Isaiah’s prophetic witness outlines the LORD’s sovereignty over the nations. Their struggle over and against each other is under His ultimate control. The rise and fall of nations are the means through which God measures out His judgement for national sin. God describes Himself as a woodcutter, hewing down the pride of man, with His axe being the nation that currently has the upper hand. This judgement is calculated and controlled - it is according to righteousness. God’s goal in it all is that the nations would acknowledge His righteousness and His authority as the true God.
Israel and Judah are not exempt. Their place of privilege in His care carries great responsibility. They have flaunted His covenant, they have not honoured him with their trust and they are sinful in their actions. Judgement begins in God’s house (1 Peter 4:17).
But God does not relish judgement. He calls it a strange deed, an alien work (28:21). Contrary to popular belief, God’s default setting is salvation! So, in the midst of these oracles of doom, He scatters messages of hope.
What is your hope? As you consider world events, famine, pestilence and sword, do you turn to God? Do you blame Him as the cause of the evil, or do you recognize His hand for good? Do you discern His justice in it all? Do you realize that it is in reluctance that God moves in judgment, “not willing that any should perish”, but expecting in it that some would “come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)?
So what hope is there in God’s justice and judgement? Isaiah’s oracles remind us that God’s judgement will bring about the ultimate end of evil leadership in the world. The evil desires of men to control and enslave their fellow men will be abolished. The taunt raised against the king of Babylon is emblematic of the final ruin of all ungodly leadership as it moves beyond the human individual to the prideful mastermind behind evil itself. Every evil one will find their rightful place in the lowest pit of the grave, their bed, maggots, and their covers, worms. But more than that, the cause of evil and every human humiliation, Satan (the Day Star), will be humbled for his prideful attempt to usurp God’s throne. He will find his place in the lowest hell. Surely this is hope - ultimate deliverance from the Evil One!
Further, Isaiah paints a picnic scene. In the aftermath of judgement, God’s old, faithful and sure plan will come to pass. This isn’t the plan of a god who is trying to make the best of it - this is the plan of our resolute God accomplishing His purposes as He gathers His people together for a remarkable feast. There, on His mountain, the Lord of hosts will spread out the blanket to feed His people with rich food and the best of wine while they watch Him swallow up Death forever! He will then proceed to wipe away all tears and remove the reproach of His people. Unlike the wicked and unrepentant who have gone into the depths of the grave, “[God’s] dead shall live; their bodies shall rise” (Isaiah 26:19 ESV). So, hope moves beyond salvation from evil, to deliverance from its outcome in the reversal and removal of death itself!
Finally, God’s plan for humanity is realized. Zealously He has been bringing justice to the earth. Pride and injustice have been judged, sin and death removed forever. Housed in a city with walls of salvation, His people are kept in perfect peace. In perfect humility, all trust in the Lord forever. Kept collectively as His pleasant vineyard, each one enjoys the doting of their Maker.
Is this my hope? Isaiah’s messages were to instigate repentance and to provide hope to the nations, “Repent from your sin and turn to the Lord in order to have ultimate hope in the midst of coming judgement”. In our world, beset with the vagaries of war, disease and injustice, the message is still applicable. I must repent of my sin. I must trust in the Lord. The judgement decreed for this earth is “overflowing with righteousness” (Isaiah 10:22 ESV). But, equally true, hope is in the air. I may enjoy the presence of Christ right now, “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). And I look beyond the judgement and difficulty, to the day when righteousness will reign supreme.