As the entering of Canaan occurred and God’s promise was being fulfilled, the people of Israel were crossing over from reproach to respect in Joshua 5:1-9. Their enemies had held them in bondage, and they wandered for forty years. Now, however, all things were changing for them. Their enemies respected them when they saw the work of the Lord. Since the respect was not enough for them to repent, it led to their destruction and complete freedom for God’s people.
We all experience times of reproach. People do not understand us; they oppress us. We must remember, though, that we do not fight against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-18). The spirit of reproach is indeed a spirit—a demonic spirit. We are held back from what God has planned. Our lives may seem purposeless and fruitless. Isaiah 54 outlines this spirit of reproach and the promise of deliverance from it for those whose trust is in the Lord. First, it must be recognized that God’s people can allow the spirit of reproach in their lives. Just as the Israelite wandering began with apathy and disobedience, so the spirit of reproach in our lives today does not begin with how other people hurt us but how we respond to that hurt. If we recognize the spiritual source of the battle, fight against the demonic, and forgive repentant people (or trust in God for justice towards unrepentant people without attempting to make one’s own justice or holding a grudge), we retain our spiritual freedom and gain by God’s Holy Spirit the ability to endure and overcome the hardships of the physical realm. If we allow discouragement to take root, however, we have given in to the spirit of reproach. We become controlled, defined, and confined by what others say and think of us.
This control of the spirit of reproach is represented by barrenness in Isaiah 54. We become unable to produce anything worthwhile in our lives. However, in these Isaiah verses, a promise is given that the fruit born after a believer crosses over from the dominion of reproach will be greater than even that of those who consistently bore fruit without the interruption of reproach.
When influenced by this spirit of reproach, it is the responsibility of the believer to exercise the authority of the Holy Spirit, believing the promise, expecting new purpose and expanded authority as in Isaiah 54:2-3. The spirit of reproach may have kept us bound in fear, so that fear must be replaced by an intimacy with God, trading that fear for faith, yielding a greater intimacy with God and a deeper, fuller lifestyle within the power of his grace (Isaiah 54:4-11). Security is then available in God, which yields his power and the subsequent respect of people, as was the result with Israel’s enemies when they saw the power of God against them (Isaiah 54:14-17). The spiritual enemies that have been given room to effect our lives can no longer keep their authority when we cross over from reproach to respect, because they too respect the power of God and will flee from it out of their fear (James 4:7).