Today’s Passage: Isaiah 32
The opening verses of this chapter land us in the good times again. The king oversees his kingdom with justice, as do those he has given authority. And evil men no longer enjoy power and social approval as if they were worthy of it: “No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected” (32:5). In this kingdom, there’s nothing for the wicked to hide behind, no contrived social structures to hold their evil deeds.
In vv.6-8, Isaiah defines the fool, the scoundrel, and the noble man, and one line from his characterization of the fool struck me: “[T]he hungry they leave empty and from the thirsty they withhold water” (32:6). You know who a fool is? The guy who doesn’t feed people who need food. Doesn’t matter if the hungry people deserve it! Doesn’t matter if they worked for it or not! Everybody’s supposed to get their food-and-water needs met, it’s not a matter of merit, and we’re idiots if we neglect our neighbor’s hunger. End of story.
End of the part of the story where we’ve landed in the good times again, anyway, at least for this chapter. The rest of it is devoted to the complacent women of Isaiah’s present day. They don’t see the hard times on the horizon, and Isaiah encourages them to get a head start on their mourning: “Tremble, you complacent women…Strip off your fine clothes and wrap yourselves in rags” (32:11). Call it “Bald Women II;” again, the women’s prosperity and wealth will be replaced with poverty and desolation in God’s coming judgment. Famine’s a part of the package too; Isaiah prophesies, “In little more than a year you who feel secure will tremble; the grape harvest will fail, and the harvest of fruit will not come” (32:10). And I immediately think back to the definition of fool from earlier in the chapter, a person who leaves the hungry empty. The definition only works if you yourself have food to spare for the hungry. When there’s not enough food to go around, everyone is left empty.
Again, though, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The famine, poverty, and abandoned cities will only last “till the Spirit is poured on us from on high and the desert becomes a fertile field” (32:15). This restoration ultimately won’t come before God gives his Spirit, but the Spirit will work to restore the world in time. Isaiah says, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (32:18). The women of his day have a false sense of security, placing their confidence in unreliable things. But on the other side of the poverty and desolation, the people’s new sense of security will be merited, grounded in actual security under God’s reigning justice. The people will have a reason for peace.