16 The LORD says,
“The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
tripping along with mincing steps,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles.
17 Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion;
the LORD will make their scalps bald.”
18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, 19 the earrings and bracelets and veils, 20 the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms,21 the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses 23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.
24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench;
instead of a sash, a rope;
instead of well-dressed hair, baldness;
instead of fine clothing, sackcloth;
instead of beauty, branding.
25 Your men will fall by the sword,
your warriors in battle.
26 The gates of Zion will lament and mourn;
destitute, she will sit on the ground.
This passage can be a little intimidating for us when we read it, because God’s punishment is so harsh, and so tit-for-tat. We can get mired in thinking fearfully about God and what he will do to us if we are bad people, and so forth. We also get into a judgmental frame of mind, judging the people of Israel, or in this case, the women of Zion. And I think that is an honest response to reading a passage about judgment, which we will do often in Isaiah.
So let me try to re-contextualize this passage for us. Isaiah is listing all of these accessories and baubles that the women of Zion are wearing – they do so haughtily and pridefully, trying to gain attention for themselves, and this is of course is not godly behavior, trying to make ourselves MORE of something: more beautiful, more attractive, more powerful.
But there is a different way to understand this behavior, that they were trying to be LESS of something: less unattractive, less timid, less powerless. You see, part of the reason why we gather up all of these little idols is not just to puff ourselves up…but to compensate for our weaknesses and fears, all of the things that they lack.
And this casts the issue in a different light, doesn’t it? We gather up all these useless things because we feel a little less frail and timid and powerless when we cling to our spiritual safety blankets, whether they be baubles or careers or other people. So the women of Zion (and we) are worthy of both judgment, and compassion…
The answer to this is the two-fold realization that these baubles don’t add any real value to our lives, and that God bestows a beauty and value that these trinkets never could. That is the essence and definition of “agape” love, that it is an unconditional love that bestows value upon something. God doesn’t love us because we are beautiful – God loves us, and that makes us beautiful.
1. What are your safety blankets, the things you use to compensate for your fears or weaknesses in life?
2. Have you ever had an experience where one of those safety blankets was proven to be useless?
3. What is the difference between being loved because you are valuable, and being loved and becoming valuable? How does affect your understanding of God’s love for you?