the land fruitful. Oh, it's going to be lush! Eden would be jealous of how beautiful the new Earth is going to be. It's going to be lush. Look at Verse 2. "The fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.” Now the promised land was meant to be lush. It was meant to be a land flowing with milk and honey, and it was when they came in to it. But when they were done with it, it was a desert under the judgment of God. You look at satellite photos of Palestine today, does it look like a lush garden of Eden to you? It looks like Arizona. Not meaning to insult anybody from Arizona, but it looks dry.
Where is the land flowing with milk and honey, a land blessed, where the ground opens up its mouth to drink in the early and latter rains? Where is that? It's under the judgement of God, that land is. It is a desert. And so the plot, the lush land, becomes a desert. But, we will find out later in Isaiah, He can turn it back again. He can go from desert back to Eden again. He can make it lush again and He will. The fruit of the land is going to be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.
The Remnant Will Bask in the Glory
Then there is this remnant. Look at verse two. “The fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.” Verse three, “Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem…” “Remain” equals remnant. This is the remnant friends, the remnant of the Jews. The lush paradise will be the home of the remnant, the survivors in Israel. They are recorded in God's book. It says, "Those who are recorded” in God's book. Do you hear overtones of Romans 9-11 here? Concerning God's sovereign election of some to be saved, His predestination of them and His protection of them (though they don't deserve it)? So today there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works. If it were, grace would no longer be grace (Romans 11). There is that remnant chosen and written in God's book and protected. He keeps them safe. Though they deserve wrath, yet they will have mercy. And they will have grace, and they will live with Him forever and ever. So they must be cleansed. Just because they're predestined, just because they are elect, just because they are the remnant, doesn't mean they are not sinful. Oh, they are sinful. Look at verse four. "The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgement and a spirit of fire." And so, God will cleanse us, and we will be pure, and we will be made holy, and we will be radiant. Jesus says, “Then righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father” (Matthew 13:43).
The Dwelling of God is with Men at Last
We will be beautiful and glorious like Jesus is. He will cleanse us and make us pure, and then at last the dwelling of God will be with His people. Look at verses five and six. “Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” Isiah finishes by recording the vision of God's holy habitation with His people in a cleaned up, a perfect Jerusalem, a cleansed Jerusalem. There is a strong Hebrew word here by the way, "The Lord will create." It reminds me of Genesis 1:1 - “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” So, at the beginning of eternity He is going to recreate the Heavens and the Earth. He is going to make a new Heavens and a new Earth, and it is going to take the creative power of God to do it. He is going to create it, and He is going to create a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night.
Doesn't this harken back to the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that traveled with the people of God? It was a picture of His provision, a picture of His protection. Boy, if any enemy came, like the chariots from Pharaoh, the pillar gets there between the enemy and the people of God. Oh, you can't take the pillar on. You'll lose. And some of the Egyptians came to that realization. "God is fighting for the Israelites against us. Let's get away from them." Too late! They’re already in the Red Sea. Because God is powerful. He's a pillar to protect His people, and to guide them and lead them. Well, to lead them where? To the promised land. But now it's no longer a movable pillar. It's a canopy. It's a cloud of protection and a fire of glory, reminiscent of Mount Sinai when God comes down with His presence. And then, when the tabernacle was built as a dwelling place for God, and God came in with the Shekinah glory (that means the dwelling glory), He comes and dwells with his people. And when Solomon built the temple the Glory of God came and filled it, the place where God would dwell with his people. Those are all just pictures.
Solomon knew it. “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). We raise money for it. No, no, no. God will dwell in a place He builds with His hands. A new Jerusalem comes down from Heaven, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. Comes down, made ready by Christ. And He's made it ready with His own power. And then at last, the people of God will dwell with Him. God is going to marry Jerusalem. That canopy? It's like chuppah, which the Jewish couples stand under for a wedding ceremony. It is going to be a wedding ceremony.
It says in Isaiah 62:5, "As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." And then again, Revelations 21:1-3, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, [that’s God’s voice], a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’” “[Oh] Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory" (John 17:24). That's what He wants. That's what you want, isn't it? That's what I want. Oh Lord Jesus, come and bring it! Clean this place up get rid of the rubble, clear the building site, and build this place so that we can dwell with you forever and ever. Verse six, “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” A refuge and hiding place from God's wrath and judgement. You will be safe there forever and ever.
Come to Christ. I've already told you that. Come to Christ. Flee to Christ. You can't survive judgement day without Him. You can't escape, even if your sin isn't paraded like Sodom but hidden in the secrets of your life. God knows it. There is only one refuge, and that is the cross of Christ. Flee to Him.
Secondly, pray for our nation. Do you not see? When you read Isaiah 3, do you not see it? We are much like this. We lack godly, strong men to be leaders. We have people in our midst who brazenly celebrate sin and parade it like Sodom. We have poor in our midst, and we don't seem to care about them the way God would have us care for them. We need national and personal repentance. Our food supply is not as secure as we might think. Have you noticed the ever-escalating prices at Kroger’s, or Food Lion, or wherever you go? Is there an end in sight? I think it's interesting how some of these supermarkets are giving you money off on your gas. I think there's an incredible link between the two. So, I'm grateful for that I guess. But I just wonder where is the end in sight? We are vulnerable, friends. Most of our food comes from a thousand miles away. We should not arrogantly think that life will forever continue as it always has and we've always known it. We need to repent. We need to pray. We need to humble ourselves.
Thirdly, thank God for qualified godly leaders and skilled craftsman alike, for heroes. Thank God for them. If there are still any in our culture, which there are, thank God for them. Pray for them, that they would be faithful to what God has called them to do. And ask God to protect them from falling into sin and leading people wrongly.
Fourthly, men, seek to be the godly leaders that God wants you to be, first over your homes. Lead your homes spiritually. Lead them well. And if God gives you a wider scope of leadership, be faithful to do it, knowing you are going to give God an account for what you do. And women, let me read the 1 Peter 3 passage I alluded to. "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is a great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters, if you do what is right and do not give way to fear” (1 Peter 3:3-6). Don't get your view of beauty from Cosmo magazine. It's not there.
There are some incredibly beautiful older women in this church. I don't think magazine editors would put their photo on the cover of a magazine. I think they ought to, but they won't, because they have a perverted view of beauty. I see them as beautiful because they have been walking with Jesus for decades. That's a view of beauty I embrace. That's a view of beauty that I want to see in my daughters, that I do see in them and in my wife. That's true beauty. I'm not speaking against jewelry. There is the positive use of jewelry in the Bible. I'm not saying that. What I am saying is, "Where does your beauty come from?" And when you get dressed are you seeking like these sinful daughters of Zion to allure, to entice to lust? Is that your motive? Dress before Jesus and you'll be fine. Just stand before Jesus and dress in front of him. He is your true husband. Dress in front of him.
Fifthly, ask God to purify your heart and your life. Fire burns through this passage. It's been burning in my heart all week. The fire of the judgement of God. Ask God therefore to search out the chaff in your life. There is some there. Say, "Oh, God. Show it to me! Purify me. Make me ready for fruitful service on Earth and eternal joy and reward in Heaven. See if there is any offensive way in me, any yearning for worldly luxury, any yearning for worldly power, any yearning for worldly beauty." Ask God to purify you with the fire of the Holy Spirit and wash you clean with the water of His word. Repent, and pray for our nation to repent.
And finally, look forward to our glorious wedding day. Look forward to dwelling in the new Jerusalem. I can't wait. And like Paul, I’m happy to serve here as long as God wills, but I'm looking forward to this day when God will dwell with His people in a display of glory we can't even describe. Close with me in prayer.