…he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Isa 4:4b
You know, by the time Isaiah came around, it was clear that the people of God had a problem. They kept messing up. Over and over again, through the flood, the Exodus, and living under judges and kings, they fell into serious sin.
So that is why this little verse in Chapter 4 of Isaiah is significant. Let me break it down, as best I can.
First, it talks about bloodstains. What are they? I believe the bloodstains represent guilt. The Israelites are guilty of hurting the needy, instead of helping them. “Righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers . . . They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. (Is 1:21b, 23b) They are guilty of defying the Lord. “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.” (Isa 1:2)
Next, what is the spirit of judgment? We certainly know that God exercised judgment all through the Old Testament. He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness. He flooded the earth in the days of Noah because every inclination of man’s heart was evil. (Genesis 6:5) Joshua’s acquisition of Canaan was God’s judgment on those nations. (Genesis 15:16) And much more.
And then, what is the spirit of fire? When we investigate the Old Testament, we see that God used fire to execute his judgment, most famously, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Genesis 19:24)
And God uses the imagery of fire in this passage in Deuteronomy to describe what will happen when people go against him: “The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur–nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger. All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt.” (Deut 29:23-25)
So we see that God has a fiery wrath against those who show blatant disrespect to him.
And as we read Isaiah, we see that this fiery wrath was to be poured out on the Jewish people once more as a consequence for their guilt. A complete reading of the Bible tells us how this was fulfilled as they were destroyed by foreign armies.
The application for us today is that we should be a part of this cycle. We are also guilty of sin and, thus, the targets of the Lord’s wrath. “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” Eph 2:3
And we don’t think of it this way, but Jesus actually came to bring this wrath. He said in Luke 12:49, “I have come to bring fire on the earth,” referring to was the time when he would return, and all mankind would be judged. “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.” (Luke 12:40, 47)
But, of course, Jesus also came to be our savior. What’s so cool about Isaiah 4 is that it predicts the time that the cycle of wrath and punishment would be broken. God would “cleanse” the bloodstains. And although on one level, this can be applied to the war that purged the land of the sinful Israelites, it also is a prophesy of Christ and his work of salvation.
This verse sums it all up: “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? . . . Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (I Cor 6:9, 11)
We were set to go to hell, but Jesus made a way for our sins to be washed away.
And the most mind-blowing, encouraging thing is that the wrath is now directed to Satan. “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” (John 12:31)
And the consequence is that Satan loses his control of us. Jesus told Paul, “I am sending you to (the Gentiles), to turn them from the power of Satan to God.”
He loses control of the world. “Then the end will come, when (Jesus) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” ( Cor 15:24)
He is condemned. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev 20:10)
We are free! Free of the cycle of sin and punishment. Free of the bloodstains of guilt. Free of the power of Satan over us.
And God wants the knowledge of this to give us incredible strength to persevere and serve him wholeheartedly. I Corinthians has a monumentally heartening conclusion: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Cor 15:57-58)
To those under the old law, at times, it must have seemed like their efforts were in vain.
But our efforts are not in vain!
And when we get caught up in feelings of defeat, and wondering how the things that need fixing will ever improve, we need to remember that we can live victoriously!! We have God on our side, and Christ still working on our behalf.
Good will prevail.
Let’s live all out for God today.