Last week we established how cleansing must start within. The heart is in need of re-creation (Psalm 51:10) and a new redemptive story written upon it (Jeremiah 31:33-34), replacing the record of sin which was engraved with a diamond-pointed iron stylus on the old heart (Jeremiah 17:1). Since “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9), the cure cannot be merely a topical treatment of the outside. It must be a fundamental, surgical change from within - a circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:29).
Let’s go back to where we were in the early chapters of Isaiah last week. Between 2 judgment sections (2:12-3:26 and 5:1-30), the 6 verses of Chapter 4 interweave the hopeful threads of remnant, return from exile, cleansing, and re-creation. And it all revolves around the DAY when “the Branch of Yahweh” will be beautiful and glorious. For careful readers of the Scriptures, we should see here a clue that the ultimate fulfillment of this passage will be in the work of Jesus the Righteous Branch (also see Isaiah 11:1-2; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). And the setting is a remnant returning home - the survivors of Israel (Isaiah 4:2). But there is not only geographical movement here; we see movement from a state of uncleanness to a state of holiness (4:3). So what is the agent of cleansing? How can such a change happen?
“When the LORD has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning.” (4:4)
The word “spirit” is attached to judgment and burning (often a biblical image of purging). The fact that the text points to God as the “Acting One” in the cleansing which takes place leads us to believe that this “spirit of judgment” and “spirit of burning” are expressions of the work of God’s Spirit. And once again we have both inward and outward expressions of cleansing. The word “filth” may better be translated as “vomit” - the poisons within which need expulsion. “Bloodshed” represents the outward, visible stains. And once inward and outward cleansing have been accomplished by the work of God, the door is opened for the theme we’ll explore next week from the rest of Isaiah 4 - that of new creation.
To His Glory,