1. The Ruin Complete. “Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours stubble, and a flame burns down straw, their root shall be as rottenness, their blossom shall go up as the dust”; (24a), like a seeded dandelion head blown away! “Therefore,” because of the foregoing sins, lightning strokes of judgment blast the vine of Judah, withering its root with immediate decay and pulverizing its blossoms in a cloud of dust. Terrible punishments and awful judgments await those who stubbornly persist in the way that seems right unto a man. Gruesome judgments occur today, to the ruin of an entire nation. Take the genocide of Cambodia, where Buddhist Communists horribly murdered and annihilated the Buddhist populace. As the root means the leaders, so the blossoms denote their subjects, particularly the children. (Luther), The above referred to slaughter occurred between Spring, 1975 and December, 1976. Soldiers were massacred, so also students, teachers, village officials, then, family by family fathers first, then their wives and children and babies, all bayoneted. In similar manner, the cities were destroyed. The land was made a charnel house, its borders ringed with exploded booby traps and heaps of corpses, forming a wall of death, intended to prevent refugees escaping. The Communists killed 1.2 millions, destroyed the universities, commerce, art, music, libraries, literature, science, love, and hope. They were terrible instruments of divine judgment, destruction and ruin, themselves facing the judgment of eternal fire. Yet such fearful instruments in Gog and Magog at the time of the final Antichrist we know will make havoc of the end-time church.
2. The Ruin Just. “for they rejected the law of Jehovah Tsebhaoth, and the word of the Holy One of Israel they despised” (24b). Do we appreciate what that means, to reject the law of the Lord of hosts? It’s like a gagging gasping maggot of a day exuding its vile bile against the sovereign God of eternity!Worse it is for such a wretchedly corrupt nothing to defile with his denial the all-glorious and exaltedholiness of God revealed in His Word! Are not such reprehensible despisers of the only true God and His blessed gospel worthy of that sudden, severe, searing judgment?
The terrible judgments at this very hour coming on heathen nations we may expect to come closer to us. Why should our nation expect to escape? Has it not rejected knowledge? forgotten the law of God? (Hos. 4:6). Judgment begins at the house of God. What chance, then, have the impious and sinful? Other sins often meet with super abounding grace, and chastisements for other sins often lead men to repentance. But blatant, blind, bombastic blasphemy against God’s Word is most often punished with destruction and everlasting desolation. The sin of rottenness is punished with hopeless, unending rottenness. (Rev. 22:11; Dan. 12:2). As Matthew Henry well said, When chaff is burned it “is consumed unhelped and unpitied.” (See Ezek. 5:11).
3. The Ruin’s Origin. “Therefore the anger of Jehovah was kindled against His people, and He stretched-out His hand over them, and they were struck; and the mountains trembled, and their carcasses were the sweepings (or, filth) in the midst of the streets” (25a). Punishment has come on the reprobate, and shall continue to strike them down in the future. God’s hand upon them is not rehabilitating, nor has it reached’ satisfaction (of His justice), but is ever stretched out to deal further strokes up to that satisfaction. The picture is that of an earthquake causing faulted mountains and fields and valleys to be strewn with corpses. The earthquake is set off by hordes, of marching armies, the rumble of armed contingencies, the din of battle, the stripping of nature and the slaughter of the populace with bodies lying about like filthy street sweepings. As in Cambodia, last year, mass, senseless executions left corpses rapidly bloating and rotting in the sun . . . blood ran like water .on the grass . . . rice paddies polluted with carcasses . . . along the way, the body of a child every 200 yards . . . the jungle smelled of rotting bodies . . . the odor, everywhere, was inescapable . . . on the way to the .border, 5,000 bodies . . . paths so thick with skeletons and bones sharp to cut the feet . . . at least 800,000 Cambodians dead from famine, disease and massacre . . . left as nothing more than the refuse of the streets. (Cp. how the Midianites perished and became as fertilizer for the earth. Ps. 83:9f). “Filthy are the streets of an oriental city under normal conditions; the grievous hand of death now adds to that filthiness” (E.J. Young). “Whence came the distressful casting out of dead bodies, but because God has raised His arm against” them. (Calvin). “The power of God effects it; He hath stretched forth His hand against them . . . This is very dreadful . . . yet such is the merit of sin” (M. Henry).
4. The Ruin’s Continuance and Consequences. In all this His anger (is) not turned away, but His hand is still stretched out” (25b). It seems nothing will bring men to admit or regard these awful events as the judgments of God, nor the recent severities of winter as the power and providence of God. Man, the great “Master of the Universe,” cannot stand before His cold (Ps. 147:17), and in some places cannot warm himself due to the gas-fuel shortage! But divine judgments are in execution throughout the earth, and there is “more to come,” for His hand is still stretched out.
