RPM, Volume 15, Number 38, September 15 to September 21, 2013

A Full Land

Isaiah 2:6-11

By D. Marion Clark

Introduction

In our previous passage we were given a vision of what the final Mt. Zion will be like. Some day, the people of all nations will stream to the mountain of the Lord, i.e. to Jerusalem. There they will walk in his ways, learn from him, and be judged by him. It is a grand vision of the last days when God's people will come out of all nations.

Verse 5 forms a transition into our passage. Isaiah, seeing the example that the peoples of other nations will set, exhorts Israel to set the example now: 5 Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD. The nation of Jacob should demonstrate before the world now what it is to walk in the light of the Lord.

The people are to fulfill the instruction of Moses:
5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? Deuteronomy 4:5-8

But they have not done so as our passage makes clear.

Full Emptiness

Isaiah exhorts Israel to walk in the light of the Lord, evidently because that is precisely what is not happening. The first sentence in verse 6 expresses his dismay: 6 You have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob. Note the irony of expression. God abandons Israel leaving the nation empty of his presence; but we see that he left only because she had filled herself with so much empty things. What is she filled with?

Superstitions and divination: They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans. The Israelites have adopted the superstitious and occult practices of the surrounding nations. This is the problem that has plagued the nation throughout most of its existence and of which the people were warned by Moses.

9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 18:9-13).

What a contrast to what should be happening. Verse 3 prophesied how the nations would learn from Israel:

3 Many peoples will come and say,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths."

Right now Israel is learning from the nations how to walk out of the Lord's paths.

Israel is filled with wealth: 7 Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. This seems odd. You would think Israel would be devastated. In chapter 1, Isaiah describes the country as desolate and plundered by the other nations because of her rebellion. Here it seems that she has become enriched through her rebellion.

We are undoubtedly seeing descriptions of Israel at different times. Remember that Isaiah prophesied over a time-span of 40 years. His book of prophecy is not written chronologically, but rather thematically. Nor does he bother to contextualize his writings. This leaves us most of the time unable to pinpoint what situation he is referring to.

Now, as I said, we would have expected to hear that Israel is impoverished, rather than full of silver and gold. What Isaiah is pointing out is that this is another example of Israel violating what Moses had warned against. Let's turn to him again. This text is in reference to having a king.

14 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15 be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite… 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

At heart here is the love for wealth, the amassing of worldly treasure. Israel is not comfortable; she is filled, satiated with silver and gold beyond what is reasonable. Money has become her standard for success and her ongoing goal. And as a result it has turned her heart away from the Lord.

E. J. Young comments:

It is not silver and gold in themselves which are condemned, but the filling of the land with these things. An overabundance even of good things can turn the heart away from God. When God's people are filled with the fullness which the world offers, they are empty toward God. What should be emptiness for them is fullness for the nations. Having given up the richness of the promises of God, the nation falsely appraised the treasures of the world and then the world's ideals and finally its idols.

Israel is filled with superstitions and wealth. She is also filled with horses and chariots. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. This is referring to military might. It would be like saying the United States is filled with tanks and fighter jets. Again, Israel was warned about this. In that same passage in Deuteronomy about the king, Moses said: 16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, "You are not to go back that way again."

The problem with horses and chariots centers on the attitude of the people towards God. The might and lure of Egypt rests on that nation's renown for its horses and chariots. Egypt, remember, represents the captor of God's people. And after Israel's exodus, the country remained both a threat and a temptation precisely because of its military might. It was a threat as an enemy who might attack, and it was a temptation as an ally that Israel might depend upon for protection. Egypt was a rival to God for the heart of Israel. Who would Israel fear the most — God or Egypt? Who would Israel trust the most — God or Israel?

The massive accumulation of horses and chariots meant that Israel feared military might more than God and trusted in it more than him. She forgot the exhortation of Moses:

When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: "Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory" (Deuteronomy 20:1-4).

Finally, and this is to be expected, Israel is filled with idols. 8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. It is only logical. When you fear and trust man more than God, you will worship man's creation. Idols worked for everybody else, why not for the Israelites?

What did Moses say?
15 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. 19 And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the starsâ€"all the heavenly arrayâ€"do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. 20 But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are (Deuteronomy 4:15-20).

Consequence

It seems that the covenant nation forgot just about everything she was told not to do. Why? Verses 9-11 indicate the reason. You can see it in the judgment that will come.

9 So man will be brought low
and mankind humbledâ€"
do not forgive them.

10 Go into the rocks,
hide in the ground
from dread of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty!
11 The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled
and the pride of men brought low;
the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

Arrogance, pride is the cause. Here is what the people of Israel have been saying. "Look at what we have done. We have put the power of religion in our hands. We have made ourselves wealthy. We have made ourselves secure through our military might. We have made our gods work for us."

Verse 10 is good advice for people with that kind of attitude. God will not share his glory with anyone. He created Israel to display his glory, not rob him of it. The people were to demonstrate before the world the wisdom and joy of living in dependence upon the Lord. Instead they demonstrate what little trust they have in their God. They were to suppose to make the nations jealous; instead they have proven themselves to be jealous for the glory of the world.

Isaiah makes clear that when all is said and done, that glory belongs only to the Lord and will be displayed only in him.

Conclusion

The application is obvious to us. We are to worship only the God of Israel and do so only in the manner revealed in scripture. We are not to borrow from Eastern, Western, Northern, or Southern religions to supplement our religion. We are not to amass wealth for our please and security, but to find our treasures in the Lord. We are not to depend upon military might for our protection, but trust in God. We are not to worship idols, our own creations of what we think is God or godlike. God, and God alone, are we to worship and trust.

But I can't help but reflect when I read such a sober passage as this that warns us of vying with the glory of God, about the wondrous promise God has fulfilled and also holds out before us.

Don't forget that this might God who humbles arrogant man, humbled himself, taking upon himself the form of a servant, even dying upon a cross for arrogant man. And his promise to us, who still have a lot of arrogance left in us, is that we shall be exalted. Brothers and sisters, what God is like our God in his greatness and in his mercy?

On that day that God will be exalted, here also is what will take place according to Isaiah 62:1-3:

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet,
till her righteousness shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
2 The nations will see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

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