18Evil had spread like a raging forest fire sending thornbushes up in smoke. 19The Lord All-Powerful was angry and used the people as fuel for a fire that scorched the land. They turned against each other 20like wild animals attacking and eating everyone around them, even their own relatives. But still they were not satisfied. 21The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh turned against each other, then joined forces to attack Judah. But the Lord was still angry and ready to punish the nation even more.
1You people are in for trouble! You have made cruel and unfair laws 2that let you cheat the poor and needy and rob widows and orphans. 3But what will you do when you are fiercely attacked and punished by foreigners? Where will you run for help? Where will you hide your valuables? 4How will you escape being captured or killed? The Lord is still angry, and he isn't through with you yet!
With the image of a forest fire, taking on a life of its own, Isaiah zeroed in on the specific behaviour of Israel’s leaders which made God so angry. While he had wanted them to live lives that would reflect his love to his people, they were utterly absorbed with their own comfort and luxury, passing laws to enrich themselves at the expense of the powerless – the poor, widows and fatherless, and oblivious to the disaster which was about to strike.
After the reign of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel had split in two, Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. Here the people of Israel have reached utter depravity, figuratively behaving like people in a siege, eating their own kin. They turn on Judah, the southern kingdom, and behave like animals. They have been getting away with it for a while, but God doesn’t turn a blind eye, and they will be punished.
Are we so different? Are we concerned about how those in power treat the powerless – the single parents, the unemployed, immigrants? How do we vote, (if we vote at all)? Do we vote for the party that we think will make us more prosperous, without concern for those who may be disadvantaged by their policies? While the very wealthy keep their money secure in tax havens, are the rest of us seduced by the voices all around us that urge us to put all our energies into getting richer? Do we regard taxation as an evil to avoid any way we can?
What do we do with our money? Are we consumed with saving up for the next luxury? How generous are we? Do we see the needs of others, and do we respond?
There is a good deal of financial insecurity for all of us in our current economic situation. We may not be immediately threatened by an invading enemy, but we too need to ask ourselves, Where is your security (10:3)? Are we like the rich man in Luke 12 who planned to tear down his barns and build larger ones, oblivious of the fact that he was about to die?
“Don’t store up treasures on earth,” said Jesus. “Your heart will always be where your treasure is” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Lord Jesus, We call you Lord, but how often do we fail to do what you say? These are hard words we have read today. Please help us to take them to heart as we ask ourselves where our security is. May we be like you in the way we behave towards the weak and powerless, and take care that our treasure is in heaven. Amen.