She’s an assertive, self-assured woman, and she’s perfected the subtle art of attracting men. She knows how to flirt with her eyes, seductively tilt her head, and position her body in a provocative way. She’s a classy dresser who chooses her wardrobe carefully – curve-hugging clothes that reveal just the right amount of skin. Tempting, but not distasteful. High heels are a must. Especially with those tight designer jeans.
Her closet needs constant replenishment. Clothes, jackets, shoes, jewelry, accessories, handbags. And she doesn’t neglect her beauty regime. Make-up, manicured nails, styled & highlighted hair, tanned skin, whitened teeth… creams, lotions, perfumes. Magazines keep her up to date with the latest advice on interacting with men. She’s become an expert at playful banter and innuendo. She goes to church and Bible Study, but her commitment to God is superficial.Â Her deepest desire is to be sexy, powerful, and alluring.
Who is this woman? You might be surprised to learn that the description (with a few minor fashion updates) comes from the pages of Isaiah.Â And it may surprise you even more to learn that her behavior was so reprehensible to God, that he punished her and her like-minded girlfriends:
The Lord said: “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty… Empty, she shall sit on the ground.”Â Isaiah 3:16-24,26 (ESV)
The women living in Jerusalem were pre-occupied with personal appearance and were immodest and flirtatious. They had little concern for God’s law or for their holy mission in life. According to the prophet Isaiah, this attitude and behavior was very sinful and offensive.
The prophet warned that the women’s self-centered, attention-seeking sexuality would lead to disaster. Because they had neglected the most important aspect of womanhood – the beauty of a holy heart – God would strip them of everything else they had relied on for self-identity. He would take away their finery, “lay bare their secret parts,” and let them experience “branding instead of beauty.”
The women didn’t repent.Â So as predicted, the Assyrians and Babylonians invaded and decimated Jerusalem. The women lost everything they had relied on for beauty and self-identity. “Empty, they sat on the ground.”
Wow. I don’t know about you, but for me this story is a reality check. There’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to look beautiful. God created beauty. He delights in it. But the problem arises when we only pay attention to our external beauty, and neglect what’s on the inside. And, when we use our beauty to seductively attract men, rather than honor and glorify God, the lover and redeemer of our souls. The question I need to wrestle with is this:Â If my finery were taken away, and the hidden, inner parts of my heart exposed, would I look more or less beautiful? How much beauty is in my heart? Would I be “empty” like those women in Jerusalem, or would my inner beauty spill over and shine more attractively than my outer beauty did?
Â© Mary A. Kassian
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