Isaiah 3:13-26 (NKJV)
The Lord stands up to plead, And stands to judge the people.
The Lord will enter into judgment With the elders of His people And His princes: “For you have eaten up the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the faces of the poor?” Says the Lord God of hosts.
Moreover the Lord says:
“Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with outstretched necks And wanton eyes, Walking and mincing as they go, Making a jingling with their feet,
Therefore the Lord will strike with a scab The crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, And the Lord will uncover their secret parts.”
In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents;
The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils;
The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; The perfume boxes, the charms,
and the rings; The nose jewels,
the festal apparel, and the mantles; The outer garments, the purses,
and the mirrors; The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes.
And so it shall be:
Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench; Instead of a sash, a rope; Instead of well-set hair, baldness; Instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth; And branding instead of beauty.
Your men shall fall by the sword, And your mighty in the war.
Her gates shall lament and mourn, And she being desolate shall sit on the ground.
Today, we take a look at the condemnation of oppression and luxury by God, in the context of surplus while others in their nation are suffering.
To keep this in context, the rationale behind God's condemnation of the superfluous and excessive lives that the rich led was not due simply to an outright disdain for riches in general. Rather, God's condemnation was at the fact that not only did these people get rich in spite of the circumstances of their fellow countrymen, they got rich by oppressing and exploiting their fellow countrymen.
From the beginning, everyone was to live in harmony and in equality; if you harken back to the time in the desert when God fed them manna (Exodus 16), you can see that no one had more or less of manna. Those who were greedy were punished with maggots growing in the manna. Yet now, these Israelites had taken advantage of their power and trampled underfoot their brothers and sisters.
It is with this in mind that the Lord proclaims His message. The word here begins with “judgment” or more properly in the Hebrew: ‘verdict’. God does not need to try these individuals; He has already determined their guilt and will administer the consequences accordingly. It is not even the rich that He begins with. Rather, it is the elders and the princes — people who were supposed to lead Israel into prosperity.
Remember the previous section where we mentioned that those who were supposed to lead Israel had instead led them astray. The Lord now, having seen the rampant corruption, responds with judgment. Notice that it is the Lord speaking directly in vs. 14-15. He is personally offended by the actions of the rulers. Those were simply “licensed out” rulerships. They had forgotten who Israel truly belonged to. “What do you mean by crushing My people... ?”. It is a stormy statement that betrays the rage of God at the injustice occurred.
God doesn't merely condemn oppression however. Luxury is condemned as well. Those who walk about with haughtiness and outstretched necks (or heads held high in pride and contempt), will be punished. The daughters of Zion are described as “walking and mincing; making a jingling with their feet”. Upon their ankles are ornaments that jingle about. A very audible message of: “I am rich enough to have my wealth paraded about even upon my feet”. It would be the ancient day equivalent of buying the most expensive and outrageous shoes just to flaunt your wealth.
In response, God strikes out with sores on their head, uncovering the parts they have hidden away and removing all the finery that they have. The listing of all these in vs. 18-23 only demonstrates the extravagance and excessive possessions of the Israelites. All of these were pricey and when compared to the desolation of their fellow peoples was an outrage. It is the same feeling and more that we get when we witness the callous flaunting of the rich juxtaposed with poverty and desperation. Do not read those lines as individual commentaries, but rather as a whole at the superfluous being of the rich.
Because of their indulgence, God replaces all of it with the polar opposite. Stench instead of perfumes, rope instead of a sash, baldness instead of good hair, sackcloth instead of a rich robe, branding (as in burning a mark with a lot iron) instead of beauty. Desolation comes to those who help only themselves without giving an ounce of care for those around them, showing even contempt and oppression towards their fellow people.
This is a message towards us as well. If we go about our days showing no compassion but rather an attitude of contempt at the mere existence of the poor around us, God will no doubt humble us harshly, for His justice is about setting things right. And for all that we’ve gained, we will lose as much so that we regress back to the mean.
Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.