“Therefore, saith (the revelation of) the Lord, Jehovah-tsebhaoth, the mighty One of Israel, ‘Ho! (cp. v. 4)
I will avenge Myself (ridding Myself) from My adversaries, and I will avenge Myself (so) from My enemies” (v. 24).
I.The Reformation and Redemption of the Righteous. 1. Increasingly severe judgments may be expected. “Therefore!” or because the faithful city became a harlot! because Israel once silver became dross, his officers corrupt, loving bribes! Therefore (going back to vv. 21-23) judgment is threatened. For judgment is now the only means left for realizing the reformation and redemption of the Church. This judgment will be realized by the invincible omnipotence of God revealed in His names, the Lord (Ha-Adon), Jehovah-tsebhaoth, the Mighty One of Israel. Such a God surely is able to do what He determines and threatens to do. All the hosts of the heavens, of the angels, of the devil, of men, armies and nations, of saints and elect are at His command to execute His purposes and exert His power for His Israel. “I will avenge Myself (ridding Myself) from My adversaries, and (so) avenge Myself from My enemies.” These enemies are not out in, the world, but in Israel, the enemy within. The Lord would not be an adversary to Israel’s adversaries (as the Philistines or Chaldeans), but to Israel. He is their enemy.
They are adversaries of God. Here it is not said that God loves these wicked enemies of His, but that in fact the day of vengeance is in His heart (Is. 63:4). He will have vengeance on them to their total destruction. They are such a drag, even on the Almighty who can bear anything, who upholds all things by the word of His power, that He is wearied with them, and will no longer put up with them, but will throw off the burden of them. He will spew them out of His mouth. He must be rid of them. They too long have borne too hard on His patience.
2. These judgments come not by chance, but from the hand of God. “And I will stay My hand upon thee, and I will purify as purity (itself) thy dross, and I will cause to depart all thy alloys” (v. 25). The purifying of the Church is always God’s own work. “On thee” (fem.) refers to the city (21, 26), the remnant according to the election of grace (v. 9). Such a purifying is less that of a judgment in wrath, separating the wicked from the righteous, as more a regenerating, irresistible grace in quickening His people from death to life, giving them a new heart, turning their hearts to Him, opening their hearts to understand the Scripture and to attend to the things spoken by the Lord. This great purifying did come in Pentecost, when the Jews of sixteen nations received the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit from the ascended Lord, and this purifying continues throughout this age in the blood (I John 1:7) and Spirit (I Peter 1:2) of Christ. The purifying extends to the removal of “thy dross,” the Lord’s vile, detestable enemies, including not only corrupt rulers, but also the impenitently wicked people. “Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross” (Ps. 119:119).
3. The judgments will see officebearers restored. “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning, after (it) so (happened, i.e., afterwards) thou shalt be called to thee, City of righteousness, a faithful city.” As their evils had their origin in their princes (v. 23), so the Lord would “purify that rank.” Israel would again have notable judges and counselors as they once had in the patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, the judges, David, Solomon and the prophets. This would especially be so in the time of the Messiah when the Church was blessed with apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers and ministers of the gospel. This promise, then, is fulfilled in the New Testament Church as instituted by Christ and His apostles, and in the local church organized according to their pattern and principles. “A true church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men who keep the ordinances as they’ were delivered, stand fast in the faith of the gospel, take care that the laws of Christ’s house are put into execution, and do not suffer sin upon one another, nor bear them that are evil, whether in doctrine or practice. . .” (John Gill).
