Isaiah 24

24:7–12 The Day of Pleasure Turned Into a Nightmare of Mourning

Verses 7–12 “The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted [NE8 revellers] do sigh.

The mirth of tabrets ceaseth [RSV timbrel is stilled], the noise of them that rejoice [RSV the jubilant] endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth. “They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.

“The city of confusion [Heb tohu, RSV chaos]) is broken down; every house is shut up, that no man may come in.

“There is a crying for wine in the streets [RSV an outcry in the streets for lack of wine]; all joy is darkened [RSV has reached its eventide], the mirth of the land is gone.

In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction [MLB, RSV its gates are battered into ruins].”

This section of the prophecy shows how sudden destruction from Yahweh has interrupted the revelry of the world, bringing despair and ruin. It is in perfect harmony with Jesus’ warning to those alive at the second coming: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares”. The affluence of western society, and the great emphasis upon culinary delights and wines so evident today, are in themselves a warning to saints. Clearly the hearts of many will be so caught up with these things that they will be taken unawares by the Lord’s appearing.

In these verses there are two references to the rival city, “Babylon the Great”, which comprehends the cities of the nations, opposed to Zion, the city of God (26:1,2): in verse 10 it is described as the “city of confusion”. See other references in this prophecy in 25:2,3 and 26:5. The terms of verses 7–12 are taken up in Revelation to describe the same event, the ruin of “that great city Babylon” (18:21–23).

Verse 7 speaks of the “new wine mourning” because there is now none to drink it and it can no longer bring joy to the heart. The vine languisheth (RSV “withers”) because there is none to cultivate it. The “merry hearted sigh” because their world has been up-ended and their lifestyle demolished. Truly as Jesus predicted, “men’s hearts would fail them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26).

Verse 8 stresses the fact that the carnal delights of wine and song shall be abruptly terminated. Instead of bringing hilarity and pleasure, strong drink will be bitter to them in view of the prevailing calamities. What a contrast this is to those who are accounted worthy to stand in that day: they shall be invited by Yahweh of hosts to partake of a “feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees …” (25:6).

In verse 10 the “city of confusion” is broken down. The Hebrew word for “confusion” (tohu) is expressive of emptiness (eg Job 26:7), vanity (eg Isa 45:18–19), destitution of form (eg Gen 1:2), waste. The utter destruction to come upon “the City” is made clear by repetition. It is described as being “broken down”, its walls and dwellings being in ruins. The houses are “shut up”, either to prevent enemies entering, or obstructed by ruins.

Verse 11 pictures the inhabitants of the world seeking some relief and respite from the calamity but finding none. The wine they have been accustomed to drinking is unavailable and the sun has set on their revelry and joy.

Verse 12 rounds out the picture of utter ruin, the gates once secure are “battered into ruins” (rsv). This is set in contrast with the “strong city” of the saints, the New Jerusalem (26:1–3).

24:13–16 In the Midst of the World’s Mourning, The Saints Rejoice in Yahweh’s Power and Majesty

Verse 13 When thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the people.”

This is a significant statement for it confirms for us that the destruction is world-wide, and that the “city of confusion” is synonymous with the world and its institutions and opposed to the principles of Yahweh and Zion. Notice that the rsv translates the above, “For thus shall it be in the midst of the earth among the nations …”; and the Modern Language Bible, “For so shall it be in the midst of the whole earth among the peoples…”

“… there shall be

as the shaking of an olive tree

and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.”

There are two figures used here to show that even though the vast majority of people on earth will be taken unaware by the advent of Christ, there will be a small remnant who will know that world events have been signalling his imminent return. To emphasise how small a number is involved they are likened to the few olives remaining after the tree has been beaten, or to the grapes remaining on the vine, inadvertently missed at the end of the vintage. The figures are used elsewhere by Isaiah to indicate a small remnant (17:6, 27:12).

The fact that no nations will be on the side of Christ and the saints is corroborated elsewhere (Isa 63:3, cp Luke 18:8); as is also the fact that there will be saints alive and upholding the Truth when the Lord comes. Paul explains this “mystery” by telling us we shall “not all sleep” (or “die”, 1 Cor 15:51); he speaks of those who “are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15); while Jesus calls upon saints alive at his appearing to lift up their heads for their redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:28), and pronounces a blessing on those who “watch and keep their garments” at his thief-like advent (Rev 16:15).

Verse 14 They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of Yahweh, they shall cry aloud from the sea [roth, rsv west; literally, sea, but as the Mediterranean Sea is on the west of Israel, it is so translated, and this balances verse 15, where from the ‘fires’ or East (Heb Ur, ‘light’) praise is also heard to Yahweh].”

Verses 15,16 “Wherefore glorify ye Yahweh in the fires (rsv therefore in the east give glory to the Lord), even the name of Yahweh God of Israel in the isles of the sea.

“From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous [rsv, roth Righteous One, ie Yahweh].”

These verses are fascinating and exciting as they reveal to us the sentiments and exhilaration of the saints and ecclesias at the time of the end (now!) when the judgments of God come upon the earth. There is only a small remnant (the saints!) awake and alive and remaining. In total distinction to mankind in general, there is a sense in which they rejoice in “the time of trouble such as never was”, because it heralds their redemption (Dan 12:1–3; Luke 21:24–28). They will not perish with the world but receive the invitation, “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast” (26:20–21).

Notice the emphasis on them “singing”, and in vision Isaiah hears “songs, even glory to the righteous one”. What a contrast this is to the drunken songs and mirth of the revellers of the world. They can no longer sing; their hopes are irrevocably dashed and they shall truly mourn (v11; Rev 1:7). Saints are constrained to sing “for the majesty of Yahweh”, because at last, having not visibly been manifest in the earth for centuries (though “ruling in the kingdom of men” by His angels), He has broken His silence and moved to assert His Sovereignty and mighty power as Creator of the world and mankind. The “times of the Gentiles” are about to give way to the Kingdom of God, and saints worldwide cannot hold back their joy.

Verse 16 says that in their songs of praise the saints glorify “the Lord, the God of Israel” (rsv). This is a significant fact almost lost sight of by the world and Christendom. The God of heaven and earth, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is also Yahweh Elohim of Israel. He has not forsaken His people, His witnesses. The return of Jews to Palestine, and the creation of the state of Israel testify to the existence of Israel’s God. This fact is constantly thrust before the eyes of the world, yet they acknowledge it not. It will be abundantly clear in the days soon to dawn when He saves and redeems Israel, and when they become truly His people and acknowledge Him as their God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Israel.

But Isaiah says there are heard “songs, even glory to the righteous”. Rotherham and the rsv make the application to Yahweh plain by saying saints give glory “to the Righteous One”. Now this is an interesting and significant fact. Why should saints so designate Yahweh? Because they see in the outpouring of His judgments, after much longsuffering, righteousness—He is the Righteous One, and His judgments are just and deserved.

To the world these judgments will seem harsh, unjustifiable and unwarranted, because men have lost sight of the Creator’s right, power and majesty. They have been used to going their own way and have spurned His Word and will. It is noteworthy that the same praises sound forth from them that “have gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image … having harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Rev 15:3–5; 16:5,7).