In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. – Isaiah 4:2-6
The days being described here are not good for Jerusalem or the Israelites. It sounds like the city has been sacked and many of Israel’s men have been killed. Those that remain are mainly women. In fact in the preceding verses there is said to be seven women for every man. God will wash the women clean of their filth. Israel was due for a pruning.
The sacking appears to be a judgement or consequence of the rebellion of the Israelites – a severe pruning if you will. I am a part-time gardener and very unskilled pruner. Even an unskilled pruner knows pruning is done to promote new growth by cutting out diseased or dying parts of the plant. The process seems rather gruesome if you think about it. We are basically dismembering the plant in order to encourage it to produce new growth and fruit.
God is doing that with the nation of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular. They are undergoing severe pruning, presumably to encourage new growth. The new buds and shoots that develop on a plant after pruning are vigorous and lush, but they are also tender and weak. If a storm were to hit the plant just after pruning it could kill that plant. God’s intention is not to “kill” Jerusalem or the nation of Israel. So he builds a “canopy” to protect Zion until it can regrow and become strong again. He protects it from the storms and rain that are swirling around it.
Severe pruning is something that the Israelites needed in order to grow into a healthy nation that bears fruit. Sometimes the modern church requires severe pruning to remove dead and diseased parts. The trick is to not be one of these parts of the Church. How does one ensure that they are not prone to pruning? I think the best way is to remain vibrant and growing – act like a bud. Always be seeking God and trying to find ways to grow as a follower of Christ — grow toward the Son. Do not be afraid to grow in new directions that may even be scary or uncomfortable.
Prayer: God help us to grow in ways that build a strong and vibrant community of God seekers.