5. The Instruments Bringing Ruin. “And He will lift up a standard to the nations (heathen) from far off, and will whistle for him (them) from the ends of the earth, and, look! speedily, swiftly he (they) shall come!” (26). An invading enemy shall take Israel off into total darkness (26-30). Now we see how the streets of the city and the out-fields got to be strewn with corpses of men and carcasses of animals. In the instance of Cambodia, the instruments of desolation were the closest enemy possible, the enemy within, of their own people, attacking and destroying them. With Israel, the instruments of ruin were the invading, ravaging enemy of a foreign power from distant lands. The invaders which came the farthest did the most deadly and devastating work of destruction.
A nation may deceive itself, thinking it is master of its own and others “fate.” So thought Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Spain, imperial Japan and Communist Russia. So dreams our own country rushing blindly down the socialist trail. In fact, any arms agreement or peace negotiation of any kind easily lulls our nation to sleep, as if there is no danger to be dreaded. But the heathen nations are the punitive rod of God’s anger (Isa. 11:5), His battle-axe and weapons of war (Jer. 51:20), by which He breaks down nations and destroys kingdoms. Josephus, the Jewish historian, reports the words of Titus after the Romans had conquered the city of Jerusalem. “We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war; and it was no other than God who ejected the Jews out of these fortifications; for what could the hands of men, or any machines, do towards overthrowing these towers?” (II, 439). Calvin put it this way: “Whether, therefore, we are afflicted by battle, or by famine, or by pestilence, let us know that all this comes from the hand of God, for all things obey Him and follow His direction.”
Wicked men and nations, who daringly commit the sins mentioned in this chapter, may expect, as Isaiah described it, the like devastation of their countries. In the prophet’s day, the people of his nation denied God’s judgments with the provoking, “Let Him make speed and hasten His work” (19), only to find to their terror that He came with speed, swiftly.
Note the readiness of these distant nations. “Not one becomes weary, and not one among them stumbles and neither falls asleep; and a girdle of their loins is not loosed, nor a lace of their shoes broken” (27). When the foe from far off Japan came attacking our base at Pearl Harbor, as a result of the long exhausting journey, no one was exhausted; none faltered, none was sleepy in his intense desire for battle. Everything was in order, including such minor details as belts and shoe laces.
Their weaponry and mobility. “As to which their arrows are sharp (things) and all their bows bent; the hoofs of their horses are reckoned like the flint, and their wheels like the whirlwind” (v. 28). They had, for their day, the latest in the most advanced guided missiles, chariots (tanks) and cavalry; and all in constant readiness. Our armed forces have “arrows” which can fly 2,300 miles unerringly to target. Our enemies are trying to bluff us into blunting the sharpness of these arrows of ours so that they will fly no farther than 372 miles. Of course, then they would fall far short of the enemy. This is to insult us as stupid enough to come out with “bows” that will only allow the “arrows” to fall back on our own heads! Buttheir arrows are all sharpened to wound deeply; alltheir bows are bent; all their arrows are ready to fly at a moment’s notice. It is their philosophy to be soon in action. Their mechanized cavalry has for the last 25 years been modernized and outfitted for service. Their forces are as hard as flint. They have wheels (surely. on their jets) which move through the air well beyond the speed of sound. There are far enemy nations, neither slumbering nor sleeping, with evil intent to destroy us. Yet there is also coming an Armageddon for all Antichrist and Gog and Magog nations.
Their terrorism. “His roaring (is) like the lion, and a roaring like the young lions, and shall roar and seize prey and place (it) in safety, with (and) none to rescue (it)” (29). Having described the enemy, what he, is like, what he has, now he tells what he will do—terrify all about him. First, there is the low sinister growl of the enemy, then the rumble of the army on the move, finally the roar of the battle. The prey taken off with none to rescue it is Judah. God, of course, can deliver; but will He? The answer is, No. Judah is to be punished, and the theocracy is to be destroyed. The enemy is to have its way until the sovereign purposes of God through it are realized. “They who would not hear the voice of God speaking to them by His prophets, but stopped their ears . . . shall be made to hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them” (M. Henry).
Their irresistibility. “and they will roar over it in that day like the roaring of the sea, and look to the land, and, behold, darkness, distress; even the light in her skies shall become dark” (30). The figure changes from the roar of the lion to the roaring of the sea. These forces are irresistible. The ship of Judah is wrecked in midnight gloom. The Jews will look to the waves of sea to cover them from the wrathful eye of the divine Judge. They will look to the land for caves and rocks to hide themselves, but will not find them; nor will they find any hiding in the darkness. From world-darkness they go to eternal darkness. But the prudent foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself—in the cleft of the rock of Calvary.