“Now Jehovah says, because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched out throat, and with ogling eyes they go, walking and tripping, and with their feet they make a tinkling, there-fore Adonai will make the crown (of the head) of the daughters of Zion bald, and Jehovah will uncover their nakedness.”
Isa. 3:16-17, Heb.
1. Addiction of the Worldly. Here is feminine pride showing itself in body language, stretched out neck, flirtatious eyes, sensuous walk, together with the cosmetics, make-up art and tinkling jewelry of the coquette. When also the older women in Jerusalem, experienced in sin, tried to look young with the employment of these feminine frills and wiles, they appeared more childish than fetching. They, the men also, had little more aim than the development of a sound mind in a beautiful body. They had forgotten that true beauty is to have the beauty of the Lord our God upon us so that we reflect the glories of the Lord.
Works of art are seen in the highest quality jewelry. There is nothing inherently sinful in such things. It is wrong, however, when luxury develops a feminine motif and dominance, and dress and finery evidence greed for ambition, one-upism and what is really effeminate pride in men as well as women. Isaiah is certainly notsuggesting or saying that dress is all a matter of taste, opinion, of climate and cultural back: ground, so that what is regarded as immodest in Israel may not be so in Egypt or Sodom. Isaiah was not a philosopher of relativism. He reported what “Jehovah says,” showing that the Lord does notice what is to some such an insignificant thing as dress. In our country we see enough of immodest dress to know it can only be immodest anywhere it may appear in the world. We cannot imagine, with all these fripperies, figure display and body movement, that still their minds were pure and upright. They were full of voluptuous lust and shameless pride. This was evident from their too revealing attire. (“the transparent garments,” v. 23), and their roving eye. The eyes of a modest woman are not wandering, nor adept at dalliance.
Hauteur, and any dress or action, such as flirting, which emphasizes and advances it, is immodesty. Isaiah is talking about women who are concerned with drawing attention to themselves. They are not concerned with the church losing its distinctive separateness from the world, nor with its being infiltrated with the carnal seed, nor with the awful apostasy and falling away from the faith so prevalent. Women are taking a much more active part in the work of the Lord. But these women in the Jerusalem church were like Solomon’s wives, Jezebel and Athaliah, leading the people away from God. This is true of the women of the world. They lead the nation away from God. Where the women of the nation do not follow the Lord, the men have long since ceased to do so, and the greatness of that nation has come to an end.
The judgment the Lord denounced on the daughters of Zion was that their beautiful hair, a woman’s crowning glory, would go to baldness, and that they who delighted in flaunting their charms would experience shameful exposure and inhuman treatment in the rough hands of heathen conquerors thirsting for plunder and rape. (ver. 17).
“In that day, Adonai shall remove the ornaments of the anklets, and the hair-nets, and the crescents (v. 18), the ear-pendants, and the bracelets, and. the (fluttering) veils (19), the turbans and the step-chains (attached to ankles to make women walk mincingly, in short steps), and the houses (boxes) of the soul (breath), (perfume?), and the amulet-jewelries (v. 20), the signet rings, and the rings of the nose (v. 21), the festive garments (party dress), and the mantels (cloaks), and the veils (Ruth 3:15), and the purses (money bags; v. 22), and the transparent garments, and the linen shifts, and the tiaras and the veils (v. 23)” Calvin says that women “while they are chargeable with many vices, they are most of all inflamed with mad eagerness to have fine clothes. Covetous as they naturally are, still they spare no expense for dressing in a showy manner, and even use spare diet to deprive themselves of what nature requires, that their clothes may be the more costly and elegant. So grievously are they corrupted by this vice that it goes beyond every other.” Nevertheless, the Lord’s gracious counsel to them is, “the women should dress themselves modestly and prudently in attire that is becoming, not adorned with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothes, as is appropriate for women who profess reverence for God” (I Tim. 2:9, 10, NBV). Clothing was divinely given to cover nakedness and the deformity caused by sin. Therefore, the leaving the breasts naked, in whole or in part, is departure from Christian modesty. Shameless impudence it is for women scantily arrayed to intrude into the presence of God in the congregation. The motivation in so doing is pride and lust, not the fear of God, and where there is not the fear of God, one cannot be kept from unclean thoughts and filthy desires.
2. Standard in the Churches. Our first parents were satisfied with the apparel God himself provided, which was plain coats of skins. Many of God’s people, of whom the world was not worthy, “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins” (Heb. 11:35). Comparatively, then, we are not so bad off. We do not deserve anything for covering and warmth. We deserve no more clothing than our Lord had to cover himself on the cross. Dives, the ungodly rich man “was clothed in purple and tine linen, and fared sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19). His love of finery was one of his crimes, along with his gluttony and despising of the poor. Often these evils go together.
This “mad eagerness for tine clothes” will catch the guilty complaining that we rob them of their Christian liberty when we condemn their addiction to the goddess of fashion. Proper dress is a good gift of God, and should not be perverted to degrade sex. That is why the Word of God requires that “the woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so are abomination to the Lord thy God” (Deut. 22:5). Thekadeshim in Israel dressed like women, and in the feasts of Bacchus men disguised themselves as women. For these abominations the Canaanites were to be annihilated.
Why should Christians swallow, as the world does, the fashion dictates of that harlot city, Paris? The Lord warns, “I will punish the princes, the kings sons, and all who are dressed in foreign apparel” (Zeph. 1:8). This underscores what God had commanded through Moses. If the Lord will punish pride in dress and the perverted use of dress on the part of nobles, princes, kings and their children, then He most certainly will in the case of ordinary people. What then?—if we are not to follow fashion, what shall be the pattern of our dress? To answer: it is neither necessity nor caution which snaps up every new fashion or wears the styles of the giddy and freaky. Nor are the so-called sophisticated to be imitated. “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2).
Then there is the matter of long hair. The priests of Israel were not to have long hair. In hair-style they were to avoid extreme. “Neither shall they shave their heads (like heathen priests or Romish monks), nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll (trim the hair of) their heads” (Ezek. 44:20). They must not pose as Nazarites, nor get themselves up like a hippy, lounge-lizard, fop or carpet-knight. It is ruffian-like and unnatural for a man to go with long hair. “Doth not nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair it is a shame to him? . . . But if any man seem to be contentious (in favor of this rebellious practice), we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (I Cor. 11:14, 16). Then where women will come with their nakedness into the congregation, and men will wear long hair, and then to argue that here we enter the sphere of adiophora, things indifferent, where we have liberty in these things, the answer of God’s Word is short. “We have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” Whatever is general and received custom in the churches of God ought to be law to us. It is not the world which sets us precedent and provides example, but the custom of the churches and the practice of godly Christians and their moderation.
Moderate use of facial cosmetics may not be altogether out of place. But the extreme of false eyelashes, face-lifting, gobs of mascara and paint “an inch thick” are disguisings of or attempts to improve on nature or to mend the work of God. Jezebel was infamous for face-painting. As age creeps up on us, God gradually and continually changes our facial lineaments. This alteration is God’s work. Do we dislike His workmanship? Do we consult with the Sidonian beautician to improve on it? The natural is from God; the artificial from the devil. That is all he has to work with. What face will we bring coram Deo? Will the Lord own the disguised face? Or will He say, “That is not the face I made?” No matter how old and wrinkled the face, the Lord beautifies the meek with salvation (Ps. 149:4). Coveting that true beauty, let us become not fashion-addicts, but as those “who have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (I Cor. 16:15).