Read the Bible Through: Isaiah 59-63
In a previous post, I talked about the structure of Isaiah— how the first 39 chapters were primary about God’s judgment of Israel, and how the last 27 chapters are about restoration and future hope. There’s probably not a clearer picture of this than the contrast between Isaiah 3 and Isaiah 61.
Three Chapters in: The Bald Women of Zion
In Isaiah 3, we read about God’s judgment on the vain, self-absorbed women of Israel:
“The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts
Isaiah 3:16-17 ESV
For what it’s worth, these vain, haughty women were the symptom and symbol of Israel’s arrogance. They weren’t the reason for judgment themselves. So in the next few verses, when God says what He will take away from the women of Zion, understand that He is saying what He will take away from Israel:
“In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.”
Isaiah 3:18-23 ESV
By the way, there was a really obscure Christian band in the 90’s called Johnny Q Public who actually wrote a song based on Isaiah 3. It is bizarrely catchy:
Five Chapters from the End: Zion Restored
In Isaiah 61, we see the restoration of Zion. Verse 3 leapt off the page at me. Remember that Isaiah 3:18 specifically references the beautiful headdresses and turbans of the women of Zion. God strips those away, leaving them bald and scabrous. So keep that in mind as you read God’s promise of restoration in Isaiah 61:3:
“to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
Both Isaiah 3 and Isaiah 61 have a series of “Instead of…” statements. Check these out:
“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.”
Isaiah 3:24 ESV
“to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:3 ESV
Beloved, God is in the “instead” business. It works both ways. God humbles the exalted, but he also exalts them humble.
Finally, notice this too: the movement is always from devastation to restoration, not the other way around. The final word is restoration.