1 Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate,
and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the slave, 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 earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;
for the Lord has spoken this word.
4 The earth mourns and withers;
the world languishes and withers;
the highest people of the earth languish.
5 The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.
7 The wine mourns,
the vine languishes,
all the merry-hearted sigh.
8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled,
the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
the mirth of the lyre is stilled.
9 No more do they drink wine with singing;
strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
10 The wasted city is broken down;
every house is shut up so that none can enter.
11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has grown dark;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
12 Desolation is left in the city;
the gates are battered into ruins.
13 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth
among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done. – Isaiah 24:1-13 ESV
There are those who read a passage like Isaiah 24 and refuse to take its content literally. Its clear predictions of a day of coming destruction upon the entire earth are too difficult to accept so, they end up spiritualizing the message. Rather than taking the passage literally, they prefer to see it figuratively and interpret its message to be that of a time of spiritual decline on the earth. But in doing so, they rob the passage of its intended meaning and fail to recognize the extent of God’s anger against sin and the devastating influence it has had on His creation.
God has delivered a series of oracles against the nations. Now, He turns His attention to the earth itself. It too has become corrupted because of the fall. Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, telling them that God’s creation was longing for the day when it will be renewed and set free from the death and decay that mars it.
Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. – Romans 8:20-22 NLT
The earth has been corrupted by man’s sin. The entire universe created by God was impacted by man’s choice to rebel against the Creator’s commands. Adam and Eve listened to the lies of Satan and chose to disobey the will of God. And their decision had long-lasting implications.
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:17-19 NLT
From that day, the earth and its inhabitants would experience the consequences of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God. Their sin, like a disease, spread to their descendants. It infected the future generations. And, rather than enjoying unbroken fellowship with God in the pristine atmosphere of the Garden, man was cast out of God’s presence, and doomed to live in a world that would no longer willingly submit to man’s dominion.
Before Adam and Eve decided to disobey God, they were given a clear mandate from God.
“Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. – Genesis 1:28-30 NLT
But, because of sin, things changed – dramatically. Death entered the scene. Chaos replaced the peace of the Garden. The creatures of the earth developed an innate fear of man and an animosity toward one another. Rather than enjoying the peaceful existence the marked the Garden, animals began to devour one another. No longer satisfied with vegetation as its food source, the animal kingdom developed a taste for blood.
The signs of sin’s impact on the world are clear: Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, famines, fires, droughts, tornados, and hurricanes. These are the groanings mentioned by Paul in his letter to the believers in Rome. The world in damaged. It is not as God originally created it. In Genesis 1, after God had finished His work of creating the world, we read:
God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31 ESV
But that is no longer the case. It is not good. It is flawed and marred because of the presence of sin. But the Isaiah passage clearly states that the day is coming when God will rectify the problem. But to do so, He will have to destroy what has been damaged. He will not simply put a bandaid on it. God will not renovate His broken world, He will recreate it. And the book of Isaiah warns of a day when God will destroy all that has been damaged by sin.
Look! The Lord is about to destroy the earth
and make it a vast wasteland. – Isaiah 24:1 NLT
The earth will be completely emptied and looted.
The Lord has spoken! – Isaiah 24:3 NLT
And Isaiah makes it clear why this will happen.
The earth suffers for the sins of its people,
for they have twisted God’s instructions,
violated his laws,
and broken his everlasting covenant. – Isaiah 24:5 NLT
We are responsible. Only man was created in God’s image, and our unique status as stewards of His creation makes us responsible for the sorry state of the world. And Isaiah pulls no punches when he reveals that, because our disobedience, “a curse consumes the earth” (Isaiah 24:6 NLT).
But long before God destroys the earth to recreate it, He will bring judgment upon the world. And He will use the earth to enact His judgment upon sinful mankind.
Its people must pay the price for their sin.
They are destroyed by fire,
and only a few are left alive.
The grapevines waste away,
and there is no new wine.
All the merrymakers sigh and mourn. – Isaiah 24:6-7 NLT
The grapevines will dry up and no longer yield their fruit. And this single act of God’s judgment will have devastating implications.
Gone are the joys of wine and song;
alcoholic drink turns bitter in the mouth. – Isaiah 24:9 NLT
There will be no wine for use in celebrations. And the lack of wine will result in people hoarding it in their homes, causing others to break in and steal it. Wine, once associated with joy and gladness, will become hard to come by and, its unavailability will cast a dark cloud over the earth.
Joy has turned to gloom.
Gladness has been banished from the land. – Isaiah 24:11 NLT
At this very moment in time, things are not as they should be. The creative order is marred by sin. We live in a world dominated by chaos and confusion. But Isaiah warns that it is going to get worse, not better. While the people of Judah were hoping for better days, the prophet was letting them know that, apart from repentance on their part, nothing was going to improve the fallen condition of the world.
This passage lets us know that sin is far worse than most of us want to admit. Its impact is devastating, and God’s hatred of it is strong. A little less sin is not the solution God is looking for. Slightly improved behavior on the part of mankind is not going to fix the problem. Just as sinful man must be regenerated and renewed by God, so must the world be, and it will be.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:9-13 ESV
And in the final book of the Bible, the apostle John shares the vision he received that reveals the final consummation of all things.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:1-5 ESV
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.