6/05/2015

Reason for God's Destruction of Judah (Isaiah 5:8-25)

Isaiah 5:8-25, 15-16

"So people will be brought low and everyone humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled. 16 But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts" (Isa 5:15-16, NIV).

What are the bitter grapes (5:2, 4)? They are spelled out in a series of Woe poems (5:8-25). Woe is like a judgment term in English. "You're going to get it and I'm glad." But in Hebrew it is a word of regret, like Alas! When Isaiah cries "Woe" he does not do it with glee but with tears. The NLT says, "What sorrow for you..." Oh, how sad. Oh, what grief.

Woe denounces and laments. Isaiah is not a blindly ranting and rebuking condemnatory demagogue. Though this passage does pronounce powerful denunciations, they also express deep pathos, for the word "woe" itself--appearing 6 times in the passage--does not just denounce our sins, it laments our sins. Also, Isaiah's words of woe are measured and reasoned. He presents indisputable evidence (the "woes"), and then carefully draws out logical and inescapable conclusions (the "therefores").

The six woes specify the "bad fruit" or bitter grapes of Isa 5:2, 4. They specifically mention denunciations of particular sins. The list is damning:
  1. Greed (5:8-10): Land-grabbing. Property acquisition. The "good life."
  2. Self-indulgence (5:11-13): Drunkenness. Pleasure. Leisure.
  3. Mockery, scorn, cynicism (5:18-19): Arrogant defiance of God. Mocking God. Deceit.
  4. Moral distortion (5:20): Reversing the moral order. Reversal of good and evil. Self-justification.
  5. Conceit (5:21): Wise in one's own eyes. Blinding arrogance.
  6. Corruption, injustice (5:22-23). Perversion of justice. Oppressing the poor.
The four therefore's (5:13, 14, 24, 25) introduces the judgments to the offenders that accompany the woes. Roughly, the coming judgment matches the sin.
  1. Land-grabbing (5:8) will be followed by exile (5:13a), and alcoholic indulgence (5:11) will be followed by thirst (5:13b).
  2. Those who are greedy for pleasure and leisure (5:11-12) will be swallowed up by death (5:14).
  3. The third and fourth "therefore" forecasts death and destruction (5:24-25, 26-30) on all who live in defiance of God and who pervert justice (5:18-23).
1st woe: Greed (5:8-10) is the result of covetousness (10th commandment). Paul calls this idolatry, the worship of this world. The destruction of a nation begins with greed.

2nd woe: Self-indulgence (5:11-12) is the bitter grape.

3rd woe: Mockery and scorn for what is right (5:18-19). They sin for the heck of it and dare God to do something about it.

4th and 5th woe go together: Reversing the moral order (5:20, 21).

6th woe: Perverting justice (5:22-23) is particularly aimed at the leaders. Leaders who are drunks and as a result perverting justice on every side.

The results: 5:13, 14, 15-16 (reminds us of ch. 2), 17. The land will become desolate.
Next (5:24-25) what will happen and why.

What will happen in 5:26-30? The Assyrians pick up steam again. Assyria had been remarkably quiet probably because of Jonah, but can't prove it.

Isa 5:26 explain why Assyria is coming? God is sending them. This is the fulfillment of the imagery of Isa 5:5-6.

If you want darkness (Isa 5:20), God will give you darkness (cf. 1 Jn 1:5). If you insist on the source of your own light, then you will have nothing but darkness.