When God condescended to meet Moses on the mountain and caused his goodness to pass before Moses and proclaimed his name (Exodus 33:19), he did so in the context of grace and compassion – “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Consequently the name he proclaimed, the character God described to Moses included compassion, grace, faithful (covenant) love, forgiveness, and justice. (Exodus 34:5-7) Similarly our text which portrays God as terrifying in the righteous exercise of his justice immediately follows his declaration that the nations would be blessed as they come to Zion and participate in Gospel benefits.
A. Misplaced Trust v. 6-9
People of Isaiah’s day not so different from the church in Laodicea: Rev. 3:17 “Because you are saying, “I am rich, and have become rich, and I have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked”. Were convinced they had all the bases covered with their four-fold strategy for the future.
1. trusting in human wisdom v. 6
full of eastern ways
much spiritualism but little true religion
“broadminded tolerance”, religious pluralism – anything goes if it sounds spiritual, satisfies the “god-itch”; especially helpful if it’s a feel-good, give everyone confidence about the future sort of belief system
btw, not portrayed by Isaiah as a good thing
2. trusting in human prosperity v. 7a
full of silver and gold
possessions to excess – what is criticized and condemned is not possessions or wealth but the degree of overabundance and the position possessions held in the culture. Outward evidence indicated material prosperity, but it was coupled with moral and spiritual bankruptcy. Trust was in stuff they themselves had acquired or produced – believed their wealth would guard against future hardship, in fact, trusting it to guarantee their future
3. trusting in human protection v.7b
full of horses and chariots
whether large military force was home-grown or achieved through alliances, result is the same: physical protection achieved through weapons of war and strategy was source of confidence. Danger associated with that sort of confidence – the wimp tends to strut, provoke confrontation because he trusts his big brother to defend him. Usually doesn’t allow for possibility that the opposing force is larger or more clever or will through divine intervention gain the advantage.
4. trusting in human religion – worshiping that which they believe will save them v. 8-9
full of idols
not simply a national icon, a Jewish provincial god, a single golden calf like they made after crossing the Red Sea; a land full to overflowing with idols, an excess of objects of worship. You might think “how foolish; make something with your own hands and then worship it.” God says “how arrogant, that you finite man think you can make a god worthy of worship; how unforgivable that you do that and reject the true God who is pursuing you.”
B. Glorious Majesty v. 10-21
v.10, 19, 21: “From the terror of the LORD And the glory of His majesty” “his royal/majestic splendor”
Isaiah in his vision saw God coming to visit his people – not in friendship but in judgment. Arrayed in all his glorious splendor, the Sovereign King and Judge over all the universe would judge his people for their sinful rebellion against him.
1. God is glorious in his justice v. 10
How can judgment be glorious? God, the righteous judge, is the perfect Holy One of Israel, the standard of all that is good and right and just. God in all his glorious majesty stands in stark contrast to the evils which his people were practicing. His glory is only increased, if that is possible, when his justice prevails: evil is punished, wrongs and injustices are made right, God’s perfect standard becomes the order of the day.
2. God is glorious in supremacy – subduing all his enemies v. 11, 17
God has a day – a future day planned when all mankind will know that God is in charge, that he is sovereign and supreme and man is not. On that day everything that represented safety and security to the Jewish people will fail to protect them. Everyone who trusted in someone or something other than the true God will find themselves defenseless, helpless, humbled before the glorious Holy One of Israel. The supremacy of God above every created thing will be seen by all mankind as God alone stands in victory over all his enemies.
3. Idols are nothing before God’s glorious majesty v. 18
Isaiah uses the word elilim, idols (the same word is used in Lev. 19:4; Lev. 26:1, from elil, vain or worthless, nothing; it is therefore equivalent to “not-gods”) a wry play on words – el and elohim, names used for the true God. It isn’t hard to see plain evidence of this truth in the Old Testament account of Dagon – Philistine idol that fell on its face before the ark of the covenant, the next day fell again with head and hands broken off (1 Sam. 5:2-7). Similar in news accounts of idols and places of false worship swept out to see by tidal waves and covered by volcanic eruptions.
On that day, God himself will cause men’s idols to “pass away, to vanish”; not a single trace of idol-worship will remain after God has completed judging his people. God’s majesty will totally overwhelm his creation as all that he is blows away every empty idol along with every last shred of confidence of the idol-worshipers.
4. Proud men hide from God’s glorious majesty v. 19-21
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Isaiah saw a day when once proud and arrogant men, those who trusted in self and all that self could provide, would run terrified from the glorious and majestic God of the universe. Seeking any refuge available, they would cry out for protection from the mountains and rocks against “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). Seeing their idols for the useless creations they truly were, they will try to hide them as well from God’s view, using every means they could to escape the judgment of God.
C. In whom will you trust? v. 22
1. the evidence is in
God has irrefutably showed his glorious majesty and sovereignty over all his creation. Just as he destroyed the earth with a purifying flood saving only those within the Ark, so the day will come when he will destroy the earth with a purifying fire, saving only those who are joined to Christ by faith.
2. man and his devices is untrustworthy
the pride and arrogance of man will be humbled; all that man has assembled or acquired will fail to protect; they have shown their untrustworthiness in the face of lesser tragedies, that day will be no different.
3. only the glorious Holy One of Israel can be trusted to prevail
the one who made it all and governs over it all will gloriously assert his authority and justice and righteousness over all. He is the eternal self-existent God, and if he cannot be trusted to prevail then nothing matters at all because there will be nothing at all.
Regardless of when that day comes, we are 2,700 years closer than Isaiah was. Today is no less perilous than Isaiah’s day which brings us to the question – in whom will you trust? Contrary to what the world says, the force is not within you; the resources you need to give you a hope and a future lie outside yourself.