July 14th, 2021 - Isaiah 5-8
We begin today with the song of the vineyard. It begins like a love song. Judah is likened to a vineyard that has every advantage. The Lord gave the best care to His vineyard, preparing and nursing it as an expert agriculturalist. He watched over it with great attentiveness, planting the very best vines…the ones that had the potential to produce abundant and sweet grapes. God had great expectations of Israel as His people. We read in Exodus 19:5-6 “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.” So God planted the best and got bitter, sour grapes. This was Israel’s unrighteous deeds. The fruit, bitter grapes, were useless and disappointing. Clearly the Lord had graciously done everything possible for the vineyard. As Isaiah spoke he invited his listeners to condemn the vineyard…before he revealed that in fact, they were that vineyard. This is the same tactic we saw Nathan the prophet use with king David after his affair with Bathsheba. Because of their disobedience, the Lord promised to make his vineyard, Israel , a desolate place. And the withholding of rain was at times a divine judgement. It was especially devastating to a society that depended heavily on agriculture.
The rest of chapter 5, verses 8-30 consist of six woes that specify the sins of the bitter, sour grapes, and the nature of their acts of oppression. We see greed, debauchery, cynical unbelief, perversion, arrogance, and injustice. To these sins are added prophecies of judgement: desolation, captivity or death for the pompous leaders, and humiliation for all. Properties, house and fields, were being taken by illegal means. The new owners were thugs who used every avenue to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. The second woe concerned indulgent lifestyles. The language used indicates a life of corruption. This was egocentric, indulgent living. This is closely related to greed…woe number one. These people never thought about the Lord because they were convinced they were responsible for all the wealth they had. They didn’t need God for anything. They were too busy enjoying their drunken parties to reflect on why things went bad in the first place, such as why God sent no rain, or why they lost battles. Third was the woe against mockers, those of cynical disbelief. They treated God’s authority with open contempt. Those who mocked Isaiah’s proclamation of the day of the Lord were not simply falling into sin. Instead they labored to drag iniquity along with them like it was a cart. The people challenged God to hurry up and do something to prove that He really exists and is in control of this world. The fourth woe was the threat of judgement against lacking integrity. Those who call evil good are heading down a dangerous path…one that leads to judgement. Evil was good, dark is light and bitter is sweet. This twisted way of looking at life corrupts God’s holy order. Woe number five is the threat of judgement because of the folly of self deception. At the root of the moral, social, and theological corruption denounced in this prophecy is being wise in one’s own eyes…insensitive and arrogant egotism. The sixth woe is judgement against the indulgent lifestyle of the wicked. Bribery is a serious evil that undermines society. As the vineyard yielding only sour grapes is finally judged, so the wicked will finally be cut off without hope. The image of rotting roots reflects human transience. To despise the Lord’s Word means to ignore it and to live without regard for keeping it. Such an attitude towards God’s revelation leads to folly and ruin.
We see how serious the Lord’s anger is because the hills and mountains, things that seem immovable and permanent, shake and tremble. Even the sea fled before the anger of the Lord. Chapter six begins with Isaiah’s incredible vision of God as King on His throne. This was a pivotal events in the life of Isaiah the prophet. In verse 8 the Lord speaks in the presence of His angels, the heavenly council, asking who will go for us. Isaiah answered “Here I am. Send me.” The prophet was so overcome by the grace of God in cleansing him that he willingly committed himself to a lifetime of ministry. The instructions Isaiah was given seem peculiar. Isaiah’s preaching to the religious and arrogant people who keep on hearing was destined to make their ears heavy. The prophet’s words brought out the true heart response of the people. The people were so sunk in sin that when they heard the truth it did not bring them any closer to God. Actually, it drove them farther away. But the truth had to be declared. This was a call to a very discouraging ministry for Isaiah. In truth the call of God is for faithfulness to Him, to His Word, and to the call itself. Isaiah was God’s agent to stimulate blindness and deafness in the wicked and sight and hearing in the godly. The Lord was more than ready to heal those who turned to Him and truly repented, but not those who merely wanted to avoid judgement while holding on to their sinful ways. When Isaiah asked how long he was to prophecy the answer was startling. The Lord told him, until the whole country is a wasteland. During Isaiah’s ministry the nation was plagued by wars, famines, and other forms of devastation. These words describe the coming judgement of God on Judah that would lead to the nation’s captivity under the Babylonians. Yet Isaiah also had good news. A remnant would survive. God always leaves a remnant, enough for people to grow and continue on in a right relationship with Him. This remnant is represented by a stump, and from this stump God would produce a holy seed. Their new leader would be pleasing to the Lord. An immediate fulfillment of this prophecy came in the person of Hezekiah but ultimately the holy seed would produce a beautiful branch. This is the promise of Jesus Christ, the Savior.
