The Shelter of the Most High

Isaiah 4:2-6
The Branch of the Lord

2 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. 3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 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. 5 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 all the glory will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. Main point
Refuge in God
Slums and shanty towns sometimes have to be cleared completely to get rid of the rotten, rat- and lice-infested buildings and materials, and to prevent recurrence of disease. In the same way, God would use fire as a means of cleansing and purifying (v 4).

In these verses, Isaiah interrupts his terrifying message of judgement from God to bring words of hope. Those who survive the fiery judgement will live peaceful and prosperous lives. God’s protection will be over them at all times.

We too have a refuge in God through his Son, Jesus. His hand of protection is over us, whether we are in difficult situations at work, college, home or in relationships.

However, his protection does not mean our lives will be devoid of all hardship. Work still has to be done (v 2), and our pleasures and recreation are likely to be simple and homespun, avoiding the traps of wealth, ostentation and conceit.

We found out that the Lord is fearsome, marvellous and glorious in Isaiah 2:19, but we see today that he is merciful, loving and protective. Our praise and worship should reflect our heartfelt thanks.

Here Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of restoration. What does he tell us about the role of God in this? Refiner’s fire
Tranquil haven
Here in chapter 4 is a vision of promised tranquillity, suspended between the threatening predictions about the judgement that is to come in chapters 3 and 5. Here is a promise that there is still hope for those who escape the ‘hot breath of fiery judgement’ (v 4, NLT).

Those who are left

Isaiah shows us a picture of the heavenly Jerusalem , future home to those whose names are written in the book of life (v 3b; see also Philippians 4:3). They are the ‘righteous’ who were not condemned along with those who ‘have brought disaster upon the mselves’ (Isaiah 3:11).

Isaiah speaks of the ‘survivors’ (v 2b), of ‘those who are left in Zion ’ (v 3a). These are God’s servants who have come through many trials and who allow the mselves to be cleansed by God’s ‘consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:29).


God’s fire cleanses and protects us. The protective canopy of fire and smoke he provides for his holy city (vs 5,6) recalls how he led his people in the wilderness (see Exodus 13:21).

Despite his people’s rebellion, despite the fact that the y have broken his holy law, God loves his people – this ‘glorious land’ (v 5b, NLT) – passionately.

Who does he think he is?Who do you think you are?
For a long while we didn’t pay much attention to genealogy. Now, the re is a surge of interest. Single mo the rs must now name the fa the r of the ir baby on the birth certificate. That will certainly help with filling in family trees!

Jesus’ family tree

One would imagine that Jesus had a perfect human family. But it’s not so. Among ancestors listed in Matthew 1:1–16 are Tamar, Rahab and Ruth, and, by implication, David’s wife Bathsheba. Jesus’ lineage includes stories of incest, prostitution, a foreign alliance, adultery and an unexpected teenage pregnancy.

Yet this is also the story of the Messiah – the ‘Branch of Jesse’ we hear about in Christmas readings (see Isaiah 11:1,2). Jesus’ family tree – the Tree of Jesse – is shown in stained glass windows sprouting from the recumbent figure of his ancestor Jesse, father of King David.

Jesus the Messiah
The birth of the Messiah had been foretold for generations: ‘“The days are coming”, declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch”’ (Jeremiah 23:5, see also 33:14 and 2 Samuel 7:12,13). Micah’s prophecy is quoted to Herod in answer to his query as to where the Messiah would be born: ‘… for out of you [ Bethlehem ] will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel ’ (Mat the w 2:6, quoting Micah 5:2).

Our Messiah

Jesus, the perfect one, both man and God, understands family baggage. It was the much-married Samaritan woman who said: ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming.’ Jesus said to her: ‘I, the one speaking to you – I am he’ (John 4:25,26).

In the shadow.‘… 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 4:5,6).

Imagine a canopy above you right now. Maybe you are picturing a kind of parasol. Or perhaps it’s more like a sheet suspended over you. You can design the canopy however you wish. The more vivid, the better.

God has given us this picture to teach us about his love and care for us:

It is God sheltering you, when situations get too hot to handle, when tempers get heated, when the pressure is on, when problems rain down on you, when relationships get stormy…

So let’s use it.

Go on a journey in your imagination to some of the different places you expect to be in the next few days. Notice who and what is around you. Then in each situation see that the canopy of God is over you. Think what difference this makes.

After a while, just hold these words in God’s presence:

protection shelter shade hiding place

End your prayer by repeating these words a few times:

‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty’ (Psalm 91:1).


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