Saturday, December 11, 2010

Isaiah 5

Analogy of the vineyard (vs. 1-7)--This is a very clear analogy of the long-term historical relationship between God and Israel. It is written in poetic form, and perhaps was even sung (v. 1). Jehovah speaks of His "beloved" (v. 1). He loved His people, but they forsook Him. He gave them "a very fruitful hill" (v. 1), and spent much time in laboring over this vineyard (vs. 2-3). But He did not get what He expected--"wild grapes" came forth, not "good grapes" (v. 3). And then the piercing question of verse 4: "What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it?" The Lord does all He can for His people; if we reject Him, it is in spite of all His efforts. The result for the "vineyard" was that the Lord would take it away, burn it, and it would be trampled down, laid waste, and not "pruned or dug" again (vs. 5-6). There would be no rain to nourish it (v. 6). And then He identifies the vineyard in verse 7 as the house of Israel--as if that were not obvious beforehand. "He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help." A sad condition Israel and Judah had fallen into.

Seven woes (vs. 8-23)--This section (actually to the end of chapter 5) will continue in chapter 9, verse 8. There will be a rather lengthy historical interlude beginning in chapter 6. The key phrase is found in verse 25: "For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still." This sentence will be repeated four times in chapters 9 and 10, indicating the continuation of thought from chapter 5.

These seven woes is, in effect, an accusation, or perhaps an explanation, of the vineyard analogy of verses 1-7. Thievery was basis of the first woe (vs. 8-10), and would lead to want. A "bath" (v. 10) was 8 gallons, 3 quarts. If ten acres yielded only that much, there was great unproductiveness. The second woe is found in verses 11-17 and deals with drunkenness and revelry. And "they do not regard the work of the Lord, nor consider the operation of His hands" (v. 12). An ignorance of God's word would be the eventual underlying cause of their upcoming captivity (v. 13). Well, ultimately a bad heart and love for sin leads to an ignoring of God's truth. Death would get many victims (v. 14), the "lofty" would be humbled (v. 15), but God would be exalted and His people provided for (vs. 16-17).

The third woe was their love of sin and how quickly and eagerly they pursued it (vs. 18-19). Woe four is clear: "Woe to those who call evil good and good, evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness" (v. 20). Such is as common in our day as it was in Isaiah's. Conceit and self-righteousness are condemned in woe five (v. 21), while woes six and seven return to the sin of drunkenness which leads to a justification of the wicked (vs. 22-23). People who do not wish to serve the Lord will always find a rationalization for their sins--and a defense of those who live kindred lives. Again, this is as obvious today as in ancient Israel, and is one of the reasons these prophetic books are so relevant for us.

The consequences (vs. 24-30)-- Sin will always have its consequences, and such is the case here. "Flame" would consume them, and in some ways that was literal, given the eventual destruction of their cities when the Assyrians and Babylonians attacked. The cause again is clearly stated: "They have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel" (v. 24). Notice the active, deliberate verbs there: "rejected" and "despised." It was something Israel consciously did. The result? "Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people" (v. 25). "He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them" (v. 25). Whether this refers to some current punishment or not is unclear; it could be a reference to the future captivity and punishment. If that is so, then the bondage was so certain that Isaiah speaks of it in the past tense--as if it had already happened. Yet, the Lord still stretches out His hand (v. 25); there is always hope for those who will seek Him. But that would be only a remnant. The nations would be called together against Judah, and they would come "swiftly" (v. 26). The language of war and destruction in verses 27-30 is vivid and powerful. And frightening. We should be aware that our rejection of God's word will lead to a greater and more awesomely terrifying future.

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