13 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might.
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
16 he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.
In the first few verses of Isaiah 33, the prophet is praying for the demise of Assyria, the godless aggressor in the region. This is a prayer of patience and trust. God will allow evil to prevail for a season but, in the end, God will judge evil for what it is and destroy evil for what it is. The "what it is" of evil is that it is an affront to the character of God. So went Assyria. So went Babylon. So went Persia. And on and on throughout history, where the season of evil is vanquished into the pages of history books and classroom lectures. Yet, what remains throughout it all, is the righteousness of God. And yet, what will remain until God determines otherwise, is the evil of man sprouting again and elsewhere as if a weed in the garden. However, when God decides to arise, evil is destroyed [Isaiah 33:10-12]. There is great security in righteousness.
In the verses under consideration today, God draws a bright line between His holiness and man's wretchedness. This is a line between light and darkness. If God allows rational reflection in the mind of man, the thoughts of man always lead to the realization that the holiness of God is a "consuming fire." [Isaiah 33:14 -- The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"] This is why God instructs that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
God, knowing man's character, still prevails upon man to live a holy life. That is, as we realize our insignificance in our sinful state, He makes us significant as He transforms us into our righteous state - the new man [or woman] released from the shackles of sin's bondage. This righteous transformation, at least the evidence of such a transformation, is detailed in verse 15 [Isaiah 33:15 -- "He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, . . ."]
That is, the holy man has a righteous walk. This involves knowing God's word and living out God's word as the world observes our journey undertaken. That is, the holy man is known for total truthfulness. I was involved in about 70 hearings before a federal judge yesterday. Another attorney requested to approach the bench to inform the court that he had given the court the wrong name of a representative of the Internal Revenue Service about 10 hearings previously. The mistake was insignificant to the case and the clarification was not a common occurrence, but the attorney did not want any inaccurate statement attributed to him on the record. This is for what we are to strive, as we approach God on that day and our record is revealed for all eternity. Truth is never insignificant or a bargained commodity. That is, the holy man handles his financial affairs as a precious commodity, as if God will require an accounting at the end of the day. That is, the holy man will possess inward integrity. This involves a constant battle of being in the world but not of the world. I previously equated evil with a weed in the garden, and that weed most resembles poison ivy that is constantly spreading and infecting.
At the end of the day, the holy man is made worthy to dwell with God. This worthiness is found in the truly righteous man -- Jesus Christ. His worthiness imputed to us brings a promise -- "he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure."