Isaiah continues his judgment of the people. “In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, ‘We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace” To be unmarried and childless was the ultimate symbol of rejection and worthlessness. So many men will have fallen in battle that hordes of women will be scrambling for the few survivors, and the scene will be one of pathetic disgrace. But in the day of Israel’s demise, when she is deposed from her own throne, and when all of her pomposity and upturned values are shown for the emptiness and godlessness that they are. And even though the godly will be caught up in the judgment and the punishments, the faithful eventually will come into their own. Their ship will come in, so to speak, and they will be round as the condition of their souls: beautiful and glorious. The land will once again flow with mild and honey and will be a sign of God’s blessing and presence with them.
Verse 3: “Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.” This, again, is a symbolic generalization. It doesn’t mean absolutely everybody. The point is that everyone will not be judged, and the righteous will not be swept away with the wicked, as Abraham wonders in Genesis 18. God in his mercy will spare some faithful people to repopulate the land. It’s the same story as the flood in Genesis 6-9.
Verse 4: “The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.” His judgment is not just to punish, but also to rehabilitate. The object is not to destroy, but to build. This is the same point he made in chapter 1. Yes he judges, but his judgment isn’t vindictive; it’s supposed to be rehabilitative.
“And a spirit of fire.” Fire is both an element of judgment as well as of refining, consistent with the point here. Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt. 3.11 = Lk. 3.16), and our faith will be refined by fire (Zech. 13.9; Mal. 3.2; 1 Pet. 1.7). It is the “good” pain—the suffering that accomplishes the greater good and is actually of benefit.
Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.” These are images of a kind of heaven on earth. The people will live in the Holy City of God. Food will be abundant; sin will be no more. God’s presence, guidance, and protection will bless them and keep them. “There will be no more tears or sadness,” for the Lord will be their joy.