4. Reformation and redemption go hand in hand. “(Zion in judgment shall be redeemed, and her captives in righteousness” (v. 27). The promises in the prophecies of Scripture are for the elect church, while the denunciations of judgment are for the reprobate wicked. Promises and threatenings are so intertwined, involving each other, that they are fulfilled together. The promise of the refining of the silver carries with it the warning of the certain casting off of the refuse, the dross. All the dross shall be destroyed in justice. Yet also in justice, Zion, by nature no better than dross, shall be redeemed. We are redeemed, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, ‘”not by works of righteousness which we have done,” but, “the Lord is exalted (not man), for He dwelleth on high (not the will of man); He hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness” (Isa. 33:5). So that salvation is entirely of the Lord. Redemption is a setting free of the captives of sin and Satan, so that they become Zion’s captives, the church’s converts (Heb. 12:22), redeemed in righteousness. Israel in the wilderness came to Mount Sinai, which was only a way station for them. “But you” (New Testament believers) “have come to Mount Zion,” which is more than just a mountain, as Sinai also was, but is “the city of the living God” (there was no city on Sinai), “the heavenly Jerusalem,” which is the Church of the Firstborn (i.e., a church of divine heirs, Exod. 4:22, 23). So Zion in reality is the Church, as the writer to the Hebrews tells us in his infallibly: inspired letter. “The Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), thus saith the Lord, is His firstborn.
So the Church is redeemed in judgment, that judgment coming with a vengeance on Christ, so that by His blood His church is truly redeemed, sin is fully condemned and punished, the law is magnified and made honorable, the demands of divine justice are satisfied and the law completely fulfilled.
II.The Ruin of the Corrupters. 1. Sinners are finished. “And destruction (of) transgressors and sinners together, and the deserters of Jehovah shall be finished.” What the “together” is saying here is that Zion shall be redeemed and’ at the same time transgressors and sinners shall be destroyed. Redemption and destruction occur. in the Church together. While the true Church is preserved, hypocrites are swept out of it. By the captivities the Lord purged His church of hypocrites. So the Lord did at Pentecost. Zion was then blest and redeemed, but as for mere pretenders, “no man durst join himself to them” (Acts 5:13). “While He speaks of the redemption of the Church, He at the same time threatens that sinners, i.e., wicked men, shall be destroyed, that they may not suppose that these acts of God’s kindness belong at all to them” (Calvin). “God allows the reprobate to perish, but preserves His own in safety.” “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee” (Ps. 91:7).
“. . . and the deserters of Jehovah . . .” Recently (Aug. ’74), we heard that a “bingo” party in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, had to close down hurriedly that the participants might clear things away in order to celebrate Mass! Here it is warned that all deserters of the Lord shall be stopped: all who desert His word, worship and sacraments, as Romanists have done in setting up the traditions of men against the Word of God, in corrupting the sacraments and adding strange new inventions to them. The Lord will finish them off in the day of judgment.
2. Then follows how they are finished. “For they shall be ashamed from (or, of) the trees which ye have desired, and ye shall be put to shame (become red and blush), from (or, for) the gardens which ye have. chosen.” The prophets clearly and continually denounced the sin here referred to. “For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, ‘I will not transgress,’ when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot” (Jer. 2:20). “The Lord also said unto me in the days of Josiah the king, ‘Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain, and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot'” (Jer. 3:6). Israel was “a people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face, that sacrificeth in gardens . . . that sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord” (Isa. 65:3; Isa. 66:17). Read also Hos. 4:13, 14, then read the two chapters, Ezek. 8 and 9, following this up with Mic. 5:10-15. (For further light see The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge at this point).
“For ye shall be as a tree (with) its leaf withering, and as a garden, which, as to waters, nothing to it!” (v. 30). They themselves should become as a tree and a garden blasted with dearth. “And the strong shall become tow, and his (image) work a spark, and they shall consume, they two together, and—nothing to quench!” (v. 31). Tow is highly inflammable material, as a mass of flax or hemp fibers balled up like a bird’s nest to catch a spark from flint-and-steel. The idolater shall find that his idols are not the security he had supposed, but are rather a refuge of lies, which shall act as a spark to his own tow, setting him on fire, so that he and his work shall burn together. His own sin shall spark the exploding flame of God’s wrath against him, which shall burn with unquenchable fire to the lowest hell. Jehovah’s adversaries are tow, their sin is the igniting spark and God himself is the consuming fire.