In a day when the iniquity of the world’s inhabitants has reached surfeit and God is preaching his own sermons by pouring out his judgments without measure, do we really believe that turning to the arm of flesh for a solution will remedy things and not indict us even more? So predicts Isaiah in the context of Ephraim’s leaders making a Covenant with Death. The overflowing “scourge” they seek to escape by reaching “an understanding with Sheol”—with what God has destined to pass away—overtakes them in the end (Isaiah 28:14–22).
It is inconsistent with the avalanche of disasters sweeping the planet—floods, droughts, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, scourges, plagues, wars, invasions, genocide, bankruptcies, expulsions, evictions, rising prices, scarcities, etc.—to believe that these aren’t a consequence of humanity’s wickedness such as violence, murders, infanticide, slavery, injustice, pornography, sexual deviance, pedophilia, satanic cults, idolatry, etc. and to assume that these calamities will soon go away and everything will again return to normal.
The theme of relying on human counsel and schemes for deliverance from disasters in Isaiah 28–31—as epitomized by a Covenant with Death—is offset in Isaiah 55–59 by a Covenant of Life within Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure. Whereas the earlier chapters depict God’s people’s turning away from him with their hearts to a façade of worship, the later chapters promise his restored blessings as vested in his servant David. He prepares the way among God’s end-time people for Jehovah’s coming in glory (Isaiah 55:3–13; 59:19–20).
God threatens his people’s leaders in “Jerusalem”—a codename for their headquarters in Isaiah’s end-time scenario—with “utter destruction upon the whole earth.” This follows the historical pattern of God’s people’s falling away acting as the catalyst for world-conquering military powers from the North invading their Promised Lands. Although as a “stone” or seer, God’s servant restores divine revelation, the people’s leaders’ not receiving revelation is exacerbated when they “scoff” at it and their ‘bands” tighten (Isaiah 28:16, 22).
What should the humble followers of Christ do who participate in this paradoxical situation as they seek to reconcile it with what they have been taught to believe? Although the “marring” or disfiguring of God’s servant by those who oppose him requires Jesus’ miracle of healing (Isaiah 52:14; 57:18–19; 3 Nephi 21:10), his handling similarly applies to his fellow-servants. While for a time “their shame is twofold” as they are persecuted for their righteousness, God more than compensates them in the end (Isaiah 61:7; 65:13–14; 66:5).
Their spiritual descent phase into ostracism and humiliation by their brethren is the very thing that propels them toward their ascent phase on a higher spiritual level. But this can occur only by God’s allowing evil to run its course and his then taking remedial measures to offset the evil by empowering his holy ones above it. Growing into spiritual kings and queens as they take on the task of restoring the house of Israel, they stay the course with Christ as their Savior, remaining loyal to him and to the church which he founded on the earth.