Salvation in Isaiah 5
There was a businessman who worked in the city of London and who loved his wife very much. His business took him away from home all week – but they owned a comfortable house in a leafy suburb with a large garden. The man’s wife loved her garden and was very happy tending it most days. She planned the planting; she raised seedlings; she made sure that the soil was of sufficient quality and feeding that plants would grow well; she cared for the young plants protecting them from harm, pests, diseases and stray animals, and she kept an eye on the more mature shrubs and plants to make sure that they all thrived. The result was that her husband and she enjoyed every evening the fruits of her labours – they delighted their eyes in her hard work and relaxed in a very pleasant spot in South London.
Until, that is, a time when the wife became friendly with several of her neighbours who cared little for gardening – but they spent their days in having a good time – lunch parties; card games and daytime leisure activities that did not include caring for the garden. In fact it became more serious than that, because she formed some illicit relationships with other men in the neighbourhood who were not occupied like her husband. The garden suffered. The flower borders were neglected; things became overgrown and generally uncared for – in fact the garden went wild – the wife had ceased to enjoy what her husband had provided for her and her husband was quite correctly very angry.
The nation of Judah was in the same situation as this suburban woman. The Lord God Jehovah had her as His spouse. He had loved her and provided for her and planted her in a beautiful and fertile place – the land of Canaan. It was a productive land. The grapes that grew there were remarkable for size and quality. All was well for several centuries after the Lord had placed her in the Promised Land – until she began to look around her – at her neighbours and the idolatrous things that they were getting up to. She took on board their ideas and some of their beliefs. No more was she able to produce high quality grapes and wine – but wild grapes, uncared for grapes, neglected grapes were all that she could produce – because she was so preoccupied with her spiritual adultery with her neighbours.
The Parable in verses 1 – 7 of Isaiah 5 is the song of the Lord God to his people Judah. He reminds her that she had been provided for in every way. He had given her vineyard a fence for protection, to keep her in and enemies out; she was given fruitful soil; the ground had been cleared of stones to enable vines to send deep roots down; she had been given the pick of the best vine plants to stock the vineyard; a security tower had been built in the centre of the vineyard to warn of attack and to survey the progress of growth; and there was even a state of the art winepress to deal with the grapes once harvested to produce the wonderful grape juice for the choicest wines.
Yet instead of a rich harvest, Judah, the vineyard, could only produce wild grapes.
God appeals to the men of Jerusalem and asks “What more could I have done?” The only fair thing for a vineyard master to do was to think the unthinkable – demolish the vineyard – v 6 – lay it waste – and leave it to the brambles and weeds.
The men and women of Judah are identified as being the object of Isaiah’s parable in verse 7.
God had looked for judgement – for justice – for fairness in society – but instead there had been oppression of the poor and a perversion of justice.
God had looked for righteousness amongst his people, an obedience to His law and a love of the people for himself – yet all he found was the crying of those who had suffered injustice – a sure sign of a society gone wrong!
Is this what God sees in our society today? Does he see the reproach of sin upon us with the tragic downward direction among the people? Yes He ever sees these things that are the results of a turning from Him. This situation amongst God’s creatures ever provokes a response in the Almighty –
Psalms 106 v 40 Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance.
What a statement! How tragic that a people who had been so loved and well cared for, rescued and preserved could treat God in such a way – no wonder he was angry. However the perverseness of the human mind will always say, “Who me? What have I done? Why are you giving me a hard time laying this load of guilt upon me?” Because human beings try to think the best of themselves – they try to avoid the grim reality of their sinfulness before God. So Isaiah, in the next section of this chapter is directed by the Lord to point out 6 areas of Judah’s sinful lifestyle that makes her guilty as charged and ripe for God’s judgement. The six areas are a description of the actual sins of the people in Judah formulated as SIX WOES.
Woe Number 1.
Woe to those who commit the sin of Covetousness and greed. Verse 8 – 10.
There were those in Judah’s society who had accumulated property and lands for themselves contrary to God’s provision for all the tribes set out in Numbers 36 v 7
So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.
They had ignored the laws of God’s provision and their contentment with their portion.
Is not our nation also guilty? How much time was spent over the last two weeks on the story of Superstore takeover bids? To what end? The demise of the small businessman and the corner shop. It is the same principle – man loves to build empires. But that is a feature of sinful covetousness and a false confidence in material wealth. The temptation to luxury and pleasure seeking is all too great in Western cultures. And it is all because of a failure to realise that all that we have and are belongs to God. This in turn has led to a misuse of what has been entrusted to us. We seek to serve our own ends – but the result is spiritual barrenness. The Christian trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for all need, and who is content with what He sends, has the better part in life and need not fear this woe!
Woe Number 2.
Woe to those who commit the sin of Self-indulgence and Drunkenness.
Self-indulgence dulls the spiritual sense whereby we understand the ways of the Lord God.
Drunkenness is a habit that once it grips a person, it becomes a morning to night passion. Verse 11 spells it out. How foolish people have been to argue that the wine at Cana, provided by the Lord Jesus Christ, gives permission for drunkenness and excess to be indulged in by everyone. The Lord may have made wine from water, but historical records show that when wine was drunk in those days it was mixed with water 2 to 1. The drinks that cause people to be drunk today have such a high alcoholic content that some can be used to run a car engine! But our stomachs are not internal combustion engines! Proverbs 23 spells out the dangers of alcohol consumption even further.
This woe embraces the words of verses 11 through to 17. Notice verse 17 – it speaks of the land left desolate after the invasion and captivity – strangers would graze their flocks in Judah – the land would be wasted and others would come to occupy. W. E. Vine points out that, “For centuries Arabs have literally fulfilled this prophecy and Jerusalem has been given up to Islam – a mosque occupies a central position in the Holy city!” Why did Judah not listen? And why does our nation not learn from history? We have become a self-indulgent and pleasure loving people – and it has turned us away from God – woe to us!
