1. God will stagger carnally secure sinners (10). Read the text in your King James Bible and compare with the Hebrew offered as we consider verse by verse. “Go in the rock and hide thyself in the dust from the faces (God is triune) of the terror of Jehovah, and from the splendor of His majesty” (Hebrew). With judgment ready to fall there is nothing left but for the nation to dive into the rocks to bury itself in the dust to hide from the many faceted terror of Jehovah. Not a call to repentance, this is a warning of impending judgment; and not sarcasm (Gill), but terrific earnestness. We understand Isaiah not literally, for hiding from God is impossible. Actually, refuge from God is to be found only by taking refuge in God. For there is no shelter but in God and in the things above. The things of earth and earth itself shall be shaken, and the concussions of heaven’s blasts against earth and all its corruption will dissolve the most iron-hearted resistance to God. “Hide thyself from the terrible looks of Jehovah.” The prophet is not speaking so much of the fear which the Lord inspires, but the terror which He displays in judgment. The wicked will be terrorized by the presence of the Lord coming in judgment, “in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (II Thess. 1:9), or, as here, “from the splendor of His majesty.” God in judgment is glorious and terrible. Despisers of God, in many ways, are underground in their habitual evil activities. They are from beneath. They love darkness, not light, just because their actions are evil. When judgment comes they will go deeper underground to hide from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. If the hopelessness of this is not now apparent to sophisticated, bored, blasé, drowsy, couldn’t-care-less, indifferent haters of God, it will be in that terrible day of judgment. For then they could wish the grave to hide them. Then they could wish to die like a dog. Then they could wish their vain dream and philosophy of annihilation and extinction of being at death a reality. What a comfort the doctrine of annihilation would be to deniers of God, if there were any more truth to it than any other philosophy! God by the ungodly is to be feared, and will be, according to the measure of His manifested glory. That means that in nameless dread they shall tremble, faint, fall and become as dead men, until they hear the Judge’s sentence, “Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire,” and are cast into the outer darkness, where there is the weeping, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. But before this great and terrible day of the Lord shall come, the political and national Israel of the Jews would be swallowed up into oblivion as to ten of its tribes in the captivities, while remaining Judah and Benjamin would be wiped out of God’s kingdom in that destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Matt. 21:43). The result of this will be that,
2. God will humble wickedly proud sinners (vv. 11-17). “The looks of proud man shall be brought low, and high men shall be bowed down, and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day” (v. 11). In the day of Jehovah, man will be abased and God exalted. Pride was the very first sin of man when he assumed to be as God. Pride increases when men “imagine that they are higher than God” and in competition with God. The sin of pride culminates in the Man of Sin “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God,” and who blasphemes the name of God, His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven (II Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:6). He shall be thrown down, abased, put to shame and destroyed with the breath of Christ’s mouth and. the brightness of His coming. “The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day,” when He shall have put down all opposing rule and all authority and power (I Cor. 15:24). He will be exalted among the nations (Ps. 46:10) then in that day.
What day is that? “For (there is) a day to Jehovah-tsebhaoth against everything high and great, and against everything lifted up, and it shall be brought low” (v. 12). The whole earth will be brought to such total ruin that everything man puts confidence in shall be destroyed. Men may mock the idea of a final judgment day, but the Word of God assures us “there is a day of the Lord of hosts.” The Lord has this day in reserve, and at the right moment will produce it for His purpose. The Lord has His appointed day, recorded in His decree, which He will bring out of the secret of eternity into the history of time, a day of world-wide judgment, which will be the leveler and equalizer making everything high to sink down low into the dust at the feet of the Judge of all men.
That day of the Lord will also come against everything exalted in nature. “And against all the cedars of Lebanon, the high ones and the lifted up ones, and against all the oaks of Bashan, and against all lofty mountains, and against all the hills lifted up” (vv. 13-14). The cedars are trees of the Lord, of His planting (Ps. 104:16); they praise God (Ps. 148:9). His voice shatters them (Ps. 29:5). But the beauties and glories of nature, in which men boast apart from their Creator, shall all be laid low in the day of the Lord. So with the representatives of all nature, trees and mountains destroyed, the earth itself is destroyed. Why this judgment on nature? Because the creation was subjected to vanity, to the bondage of corruption, so that the whole creation groans and travails in pain until now, waiting for a physical redemption (Rom. 8:20-23). For all nature itself is destined to a Palingenesia (Matt. 19:28), a regeneration, or a time of restitution of all things (Acts 3:21), when the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption to the liberty of the glory of the sons of God, which shall take place as Peter describes in II Pet. 3:10-13.
Yet not only against nature, but especially against the world of men and their evil works shall judgment come. “And against every high tower, and against every fortified (inaccessible) wall, and against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the pleasure ships” (vv. 15-16). The Lord will be against every high tower. All of them shall fall (Isa. 30:25). There is no place secure from attack, no place to hide when God is the invading enemy. Nor. shall “almighty, invincible” man be able to contend against Him. This goes for every fortified wall. No iron curtain shall remain before Him. No Chinese or Russian wall shall stand against Him. The tower of Babel was and modem Babel-building is a matter of atheistic man laboring to establish an antichristian hierarchy as a refuge and shrine of false confidence in the universal sovereignty of man over the powers of heaven and earth. So, from the pseudo-security of his mighty tower of international education, world currency, cosmopolitan philosophy and united nations armed forces, man yawns sophisticatedly, stretches luxuriously and looks down on heaven and earth as though he were not steward but owner.
