What does it look like when God judges a nation? I know, I know…we don’t like to think about such things. The LORD coming in the clouds to bring judgment upon a people- that tends to produce a real clarity to the lines we have been working hard with our tolerance erasers to smudge. We don’t like the divisive nature of God’s Word. But divisiveness isn’t primarily about separation but categorization. When God reveals moments of divine judgment in history, it doesn’t create conflict, it reveals it. It shows things as they really are. Will this result in separation and divisiveness in the sense we fear? Of course. Because now the only way to have true unity is for one side to be fundamentally changed. Goats must be transformed into sheep. Tares must become wheat. Sinners must be graciously and gloriously recreated into saints. Jesus must be confessed as Lord.
I guess we’d better get to the point of the post before I lose you. What was the question again? Oh yes! What does it look like when God judges a nation? Isaiah 3 gives us one such picture. To briefly hit the highlights, Isaiah speaks of Judah and Jerusalem as losing those things that make them strong and great, lacking men of great strength and wisdom, being ruled over by boys and babies, everyone finding someone weaker to oppress.
He speaks of the nations as haughty women who grow proud in their attractiveness. The beauty with which they have been adorned in has been used to satisfy their own lusts with the nations around them. Think of it. God buys her expensive jewelry, nice clothes, and the finest perfumes. She gets herself all prettied up and goes out on the town to attract the attention of the local losers. And so He says this:
“Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.” (v.24)
I cannot help but marvel at the grace evident in this passage. Not only are those who are self-deceived now revealed for who they are, but the other side of the picture is that one such as I- a stinky, bald, ragged, branded slave- would then be called into the presence of the King. His body becoming the broken jar of perfume so that I might be a fragrant offering to God. His beard plucked and head scarred so that I could be crowned with glory. His nakedness and shame becoming my robe of splendor. His branding as one cursed of God becoming the mark of beauty on those for whom He died.