Far from a news flash – we are surrounded by brokenness, broken things. Babies are born broken (baby Joseph), children break themselves or things within reach; we drive by or deal with broken things constantly. Brokenness is such a part of life, we’ve invented all sorts of ways to talk about it: “break” – 59 dictionary entries, 992 thesaurus entries; “whole” – 3 dictionary, 236 thesaurus. New car dealer – 101; auto repair – 289. Popular attitude toward what is broken – discard and replace, recycle if you’re really responsible.
Only few who restore things, who make effort to return item to useful condition. Usually only those things with great perceived sentimental, historic or investment value – 57 Chevy, Victoria Mansion, Sistine Chapel. Even best efforts at restoration, though – make it like new, like original, not absolutely new or original. No matter how hard we try, can’t make it new, can’t make it original. Once broken or decayed or defaced, man lacks power to undo the damage, bring about full restoration to newness.
This whole thing of brokenness one of life’s greatest frustrations. And things won’t get better, exactly. God does have a plan: in previous chapters of Isaiah (13-23) God through prophet revealed how he would deal with particular individuals and nations. In chapters 24-27, God sums up and makes application – what he promised about individuals, yeah, well they were examples, warnings. More to come, and it will involve all the earth including Judah. (Btw, instead of trying to figure out the exact or even approximate time, read Deut. 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God”; “of that day and hour no one knows” Matt. 24:36, Mark 13:32; “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”Acts 1:7)
God doesn’t leave people to wonder – why are things the way they are, what’s the root cause, the real underlying problem. He also doesn’t leave it a mystery what he intends to do; not told exactly when or how but we do know “although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
Sounds harsh: some things must come to an end, brokenness must be dealt with, everyone has a date with the Judge and will receive what God has in store for them. But that’s not where God’s plan ends, nor does our text end there. God has a glorious future planned for his people, but more on that shortly.
A. broken institutions v.2-4, 10
ACORN, WikiLeaks, Watergate, Vatican, Maine Turnpike Authority, no surprise, or at least shouldn’t be; they’re managed by people who make public and private decisions, take actions daily. As God carries out plan to devastate the earth, twisting its surface, scattering its inhabitants, institutions that impact every area of life will be affected. Isaiah makes it clear: no entity or class of people will be exempt, all without distinction will be in same boat. To the degree that happens, institutions cease to function as God intended.
people/priest – religion or church
servant/master – workplace
maid/mistress – home
buyer/seller, etc – commerce
chaotic city – government
“Political philosophies which seek to break down all distinctions among men and to make people equal, if followed through consistently, would lead to lawlessness. When the distinctions among men are wiped out, individual initiative is destroyed, and, inasmuch as chaos then replaces government, life is no longer safe.” E J Young
Have already experienced crises and failures to some degree in each of these institutions. As we approach the Day, failures will increase in magnitude and fallout.
B. broken planet v.5-6, 19-20
earthquakes; tornados; BP and Gulf of Mexico; Three Mile Island; drought; flooding; red tide, algae blooms, volcanos, SuperFund cleanup sites – some we can point out the human cause, others not so easily. Almost as if earth itself is reacting against what is being done on it and to it. Isaiah speaks of earth being defiled – not referring to industrial pollution so much as moral pollution. Goes on to describe what people have done: violated God’s law, broken the covenant.
So, in consequence, the earth is writhing under curse of God (Gen. 3:17-18) and sinful behavior of people. Earth does not respond easily or generously to mankind’s labors – plow the ground and turn up stones and other treasures; plant tomatoes and beans, get thorns and thistles instead! Even seed that falls on good soil doesn’t all produce with same abundance – “some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matt. 13:8)
As with descriptions of previous chapters, this only a hint of what is coming on that Day, the Day for which creation that now “groans and suffers” eagerly waits when it “will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children”. (Rom. 8:19-22) On that Day, God will shake the earth, it will be destroyed as in the Flood. Doesn’t end there, remember that “glorious freedom” for which it waits? More on that another time.
C. broken people 7-9, 11-12, 17-18
Broken institutions, we can manage. Broken planet, we can somehow survive. Broken people, now you’re getting personal. It’s not just some babies who are born broken; we’re all born that way, broken off from fellowship with God and peace with one another. Year added to year of brokenness only makes the problem worse. People desperate to find pleasure and meaning, leaving a train wreck of broken relationships and broken dreams and broken promises behind them.
Lonely Voices – v1-3
Perhaps saddest of all are those “who run away from the sound of the terror will fall into the pit” (v.18); those who manage to escape the pit “will be trapped by the snare”. None will escape God’s judgment by trying to run from him; yet that is man’s natural tendency.
Lonely Voices – v4
D. remnant of hope v.13-16, 21-23
Once again see God’s faithfulness to preserve a remnant – those who remain true to him in midst of disaster and judgment on evildoers. Not large numbers but the gleanings at the end of harvest. Could be called the Vocal Minority! Vigorous singing, shouts of joy, all with clear focus on the Holy One of Israel. Redeemed will praise the majesty of the Lord, give glory to the Lord, singing songs of praise and glory to the Righteous One.
It is when Christ comes to judge the wicked and vindicate the righteous that we see him in his glory. Confidence that things won’t just get worse and worse and then end in disaster but assurance that God will make all things right is what gives hope. Then we will see
a contrast between the dazzling splendor of Christ’s actual appearance and the normal brightness of sunlight and moonlight. The greater and lesser lights will “pale their ineffectual fires” before the incomparable brightness of the “Sun of Righteousness”. (Mal 4:2)Pulpit Commentary
True believers need not fear that Day; should instead long for and anticipate it with joy. Our Lord Jesus will be seen in all his glory by all his creatures. Believers will be delivered finally and fully from all their misery and brokenness – not simply mended, but made new. Good and evil will be forever separated from one another. All the enemies of Christ and his church will be banished to eternal destruction. If you trust the Lord Jesus for your salvation, he will then confess before the angels and all men that He loves you, that, as your Surety, He has atoned for all your sins, and that you are an heir of eternal life.
Are you one who is in need of faith? more faith? healing from brokenness? It’s not too late; call on the Savior – he will hear, he will help, he will heal.