The Expository Files


 Leaders Condemned

 Isaiah 56:9-12

Writing a summary of this section of Isaiah, Mark Copeland has said:

We come to the last section of the book of Isaiah (chapters 54-66). It contains more words of comfort designed especially for the Babylonian captives who would experience God’s judgment foretold in the first half of the book. The focus is mostly on The Future Glory For God’s People, yet also with a reminder that their present shame (captivity) was due to their own wickedness.

The future splendor of Zion is the theme of 54:1-56:8. Though barren in her present condition of captivity, the Lord promises to show mercy and a covenant of peace to the faithful remnant. An invitation is given to all who thirst, and people are encouraged to seek the Lord while He may be found if they desire joy and peace. Participation in the future glory of Zion is offered also to righteous Gentiles, who will be given a place in the house of God and in His holy mountain. This future glory of Zion pertains to the age of Messiah, inaugurated with the first coming of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel beginning in Jerusalem (cf. Lk 24:44-47; He 12:22-24).

The captives in Babylon are then reminded of the conditions that led to her downfall, and the contrition that will lead to her restoration (56:9-59:21). Her watchmen (i.e., religious leaders) had failed in their duties, and the death of the righteous became a blessing because it removed them from such evil.

Their idolatry had profited them nothing, and cost them everything. Yet those who were humble and contrite would experience God’s mercy if they would cast away hypocritical formalism and return to true religion. Rebuking them for their sins, Isaiah then joins with them in confessing their sins. In response, the Lord promises salvation through a Redeemer who will come to Zion and to those who turn from their transgression. Again, this is looking forward not just to their restoration from Babylonian captivity, but also to the coming of Jesus Christ who would bring full redemption through His blood (cf. Ro 11:26-27).

Look now in this section at chapter 59, and consider the prophet’s exposure of the corrupt religious leaders, given in these very specific indictments:

Blind Leaders: “…watchmen are blind.” You cannot watch if you are not paying attention. You cannot see danger coming and issue urgent warnings if you are blind.

Ignorant Leaders: “…they all lack knowledge.” You cannot lead without knowledge. Knowledge of how people should be living is essential for leaders and teachers.. Teachers cannot teach what they do not know.

Silent Leaders: “…they are all mute dogs…” Warnings cannot be issued to people when the watchmen are in “mute mode.”

Lazy Leaders: “…they lie around and dream, they love to sleep…” Good spiritual leadership requires diligent activity. You cannot lead people to good activity while you are inactive!

Covetous Leaders
: “…dogs with mighty appetites, they never have enough.” This is the sin of covetousness that corrupts leaders.

Selfish Leaders:
“…each seeks his own gain…” Contrary to the humble, selfless spirit of Christ, some leaders have their own overriding purposes in view.

Intoxicated Leaders: “…let us drink our fill of beer…” What an interesting and relevant statement of disqualification for leadership. The ability to drink your fill of beer is connected to blindness, ignorance, laziness, covetousness and selfishness.

The qualifications for good spiritual leaders can be found in all the opposites of these: Faithful watchmen, knowledgeable students, speakers of truth, active men who are unselfish and sober.

Or, read this:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

(1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 18.8; August 2011