Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Isaiah 5: 8-12


Woes for the Wicked

Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field,
Until there is no more room,
So that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!
In my ears the Lord of hosts has sworn
“Surely, many houses shall become desolate,
Even great and fine ones, without occupants.
10 “For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine,
And a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain.”
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink,
Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!
12 Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, 
by tambourine and flute, and by wine;
But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord,
Nor do they consider the work of His hands.

We will be looking for six "Woe to those..." as we read forward in Isaiah, Chapter 5. After presenting the "Parable of the Vineyard," the prophet now introduces six specific judgments brought upon God's people.

"Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field...."
--vs. 8

The first pronouncement goes against greedy landowners of the day, though the picture described could easily represent the sprawling suburban growth seen in the time before the crashes that stalled the U.S. economy. The county in which I live continues to struggle with how much growth is good for supporting the community and how much growth takes away from the natural, pastoral beauty and space of the land as it is. The trouble in this passage is with the greed and with violating God's intentions for the land.

"'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.'"
--Leviticus 25: 23-25

First off, the land belongs to God! This is one of those principles that we don't acknowledge all the time, either. Our name may be on the title of the house, but we truly don't own the land. God also wanted for His people to retain within the family of God that land that He had given to them. Note the provisional intent of the kinsman.

But this is not what was happening, as the mark of success became not joy in God and family but in how much one acquired, even at the loss of family and one's senses.

"They covet fields and then seize them,
And houses, and take them away.
They rob a man and his house,
A man and his inheritance."
--Micah 2:2

Verse 9 says that houses "shall become desolate." Recall what we read in the parable. The Lord will "lay it waste." What He built no longer existed, and He would not tolerate what was being built in its place. Greed and earthly wealth will pass away at His hand. Look at the phrasing used by Isaiah here: "In my ears, the Lord of hosts has sworn...." Pretty strong! No wonder that Jesus would come to affirm these words before His death in speaking of Jerusalem--after laying out His own "woe to's" in Matthew 23.

"Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'"
--Matthew 23: 38 and 39

The punishment facing the landowners would be tangibly noticed, as explained by verse 10. There would be a marked reduction of what had once been successful crops of grapes and grain. My study Bible indicates that, judging by the amounts listed, famine-like conditions might have existed. Clearly, God was intervening.

"You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”
--Haggai 1:6

"Woe to those who...pursue strong drink...."
--vs. 11

The second woe condemns the drunkard. So important to differentiate between the drinking of wine and its production from the pursuit of strong drink. Obviously, growing and harvesting grapes for the production of wine was a significant industry for Israel. It still is! But what verse 11 speaks to--and quite a few other verses in the Bible--is the overindulgence of drinking and the resulting disregard of other things, like "the deeds of the Lord" and "the work of His hands." (vs. 12)

God is at odds with the pursuit of a pleasurable life when it involves leaving Him out and blurs one's vision to the point of saying self-interest is the only interest. Judah was drunk on itself, as it forgot all that God had provided. Recall the beautiful words of the parable, with God taking such great care in finding the choice land and growing His people in fertile, protected surroundings. He wanted to be among them again like the pillar of cloud and fire. But the opportunities for earthly gain were too enticing to ignore, and led to their ill pursuits--pursuits for which God would not stand: "He will tear them down and not build them up." (Psalm 28: 5b)

We, again, see that though God does not run out of grace, He cannot continue to freely give it in the face of a people who do not pursue Him. This was affirmed to me in this past Sunday's message at my church, in which our interim pastor quoted from Romans 1:

"And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice...."
--Romans 1: 28 and 29 (excerpt)

God gives over Judah to its depraved mind. "Therefore My people go into exile...." as we begin with verse 13. ....'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 5: 13-17

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).