The judgment of the world (24: 1-13)
Isaiah here says "Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants " (v.1). When he says "behold," Isaiah always refers to something even future for him, and this prophecy has not been fulfilled as it is perceived in all its details.
At that time the judgments of God seem to start in the land of Israel, but spread to include the entire earth and even the evil beings in heaven. "The earth" can also be translated as "the land" and the reference to "priest" in verse 2 suggests that the land of Israel is meant in the first three verses. Notice how the text alternates the land and the people . Destruction is cataclysmic and affects all classes of the population.
The universality of the coming of these trials is described in verse 2: people, priest, servant and servant, lord and lady, buyer and seller, lender, borrower, usurer and his victim. All the land will be emptied and looted, "for the Lord has spoken this word " (v.3). The Lord will make this judgment and at the end of it the whole earth will be empty, desolate, its surface distorted (turned upside down, perhaps by its poles?), and its residents scattered.
This future event is a trial of all peoples of the earth, commonly known as "The Great Tribulation", when God will pour out His wrath on the rebellious inhabitants of the earth (then only the " children of disobedience ", because those who were saved by faith in Jesus Christ will have been raptured so as not to suffer with them, as in Ephesians 5: 6, Colossians 3: 6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5: 9).
The mention of "world" in verse 4 suggests the increase of the theatre of judgment. The cause of global contamination is that humanity "has transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant" (v.5). What covenant is this?
Some suggest that it is "the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth" (Genesis 9:16), the so - called "covenant of Noah," but this was an unconditional promise of God to all beings living on earth.
Others think it is the Mosaic law, but it was given specifically to Israel as part of the eternal covenant made by God with this people physically descending from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their patriarchs (this was never extended to the Gentiles who are saved by faith in Christ).
The pact seems simply to be a tacit natural agreement between God and His creation: God's blessings in exchange for submission to His will, and the curse as punishment for rebellion. It is evidence of the wonderful condescension of God who takes pleasure in dealing with men in the form of an agreement, to do them good and so encourage them to provide service to Him. Even those who have not benefited from God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants, enjoyed the promise of His covenant with Noah and this everlasting covenant.
The rest of humanity during the "great tribulation" will have transgressed His laws, found in the Scriptures, changed His statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. But the pride of men will be consumed and their joy extinguished from the earth because they will lose everything which gave them pride, and with which they magnified themselves.
The sources of joy and gladness of that godless humanity, guilty of transgressions, are described in the remaining verses 6-12:
This too reminds us of the cities devastated by gangs of criminals, revolutionary armies, and terrorist enemies in some parts of the world today. The characteristics are the same.
1 Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste, Distorts its surface And scatters abroad its inhabitants.
2 And it shall be: As with the people, so with the priest; As with the servant, so with his master; As with the maid, so with her mistress; As with the buyer, so with the seller; As with the lender, so with the borrower; As with the creditor, so with the debtor.
3 The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, For the LORD has spoken this word.
4 The earth mourns and fades away, The world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish.
5 The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, And those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, And few men are left.
7 The new wine fails, the vine languishes, All the merry-hearted sigh.
8 The mirth of the tambourine ceases, The noise of the jubilant ends, The joy of the harp ceases.
9 They shall not drink wine with a song; Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
10 The city of confusion is broken down; Every house is shut up, so that none may go in.
11 There is a cry for wine in the streets, All joy is darkened, The mirth of the land is gone.
12 In the city desolation is left, And the gate is stricken with destruction.
Isa 24:13 When it shall be thus in the midst of the land among the people, It shall be like the shaking of an olive tree, Like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done.
Isaiah chapter 24, verses 1 to 13