Woe Number 3.
Woe to those who commit the sin of Presumption.
Verse 18 to 19 describe a daring defiance against the Lord God. There were those in Judah who were determined to sin and who lived to sin and to take great effort to sin as much as they could. They pull with cords of vanity and a cart rope. The picture is that of an animal hauling a load of iniquity and sin – roped and tied to it, dragging it around. Then they goad God into acting against them – verse 19. “Let us see what God will do. Will He strike me down with a thunderbolt? And if He does not is He real at all?” Such scoffing is a characteristic of today’s presumptuous society. It was a feature of those who stood at the foot of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and mocked and jeered and taunted “Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God.” God says woe to such people!
Woe Number 4.
Woe to those who commit the sin of Tongue twisting - verse 20.
The verse says it all – the people were involved in Satan’s trademark. He was a liar from the beginning. He said one thing to Adam and Eve – “Ye shall not surely die” – knowing all the time, that they would surely die, spiritually. And all men have been born spiritually dead ever since. Worse than this, the people of Judah pronounced their lying ways to be good! They declared that drawing near to God was an evil thing to do. These were subverted moral principles. Yet again this is all too obvious in our society today. How rare are the guilty pleas in the courts of law. How often solicitors advise clients to declare themselves not guilty when all the time they know the person’s culpability! How easy it is to tell a lie! How easy it is to doctor the truth. The true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has a tender conscience about this and strives to fight the sinful tendency of tongue twisting, lying and deceiving.
Woe Number 5.
Woe to those who commit the sin of a Superiority complex.
Verse 21 is about people who were wise in their own eyes, were haughty and believed themselves to be just in their own sight. The national sin of the Jews was to look down their noses at any man or woman who was not a Jew or who behaved like a Gentile. Indeed Non-Jews were thought of as subhuman – dogs!
Every race sins like this. Slave traders and slave masters sinned like this. The tables have turned in Africa following European Colonisation of various African countries – now the original possessors of the land, who were oppressed, have become the oppressors. Both sets of people have sinned against God and against their fellow human beings. Pride is at the root of this sin – and believers are just as capable. Some Christians who have known the Lord for decades and have been well taught can have such an attitude. 1 Corinthians 8 v 1 says
Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. 2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
The Lord Jesus Christ knew everything – yet never once did He take a superior stance – rather He humbled Himself.
Woe Number 6.
Woe to those who commit the sin of drunkenness and corruption when occupying the highest office – that of judge. Verse 22 – 24.
It seems that drunken judges took up bribes and then distorted justice. Such men are condemned in other scripture passages. Judges are God’s representatives and should be held in high esteem. But as any society crumbles so the quality of judgment and justice declines. It has happened time and time again. Alexander the Great the mighty Greek Empire builder died at the early age of 33. He was not killed in battle. He did not meet with an accident. But mighty general that he was, he could not control his drinking and he died of an excess of alcohol.
Six woes pronounced over a sinful nation.
The third part of Chapter 5 from verses 25 to 30 are about the judgements that would fall upon the rebellious people. They were fulfilled in the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar in 589 BC. Twice in verse 25 we find this phrase
he hath stretched forth his hand against them
For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
The stretching out of the hand of God over the people is His sovereign and divine permission for the Chaldean hordes to advance in order to destroy them. Only then would this happen – when God the Lord ordered it. We can notice that from verse 26
And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
An ensign is a flag – or a banner. God is pictured here as waving a signal flag to Nebuchadnezzar – go in – go in to destroy and capture the people – do not utterly destroy the people but take them captive, so that my holy seed would be preserved. Oh how the devil would have been angry to hear that. He so wanted Judah to be annihilated, to rid the world of the seed of the woman, the ancestry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Chaldeans were to come to fight the Lord’s battles against His apostate people. How great the change this was from when the Children of Israel had God as their banner – Jehovah Nissi – the Lord my banner, as they came out of Egypt!
Then there is that phrase
and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth:
This is a picture of God as a beekeeper who entices the bees from their hive by hissing, to settle on the ground.
God the judge brings judgement to His people. His hand of judgement stretches out at the right time.
And so it was that in the fulness of times, 2000 years ago God’s mighty hand of judgement was stretched out over Jerusalem once more. Only this time it was stretched out on ONE man – not many. And it was stretched out over that man not because of His rebellion and sin; not because there were woes attributed to Him; not because he had neglected His vineyard – but the hand of God’s judgement was stretched out on this man because he was bearing the punishment of all that sin and iniquity on behalf of others – judgment came at Calvary for hell deserving sinners. Jesus bore it all, suffering and bleeding and dying for the sins of others. In this action we can see the grace of God so clearly displayed. God came Himself, in the person of His Son, to die in my place – to die in your place if you are a Christian tonight.
And because this redeeming work is done there is nothing for you to do to obtain that salvation – for there is no work or effort that you can make to earn neither God’s favour nor the forgiveness of your sins.
Yet the Lord God graciously calls men and women and boys and girls to trust the Lord Jesus Christ and to believe, that when He died on the cross it was for them personally. Those who have been made alive by His Holy Spirit will hear that call with awakened spiritual ears and will come. Have you heard that call yet my friend? The call is here in the scripture –
Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
There is a command for such awakened sinners to repent –
God commands all men everywhere to repent.
Will you repent of your sins tonight my friend? Will you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved? Will you wholly trust Him with all of your being, for all of eternity? Jesus Christ died for sinners. Are you a sinner? God will show you that you are – he will bring conviction into your soul – then you will desire Him as he draws you to Himself. May He do so tonight – for His name’s sake!