Harsh Judgment for Abusing the Poor

13 The Lord takes his place in court;
he rises to judge the people.
14 The Lord enters into judgment
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.
15 What do you mean by crushing my people
and grinding the faces of the poor?”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
Isaiah 3:13-15

If you take advantage of the poor, you will be judged harshly. The fact that leaders of Judah were doing it was worse.

The history of the world is filled with examples of corrupt and decadent people not only ignoring but abusing the poor among them.

I just finished watching a movie about how Stalin starved millions in the Ukraine. What was even more significant was leadership in the West either knowingly suppressed the truth or mocked it mercilessly once it did make it in the news. Which was worse? Both were evil.

Hearing and revisiting some of these atrocities we are able to see why God wanted to harshly judge those who took advantage of the poor.

Unfortunately, there are modern governments right now who are guilty of these abuses of power.

Our attitude as believers should be that of helping the poor and abused wherever you see it. Some may even be called upon to speak out against it. If you’re in that category, you can expect fierce opposition and swift retribution. But, thankfully, if you’re called to try to stop it, nothing short of death will prevent you from exposing the abuses.

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Bearing Good Fruit in Spite of the World

8 Jerusalem staggers,
Judah is falling;
their words and deeds are against the Lord,
defying his glorious presence.
9 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.

10 Tell the righteous it will be well with them,
for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.
11 Woe to the wicked!
Disaster is upon them!
They will be paid back
for what their hands have done.

12 Youths oppress my people,
women rule over them.
My people, your guides lead you astray;
they turn you from the path.
Isaiah 3:8-12

Judah and Jerusalem are guilty of what they say and do. In fact, they are proud about what they say and do. They cross a line when they boast about their evil because they are no longer ashamed of their sin.

Without a doubt, that’s a dangerous place to be. Without shame, then the guilt is gone. They don’t think what they do or say is wrong anymore.

Of course, we know the application for today since it parallels our society.

Fifty years ago, they – sinners – hid their sin. Now, that’s no longer the case. That could mean any number of gross sins. Much of it is in the open now and we’re seeing a lot more than we’ve ever wanted to see, and everything we don’t want to see.

Fortunately, tucked away in verse 10 is the admonition to believers: despite the open and flagrant sin, keep doing what you’re doing because you will bear fruit.

We obviously need to pray for this perverse generation, but in the end, we will bear good fruit as we keep at it.

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Incompetent Leadership is a Curse

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,
2 the hero and the warrior,
the judge and the prophet,
the diviner and the elder,
3 the captain of fifty and the man of rank,
the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.

4 “I will make mere youths their officials;
children will rule over them.”

5 People will oppress each other—
man against man, neighbor against neighbor.
The young will rise up against the old,
the nobody against the honored.

6 A man will seize one of his brothers
in his father’s house, and say,
“You have a cloak, you be our leader;
take charge of this heap of ruins!”
7 But in that day he will cry out,
“I have no remedy.
I have no food or clothing in my house;
do not make me the leader of the people.”

Isaiah 3:1-7

The curse of God on Judah was incompetent leadership.

When society spirals into chaos, incompetence can be blamed. But you also have to leave room for external forces influencing leadership in countless ways. Then, it is intentional and willful destruction.

Isaiah, of course, was speaking 3000+ years ago but his words resonate today.

Throughout recent history we’ve seen competent leadership and incompetent leadership. Of course, competency is in the eyes of the beholder but if a society is functioning well, it’s good leadership.

Look at Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and South Africa as examples of good and bad leadership. All three were thriving in the middle of the 20th century, but corrupt and terrible leadership drove them to the brink of destruction.

The question to ask is, how far will God allow corruption and bad leadership to flourish before He either steps in and corrects it or allows it to fall under the weight of its own corruption? That can be asked of every society in every time period in history. The evidence of that societal life cycle is clear.

On the other hand, we are to pray for those in leadership, regardless of whether we think they’re good or bad.

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Pride and Arrogance

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

12 The Lord Almighty has a day in store
for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted
(and they will be humbled),
13 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty,
and all the oaks of Bashan,
14 for all the towering mountains
and all the high hills,
15 for every lofty tower
and every fortified wall,
16 for every trading ship
and every stately vessel.
17 The arrogance of man will be brought low
and human pride humbled;
the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
18 and the idols will totally disappear.

19 People will flee to caves in the rocks
and to holes in the ground
from the fearful presence of the Lord
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.
20 In that day people will throw away
to the moles and bats
their idols of silver and idols of gold,
which they made to worship.
21 They will flee to caverns in the rocks
and to the overhanging crags
from the fearful presence of the Lord
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.

22 Stop trusting in mere humans,
who have but a breath in their nostrils.
Why hold them in esteem?

Isaiah 2:10-22

From the heights to the depths, the Lord is in control of it all.

He devotes a lot of time to discussing the demise of the proud and the arrogant.

I see it on display wherever I go. Many in the scientific community where I work are proud of their superior knowledge and learning. They use language and have conducted experiments that make it seems like they know everything there is to know about the existence of life.

Take the COVID-19 virus. The scientific and academic community are proud to come up with vaccines and solutions to the problem that they in fact created.

But just because someone has a PhD or an MD by their names does not make them wise. In the same vein, just because someone doesn’t have those degrees doesn’t make him wise either. Wisdom comes from knowing and understanding God.

Be careful in thinking ‘they’ and ‘them’ in all the time relation to the proud and arrogant. Think of all the times we know we should pray or read Scripture more or share the faith more, but we don’t. Why not? Pride, though probably not to the degree talked about in this passage, but pride nonetheless.

We’re all guilty of pride, especially if we’re not held in check by others. Pride is insidious and can destroy relationships, businesses, and even nations if we let it.

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The Pursuit of Riches and Power

6 You, Lord, have abandoned your people,
the descendants of Jacob.
They are full of superstitions from the East;
they practice divination like the Philistines
and embrace pagan customs.
7 Their land is full of silver and gold;
there is no end to their treasures.
Their land is full of horses;
there is no end to their chariots.
8 Their land is full of idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their fingers have made.
9 So people will be brought low
and everyone humbled—
do not forgive them.

Isaiah 2:6-9

Isaiah is speaking to the Lord about the bad deeds of Judah, and by so doing is speaking indirectly to the nation of Judah. He’s shaming them for their actions.

Essentially, he’s telling them they are empty, devoid of anything except for what they value – money, power, and idols.

We know from past experience and teachings that the Lord has little value for these since there’s a world history full of these invaluable things.

When men die, so does the power, wealth, and idols. Sure, some of that may those qualities may be passed on to heirs and followers, but that’s all they have.

Sometimes people have to be brought way low in order to just look up. We see this all around us.

We see money hungry and power hungry people who will step on their grandmothers to go up the power and money ladder.

When will we see the futility of going after these things? The “high” that great amounts of power and money bring is just that: intoxicating. Some are so addicted to it, they need more and more of it to survive. We who do not have either are puzzled by their addiction, but it’s as real as fentanyl and heroin.

And a lot more dangerous than either.

Be on your guard, Brothers and Sisters, about the seductiveness of wealth and power.

Guard your hearts for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

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