“And against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the pleasure ships.” The KJV has “pleasant pictures.” But the NBV (New Berkeley Version) is probably closer to the original here with its “pleasure yachts.” All shipping, navies and foreign trade, together with the luxuries they provide, including these luxury liners and pleasure ships will end in the ruin of all maritime commerce. So calamities at sea occur. (Read Rev. 8:8-9). A woman boarding the Titanic asked a purser whether the ship was safe. His answer was, “Lady, even God can’t sink this ship!” But this is God in history: just when evil systems and evil causes are at the zenith of their power, worldly might and glory, the Lord suddenly causes them to wither and crumble. The Spanish Armada, arrogantly called the “Invincible Armada,” sailed with all possible speed for the coast of England to crush that Protestant power and its fleet. Invincible it seemed, with its huge ships, the armed personnel of soldiers and sailors and weapons of destruction. But He that sitteth in the heavens laughed. He held them in derision. He brought a thick fog into which the British fled to the safety of their land. Then a storm brew and smashed the Invincible Armada on the rocky coasts of the British Isles. The memorial the English made at the time recalls the overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea in the words, “Thou didst blow with Thy wind, the sea covered them” (Ex. 15:10). The great glory of the earth and of man’s greatest successes in cultivating the earth were in ancient Babylon. So that Babylon is the name given to the universal kingdom of antichrist, when the world shall be brought to a unified cultural development of military, political, religious, commercial and aesthetic glory. But when it is all crushed, overthrown and destroyed by the coming of Christ and of His kingdom of glory, and in one hour Babylon and its riches come to nothing, men who love the world, every ship’s pilot, all who sail the seas, mariners, and all who work the sea for their living, shall weep as they watch it all going up in smoke. Then their ribald sea songs will be silenced. Then they will wail, “Woe! woe! for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew wealthy from her great wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste!” (Rev. 18:17-19, NBV).
3. God will put these sinners to everlasting shame (vv. 18-22). “And,” so in this way, “shall the proud man be bowed down, and high men brought low, and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day” (v. 17). Especially on men shall God’s final judgment come, (though its effects also extend to the whole realm of nature)—on men, on men’s idols and all their false religions. “And the idols (nothings), the whole (lot of them) shall pass away” (v. 18), their images, worship, names and memory (Isa. 17:7-8; Zech. 13:2). What nothings their, idols are, they shall then see, throwing them away in contempt. Their gods never could help them. Mere nothings will not do so then.
Then what will idol worshipers do? “And they go into the caverns of the rocks, and in the caves of dust (the ground) from the face of the terror of Jehovah (from the terrible looks of Jehovah), and from the splendor of His majesty, in His rising up to terrify the earth. In that day the man shall throw away the idols of his silver and idols of his gold, which he made to him to bow down to, to the mole-holes and to the bats” (vv. 19-20). In v. 10, they are told to go to the rocks and hide among them. But now it is said they will, do so; they must enter rocks and caves, their last, but ineffectual resort, in vain attempt to hide from the wrathful eye of Jehovah. But there is no place to hide. Also they will throw away their idols to the moles and to the bats. These they had valued the most, for they made them of their silver and gold. Gold was their god. But as they flee in terror from the wrath of the holy God, they realize what nothings idols are. There comes a time when for terror merchant seamen dump their wares, including wheat, into the sea (Jonah 1:5; Acts 27:38); when for terror armies flee to leave behind their camp, their booty and their military material (II Kings 7:13); when for terror the thief throws away his stolen goods because pursued and liable to search. Here, idolaters, for terror, but also for shame and disgust at their own folly for having anything to do with idols, throw them into the fittest places for blind, sightless images,—to mole-holes and bat caves! In such a case, sin is both loathed and left, yet not repented of; loathed because glutted with it; left, only because no opportunity to commit it, but because, as now, all sin, ultimately, must be abandoned. It is plain, then, why their idols are so suddenly and willingly abandoned: “to go into the fissures of the rocks and into the cleft of the cliffs (Heb., high rocks), from the face of the terror of Jehovah, and from the splendor of His majesty, in His rising up to terrify the earth” (v. 21). Fleeing from God, they find their idols in the way. (See comment on v. 10.)
In that day men will have no confidence in anything in which they formerly trusted or on which they had depended, including their own arrogant selves. Cease you from the man whose breath (is) in his nostril, for in what (is) he to be regarded?” (v. 22). Man is a bad foundation on which to rest. Man is a very perishable article, and so really worth nothing as a ground of confidence. “In what is he to be regarded?”—in himself? Apart from being in Christ, he is nothing. The text speaks of the condition of mankind (“the man, i.e., mankind) apart from God. Mankind, fallen, totally depraved and dead through trespasses and sins puts its hopes in man. Nebuchadnezzar’s image symbolizes man’s idolizing of “almighty” man. All idolatry and pantheism ultimately end in man as the highest manifestation of God (II Thess. 2:3-4). “The greatest need of man is to reject man and seek” the true and living God.