Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Isaiah 5: 13-17


13 Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge;
And their honorable men are famished,
And their multitude is parched with thirst.
14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure;
And Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, 
her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.
15 So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased,
The eyes of the proud also will be abased.
16 But the Lord of hosts will be exalted in judgment,
And the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness.
17 Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture,
And strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy.

If God spoke through David Byrne, He might have said, "This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no fooling around." It's "Life During Woetime", and God is bringing the woes on His people. 

Two woes into Isaiah, Chapter 5, when He declares, "Therefore...." and the pronouncement of exile (vs 13). Why? "For their lack of knowledge." Because Judah didn't know it was in the wrong? Truly it knew. But, this is a nation that had so gone astray in all respects, because it was not living out the truth it had been given. Lack of knowing--being in relationship with God--led them to a state of spiritual blindness and confusion. They didn't recognize themselves much less who He was. To quote our theme song again: "We dress like students, we dress like housewives, or in a suit and a tie. I've changed my hairstyle so many times now, I don't know what I look like!"

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being My priest.
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children."
--Hosea 4:6

No one is excluded from God's judgment, as both "the honorable man" and "the multitude" (vs 13), "the common man" and the "man of importance" (vs 15) are mentioned as lacking life's sustenance and having their worldly reputations abased. I have said this before, and I say it carefully again: God does not have a ranking scale for sin. Sin is sin, no matter what it is. But when you study the Bible and see the references, the stories, the guidance, the discipline related to pride, you get the urge to push that one up a little higher in your own mind. Isaiah 2, verses 11 and 17, basically use the same words and speak the same thought as Chapter 5, verse 15b: "The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased...." The wisdom of Solomon was not heeded:

"The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who watches his way preserves his life.
Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with the proud."
--Proverbs 16: 17-19

The consequence of exile before Judah should not have been unexpected. The freewill which could have allowed them to enjoy the blessings of the Father instead led them to life apart from Him. These verses not only allude to the here-and-now punishment of exile to Babylon but to the later ultimate judgment for all people. Isaiah uses sensory imagery in his description of Judah's sin: "...Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her...." This is the party, the Vegas, the self-celebration, the open bar, where the fun never ends, _________________ .... [Add your metaphor here.]

"Did they glory in the figure they made? Their pomp shall be at an end; their shouts with which they triumphed, and were attended. Did they glory in their mirth? Death will turn it into mourning; he that rejoices and revels, and never knows what it is to be serious, shall go thither where there are weeping and wailing. Thus the mean man and the mighty man meet together in the grave and under mortifying judgments."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

There is a cost to living what the world considers the high life. There is a cost to not being serious about some things, namely God and His Word. Not perfection in Him and His Word, that's not possible. But, how serious are we in our commitment to being knowledgeable about Him? Knowing Him!? Sheol--the Hebrew word for the grave, which the poets use to mean death, which the Biblical commentators say means anything from an unseen abode of the dead to Hell itself; Hell, for my understanding, meaning separation from God--opened up itself "without measure" to take in Judah's joys of living the high life and all those who partook of it. What sized gaping-mouthed "monster" do we find ourselves looking at in today's unsatisfied, self-glorified world?

As we reach the end of today's verses, we are clearly reminded that all things--blessing and exile; grace and judgment--come under the arm of God.

"Power is not exalted but in judgment. It is the honour of God that, though he has a mighty arm, yet judgment and justice are always the habitation of his throne."
--Matthew Henry

"You have a strong arm;
Your hand is mighty, Your right hand is exalted.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Lovingkindness and truth go before You."
--Psalm 89: 13-14

Matthew Henry referenced Psalm 89 when he wrote his statement. What is at the basis of the extension of God's arm? Righteousness and justice. The hand that brings forth powerful judgment does so with the intent of bringing people into right relationship with the God from whom lovingkindness and truth also flow forth. Even under this period of separation, which lasts into this very day for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, God has grace yet to give and truth yet to fulfill to completion.

"'I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob,
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.
I will put them together like sheep in the fold...'"
--Micah 2:12 (excerpt)

"Transmit the message, to the receiver, hope for an answer some day...."
--Life During Wartime, Talking Heads

Do you know the way to Babylon? Woe, woe, woe-woe, woe, woe, woe-woe, woe. More woes! ....'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 5: 18-23

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

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