Chapters 7 and 8 consist of a series of prophecies related specifically to the Syro-Ephraimite wars…the invasion of Judah by Rezin and Pekah. Rezin was king of Syria with Damascus as his capital. Pekah was king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and a renowned warrior. They began to attack Jerusalem when Jotham was king (750-732 B.C.), and they intensified their efforts against a young King Ahaz. Isaiah reminded the people that the plans of humans are futile when they oppose the will of God. In 7:10 the Lord spoke to King Ahaz and told him to ask for a sign, the heights or the depths, indicating he could ask for anything. Ahaz was adamant that he would not put the Lord to the test, which sounds like faithful reason. It seems like a pious response BUT, in the mouth of wicked Ahaz these words rang hollow. By this time Ahaz was already in negotiations with the Assyrians and had decided whom he would trust for his rescue in this war. God responded to Ahaz in indignation. This petty and arrogant king dared to refuse the Lord. He would not trust in God even when he was surrounded by enemies. 7:14 is Messianic prophecy, receiving its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. It may also have had a partial fulfillment in Isaiah’s day, either with the birth of godly king Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, or with the birth of one of Isaiah’s children.
There may well be a link between Immanuel and Isaiah’s son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz. The name Immanuel which means God with us, symbolized God’s presence and protection. God was with Judah during the attack by the alliance of Syria and Israel (734), in the Assyrian crisis (701), and throughout their prolonged existence until, their fall in 586 B.C. The sign from God was for many and here we see His sovereignty and control over all of creation. Because this child will eat curds and honey he is identified with the remnant. The land would be so depopulated that these delicacies would be available to all. One of the things we will find in the Book of Isaiah is that some of his prophecies may be fulfilled several times. They are fulfilled in the very near future, often in Jesus or his time on earth and ultimately when Jesus returns again. Isaiah uses the phrase ‘in that day’ often, perhaps indicating times of trouble are upon the people, or it can mean times of blessing. The reference to flies or bees from a distance is a picture of the multitude of enemies headed towards Israel or Judah. The people were painfully aware of hordes of flying insects, often locusts.
A large scroll means the message God would give Isaiah was to be read and pondered by many people. Isaiah’s wife was a prophetess in her own right. It is possible she was a new wife, following the death of the mother of Shear-Jashub. Before the child would be very old prophecy would be fulfilled and Damascus and Syria would be destroyed by the king of Assyria. Verse 5 introduces a new prophetic section and reminds readers that the Lord is the source of the prophetic images in the Book of Isaiah. The gentle flowing waters of Shiloah represent God’s loving presence and provision but Ahaz rejected the sign and the promise of God’s protection. He was not a man of faith and now the people were following in his footsteps by placing their hope in Assyria to save them. But the Assyrian army is represented by the mighty flood of the Euphrates River, invading and destroying. They would make their way deep into Judah. Chapter 8 ends with prophecy about fearing God and heeding His Word. Hallow means to treat as holy. And the people were to fear the Lord, meaning they were to show reverence, awe, and wonder. Dread indicates both fright and terror. If the people wanted to be frightened, they should be frightened of God. If they want to respond to God correctly, they should treat His name with awe and fear Him. God is a sanctuary for believers but a stumbling block for unbelievers, both the northern and southern kingdoms. However, the wicked will not prevail for long.
Isaiah uses the word testimony here, bind it up and seal it. This refers to a legal transaction and the law refers to God’s instruction revealed through Isaiah. God had reminded His people repeatedly about being obedient to His law but they were quick to forget. Isaiah said he would wait for the Lord who had turned away from His disobedient people. This was confident hope and expectation. Isaiah contrasted his counsel with that of his contemporaries from pagan religions. Isaiah’s message brings light where as the message off the pagan spiritists led to darkness and death. God had banned these useless activities and instead gave instruction and teaching through His prophets. In Canaan, mediums and wizards would deliver ‘divine revelations’. They would whisper and mutter but the best one could get from these folks was garbled muttering. The prophets of the Lord commonly used the imagery of darkness to indicate judgement. The synonyms for darkness in this verse (8:22) describe not only moral and spiritual blight but also the invasion of Assyria that took away liberty and brought foreign oppression.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
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