Isaiah 5:8-10: Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. 9 The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”
The ‘song of the vineyard’ in Isaiah 5:1-7 indicted Israel for producing the ‘wild grapes’ of bloodshed and outcries of suffering. In Isaiah 5:8-30, then, the prophet enumerated Israel’s sins of faithlessness and injustice:
- The wealthy accumulated more and more for themselves, and left the poor with nothing (v. 8).
- They chased after drinking, drunkenness, and partying, but they did not ‘regard the deeds of the Lord’ (v. 11-12, 22)
- They eagerly pulled sin in their direction, dared God to punish them, and reversed the truths of morality: they called evil good and good evil (v. 18-20)
- They were filled with pride (v. 15 & 21)
- They were corrupt – acquitting the guilty for a bribe and depriving the innocent of their rights (v. 23).
- At the root of all this was the fact that they “rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and… despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (v. 24).
But the prophet did not only decry Israel’s sins. He also announced the Lord’s impending judgment. The Lord would:
- Nullify the wealth of the greedy (v. 9-10)
- Send the people into exile, send the nobility down to Sheol [the place of the dead], and bring low the proud (v. 13-17)
- Raise a signal for ‘nations far away’ – calling them to come to Israel and devour as lions devour their prey (v. 25-30)
Thus, the thundering refrain of Isaiah’s sermon was “Woe!” The Israelites of Isaiah’s day were comfortable in their idolatry, greed, and injustice. They did not fear God. Isaiah wanted them to know that their comfort wouldn’t last. They thought they were well off, but Isaiah wanted them to know that they were doomed. So, he proclaimed the “woe” of God’s judgment to those who celebrated wickedness.
The prophetic “woe” has the power to also awaken us out of our comfort and complacency. American society is guilty of many great evils and needs to hear from the church of Jesus Christ the call to repentance. However, as the church we must first be sure that we are listening to Scripture’s prophetic word to us. We must ask ourselves hard questions in the light of the Bible’s vision for truth, righteousness, and justice. To what degree are we complicit in and guilty of:
- Religious greed and hypocrisy? (the very sins which most raised the ire of Jesus – John 2:13-25, Mt. 23)
- Being more concerned with entertainment and fun than with regarding the deeds of the Lord and walking in obedience to him? (Is. 5:11-12, Ps. 106:6-7).
- Mistreating others because of their race, gender, religion, or socio-economic status? (This includes being indifferent to their needs and life-stories, or considering them unworthy of all the protections and rights that would lead to their flourishing – Ex. 22:21-27, Lev. 19:9-18 and 32-37, Micah 6:6-8, Amos 5:18-24, Matthew 25, Luke 10:25-37, Luke 16:19-31)
- Putting other things before God and placing more trust in human help and material things than we do in God’s power? (Ex. 20:1-6, Is. 31:1-5, Jer. 2:9-13, Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:13-21)
To the degree that we that we are guilty of any of these sins, we need to allow Isaiah’s “woe!” to lead us to repentance. We will have no credibility to speak to our culture if we are not first submitting to God’s word ourselves. Let us open our hearts to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Let us renounce evil and pursue what is good, as the prophet Amos said:
“Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:14-15)
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started: “Holy Spirit, convict me of my sins and lead me in lasting repentance. Awaken me – and your church – from complacency. Help me to hate what is evil and to love what is good, and to establish justice for your honor and glory. Help me to love every person – no matter their age, skin color, language, or beliefs – the way Jesus has loved me. Help me never to despise your word, O Lord, but always to seek to do your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”