Summary: In Isaiah 5, the prophet pronounces God’s coming judgment on a sinful society. Much of what Isaiah taught applies to the West today. We need to pray for forgiveness
I think we might well call Isaiah’s fifth chapter the chapter of ’woes’!
And for that reason we tend to skip it by. It’s all too judgmental and too depressing. We say we want something to cheer us on our way; we want something to lift our spirits. We don’t want all this judgemental stuff. We want to hear, we say, about the love of God. We don’t want all this Old Testament stuff. That all went out of the window when Jesus came and showe us what God is really like. So we say. And I suggest we say it in our folly.
There are two main points that we need to hear that make this chapter so relevant today.
Firstly, the Bible deals everywhere with the nature of God and with the nature of man, and with the relationship between God and man. Sometimes it may present us with some not very palatable scenarios. But everywhere it deals with reality. And over the millennia that the Bible covers nothing has changed about the nature of God, or with the nature of man. The only difference is that when Jesus died at Calvary something very radical changed in the relationship between God and man. But nothing has changed in the dealings of God with man in sin. And mankind in general still lives in sin today. Some relevant Scriptures:
James 1:17 describes God as the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change .
Mankind at large has rejected God’s love in Jesus and continues on its sinful way This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
Secondly, and really because of point one, the words of Isaiah are very relevant today. Consider the charges that God lays on the people of Judah.
i. Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left
and you live alone in the land Today’s society is surely one of the most materialistic that there has ever been. We judge people by the houses they live in, by the cars they drive, and to be really considered ’in’ one needs to be a two-car family, and if you aspire at all to be well off then sons and daughters who are old enough to drive have their own. The trouble is where do we put them. It’s a nightmare driving through, say, Lime Grove. And isn’t the prophets word true- many people live very lonely lives. We are so preoccupied with our possessions, or bank accounts and of course the telly that many people have lost all effective social bearings.
ii. Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night
till they are inflamed with wine These poor lonely people have only one resort. They fill their emptiness, they try to lift their depression with drink, with drink not in moderation but in excess, or with drugs. And if there is social life is that not centred round partying or ’clubbing’ and then again the main thing at a party is to have plenty to drink. And at the clubs too. The newsagent who has his shop on Castlegate just opposite ’Caesar’s Palace’ says that often he has to clean his shop entrance first thing in the morning from human vomit, and all too often it’s used as a urinal.
iii. Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit,
and wickedness as with cart ropes, Here the prophet is dealing with sin that is wilful, that is sought out and sought after. Sin that is cherished and clung on to. Sin can be addictive. Paul speaks of God giving people over to sin, and why? Because they reject him and his laws absolutely. And isn’t that what is happening today? James speaks of sin leading to death- to a oral and spiritual deadness, a bankruptcu where we neither see nor desire God’s law.
iv. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light
and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. It’s calling ’evil’ good and goodness as ’evil’. It’s a state of total darkness and depravity. And today we call it ’cool’ or, maybe, politically correct!
Or another rather telling phrase for something we enjoy is to call it ’wicked’! Martin Lloyd-Jones has a very apt and telling phrase in dealing with this verse. He asks, rhetorically, why there is this modern perversion, and speaks of people who are ’mad on sin’. There is today even more than when he spoke those words decades ago an a-moralism in society.