Isaiah 4 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
These are pretty bleak times if Is 4:1 is happening. In normal times, a man courts a woman. The idea of a man getting on his knees means he is pleading with this woman to marry him. In v. 1, the woman is one of seven who are saying, “I will eat my own food and buy my own clothes, just marry me!” One can hardly imagine such a situation.
Now we come to the rest of this tiny chapter in v. 2. In chapter two, Jerusalem was a place where the world would be taught but as we have been reading, Israel was taught by the world (The Book of Isaiah, Oswalt, p. 144). Instead of dependence on God, the nation show independence thinking it would lead to freedom. But as we have been reading, that dependence from God lead to humiliation vs. 2:6-4:1. ‘In that day’ is a key phrase that refers to future time that believers should hope for (see also vs. 2:12, 17; 3:7, 18; 4:1). In the previous chapters, “in that day” is one of retribution and judgment. Here we see the positive side of judgment. The pruning so the bush flourishes and judgment that destroys the wicked is also a blessing to the righteous. “God’s coming day would only be complete when cleansing and restoration had taken place ( cf. Zech 12-14 for the same theme) (Ibid, p. 145-146)
The branch of the Lord is one of the many phrases referring to the coming Messiah (Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8; 6:12). The second part of the verse is harder to define. It could be connected to the branch as literal fruit. “On this view, the Lord would be promising renewed fruitfulness for the land, either figuratively or literal, after the desolation of judgment ( 30:23, 24; 32:14-20; 35:1-2, 6-7; 41:17-20; 43:16-21; 51:3; 55:12, 13).
In vs. 3-4, we see the intended effect of the purging fire and the cleansing from God. As Leviticus tells us, we are to be holy as God is holy. “. . . Isaiah sees hope through the very punishment for sin. The fiery judgment would be a factor in the cleansing process. Although it would not be for many, still some would realize why the judgment had come upon them and would turn away from their sin which had brought on the judgment (Ez. 36:25-26; 39:23-26; Dan. 9:4-19). In this sense the purgative fire is a gift from God (cf. 6:6-7)” (Oswalt, p. 147). Sin invites, even demands God’s judgment, yet He also provides the cleansing, the purging, and the forgiveness of sin. In v. 4, “the Lord shall have washed away the filth . . . and cleansed the bloodstains . . . .” Sin must be borne (Lev 1:4; 16:20-22; Is 53:4-5). The only way to cleanse sin is by bloodshed ( Lev. 16:11-19; 17:11, Is 53:12; Matt 26:28). This is the message of Zech 3:8-9 that the Branch removes the guilt of sin.
Vs. 5-6 evokes images of the Exodus. These words reminded them of God’s promise to make them a people. God is the one who keeps the covenant (Ex 13:20-22). Second, the presence of God that is so prominent a theme in the first five books is still true now (Ex 40:34-38; cf. Ez 10:3-5, 18-19; 11:22-25; 43:1-5). Finally, the cloud is a protection and guidance like it was to those during the exodus (Num. 9:15-23). Notice that the cloud is also a canopy, an expansion of a “mere” cloud. As was true of the exodus, the cloud and fire was a terror to their enemies, is a source of comfort to those who believe, the remnant who endure the judgment, repent, and believe. As you look at the last verse, Oswalt clarifies the heat and rain by saying this is “. . . an antinomy which, by expressing the opposites, includes everything in between. Nothing can harm the people of God (Oswalt p. 149).
As we read Isaiah as well as the other prophets, you will find this message of hope mingled in with a message of judgment. We need to pay attention to both Old and New Testament for the warning and the hope expressed. I firmly believe we need to fear God. We need to have a healthy fear of the ravages of sin. Satan is always tempting us, wanting us to give in to gamble (Oh, how I hate the sports betting that is advertised nonstop currently), steal, lust, be jealous, draw attention to ourselves by putting others down, etc. Fight sin with all your strength and run to Christ. This is serious. All around you are family members, friends, and leaders who are getting sucked into the world and left empty, hurting, and without God or hope in the world (Eph 1:12). When you are down, believe in the gospel. When you are discouraged, believe in Christ. When you are bored, believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Luther exhorts us, ‘preach the gospel to yourself.’
Father, I need Your hope and the ability to see future blessings that all of us have if we believe in Jesus Christ. Help me to run away from sin like Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife. Help me to love and obey You. Thank you for the glorious hope we have in Christ. O, heaven will be such a spectacular place of pleasure and joy. Stir us up so others are drawn to Your Son. We make this prayer in the name of Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.