Here and in the next two verses we see that God doesn’t have to so much punish the people; He just withholds his blessings that have come to be taken for granted. We think things like water and sunshine, as well as crops, health, and laughter are all just a natural part of life. We think that we are safe because of our police and military and government. Little do we know—and, oh, how we take for granted—that such things are a gift from God. All he has to do is turn his back and the sun goes in (the crucifixion, for example), we are vulnerable to invasion, our health goes, and life turns to sadness. God is the giver of good gifts, and we need to praise him and show some gratitude for what we consider to be the common goodness of natural life.
V. 2: Yes, God is withdrawing his hand of blessing from them, but look what they are losing: the hero and the warrior. Their national heroes—people they look up to and respect. People who give them a sense of confidence and self-esteem. People who give them a sense of security. When these people are lost, they will sink into fear and cowardliness.
They are losing the judge and the prophet—people who keep society honest and true. They make fair judgments between disputes, and call people to morality and godliness. When these people are lost, they will sink into selfish violence, grabbing, and hoarding. The powerful will abuse their money and office and the poor will be oppressed with no one to mediate for them. Truth will vanish and it will become a society of abusive power.
They are losing the diviner and the elder—people who guide the culture with wisdom and continuity so they can make good decisions about land and finances, about families and jobs. When these people are lost, they will become foolish and create a mess with their stupid decisions.
V. 3: Look who they are losing—people who are qualified leaders. When your leadership walks away, the people are like sheep without a shepherd. Each one does what is right in his own eyes. There is no vision, no direction, and no coordination. When these people are lost, they will sink into confusion.
They are losing the counselor—people who help others through times of difficulty; people who help iron out marriages, parenting, child-rearing, divorce, depression, misdirection. When these people are lost, hurting and misguided people have nowhere to turn, and they continue in their problems.
They are losing skilled craftsmen—people who bring art and culture to a community. Art is a powerful instrument to change the world, shaping culture in intelligent ways. It can make you rethink certain things, and see things in a different way. It can break your conventions. When these people are lost, our sense of beauty deteriorates and life holds nothing but functionality. The world ceases to be shaped by the inspiration and pain of these “prophets”.
v. 4: When the leaders, prophets, craftsmen, heroes, counselors, judges, and elders walk away, who is left to lead the country? The teens. They at least have assertiveness, vision, dreams for a better future, and energy. But they have little wisdom and experience, and they have not lived long enough to have learned from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. In their passion but inexperience they lead, but not necessarily in the wisest direction.
The point here is that in lieu of qualified leadership, they will be led by inexperienced risk-takers. Isaiah is not claiming that youth create problems; his point is that those with wisdom gained through experience will not be in the seats of power.
The result of God withdrawing his grace and protective hand will be oppression, chaos, self-centeredness, abuse, injustice, and a reversal of values. The human heart, which is desperately wicked, without the restraints of government, justice, law, and religion, will go the way of the Lord of the Flies and rule by power, characterized by injustice. So will go God’s once glorious people, sinking into the mire of corruption and despair.
All that is left is confusion, ignorance, fear, and blame. And it could have been so different if they had only OBEYED.