In the first episode of the Korean show “Lawless Lawyer” a young boy watched as some thugs kill his mother and attempt to kill him. He manages to escape and is running through the streets. He runs into the arms of a police officer. The thug who was chasing him said, “Oh good, you’re here. Take care of him.” The police officer tried, but was unsuccessful. Later, you find out that the most respected judge in the city is the crime boss and the person who ordered the disposal of the boy’s mother and of the boy. There is something fundamentally wrong when those who set themselves up in positions of protecting the weak just so they can prey on the weak. When the bully wears a badge; when the teacher is a tyrant; when the mayor is a marauder; when the president is a Putin. Alliteration avalanche! And when things are this corrupt, don’t we long for someone to come along and fix it; to make the protectors protect – the preyers to stop preying? Don’t we long for justice?
At the time of the oracle found in Isaiah 3:13-15, justice had taken a holiday. Some have tried to pinpoint the historical setting, but unfortunately, that is almost impossible because the situation is too common. Thankfully it was not constant, but for far too many times in the history of the people of God those who should have stood up for and supported the poor and cast aside, heaped on more oppression. So, Yahweh will take a stand or station himself to conduct a legal case. The leaders of the people refused to take a stand for the people, so God will take a stand against them. He will stand to judge the people. During a trial, the members of the court would sit. But when the time came to render a verdict, the officiating judge would stand. It’s verdict time. God has stationed himself to go to court against the people and now he stands to render his judgment.
Yahweh has entered into judgment mode. The word “entered” is in the imperfect tense, which implies a past action that is ongoing. The idea here is most likely that this is a done deal. This court case will not involve a plea deal. God has come into his decision about the case. I tend to think appealing God’s decision will be futile. The elders, who are the respected leaders, the men who settle cases at the gate in the cities, are corrupt. The princes, a word that can mean anything from a military leader to the king himself, are failing in their responsibilities. Yahweh begins his verdict with an emphatic “But you” or “It is you.” These paragons of justice have either devoured or burned up the vineyard. Often, in Isaiah, the vineyard represents the people of God. The leaders are the tenant farmers. Instead of taking care of the vineyard; instead of making sure that the vines are producing good fruit; they are grazing it to death. And there is a major lesson here. If leaders and rulers take care of the people, the people will produce good crops of gratitude and productivity. Well, there is a whole slew of people who can learn from this. And God issued a search warrant and found that these leaders’ houses were full of plunder taken from the poor. They were making their own houses rich through oppressing those who could least afford it. So, the poor become even poorer while the rich and powerful become even richer. It is an old tale isn’t it.
Verse 15 begins with “What to you crushing my people.” The NASB has “What do you mean . . .” What do you mean by this crushing? Maybe the idea is “what is it to you?” To me, it is a crushing; it is a grinding the face of my people. What to them was merely a means of filling their homes with plunder was a crushing, grinding, assault on made in the image of God people. Maybe God is trying to make them understand the severity of their wrong. What was it to them? People were reduced to objects of scorn; objects to line their pockets. But to God? They are people being crushed. They are people whose faces are being ground up by the oppression. The oracle is wrapped up with, “the declaration of the master, Yahweh of armies.” You are being called to court by the judge of judges. It is time to pay the piper boys.
When you walk into a McDonalds you are in a position of power over the employee behind the counter. Will you make their job more difficult? Will you grind their face up? We may be tempted to relegate this oracle to the rich and powerful, but the reality it applies to all of us. Most of us will find ourselves in a position to encourage or discourage; to enrich or devalue; to stand up for or oppress. Yahweh is our Father. But he is also our Judge. Follow his example as a father and take a stand for the too weak to stand. If this is your stance in life, then Yahweh will not stand up against you having entered into his decision. Peace.