The Coming Judgment
© C. O. Bishop 2012 (THCF, June 30, 2019)
I have consistently found, when reading the book of Isaiah,
that it is difficult to read it and NOT think, “This is talking to us! The
United States!” But it isn’t, really—it is specifically
about and to the nation of Israel. On the other hand, I think it is entirely
appropriate for us to read—and tremble—as we realize how fully it applies
to our country, and to us as individuals, as well.
Chapter 5—a land blessed beyond all others—but not
1Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching
his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
2 And he fenced it, and
gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and
built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he
looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
3 And now, O inhabitants of
Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
4 What could have been done
more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that
it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
5 And now go to; I will tell
you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it
shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden
6 And I will lay it waste: it
shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I
will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of
the Lord of hosts is the house
of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment,
but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
Verses 1-7 tell a parable, comparing Israel and Judah to a
carefully cultivated vineyard that brought forth bad fruit, regardless of the
care of the husbandman. God declares that He had cause to expect good things
as they had been blessed beyond any other nation. But they had NOT responded
well, and that now He, God, would not only withdraw his blessing, he would
specifically take away His defense, and allow her enemies to despoil her.
The Causes for Judgment:
8 Woe unto them that join
house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may
be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
9 In mine ears said the Lord of hosts, Of a truth
many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard
shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.
Verse 8 is apparently in reference to the practice of buying
up all the land they could afford, to give themselves huge holdings,
specifically so that they could separate themselves from others. I had
initially misunderstood this to mean that overcrowding kept adding houses next
to other houses until no one could be alone. But it is the
opposite—the rich preying on others, gobbling up farms, and houses, to make a
huge estate for themselves, so that they could be alone in the earth.
Verses 9, 10 go on to say that these “great houses” would become desolate, with
no one living in them, and their land unproductive.
Carousing and Entertainment
11 Woe unto them that rise up
early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until
night, till wine inflame them!
12 And the harp, and the viol,
the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the
work of the Lord, neither consider the
operation of his hands.
Verse 11 talks about “party animals”– people whose chief “reason
to be” is to drink and carouse. This has been a consistent problem in the human
race for all time. Sometimes more than others. I have heard people brag about
being a “party animal.” There is nothing wrong with eating or drinking, but
either can be taken to excess. We have eating contests and even beer-drinking
contests in this country. Evidently they had similar problems there (Compare verse 22).
Music is another thing that can be abused, right along with
the food and drink. It seems that these people valued entertainment as a whole,
more than they valued the work of God, and the things He has done. Ezekiel 33:30-33 makes this same
complaint, that even the preaching of God’s Word had become simply a means of
entertainment. I remember a Missionary speaker telling how, after a sermon, a
woman came up to him saying, “Oh, Preacher! I was moved! I was stirred!”
But, as she saw his eyes light up as he opened his mouth to reply, she blurted,
not going!” She had enjoyed the emotional stirring caused by good
preaching, but had no intention of allowing it to disrupt her life. And that is
exactly what Ezekiel 33 is talking about. We love to be stirred and to
experience the thrill of good music, a good book, a good sermon, a good meal, etc.,
but we are not interested in having God’s Word actually move us out of our
God says we tend to rejoice in the works of our own
hands (musical instruments, in this passage, but it could be
anything—race-cars, toys, possessions, human honor and achievements…), but we
tend to not honor Him for the works of His
hands, nor consider and honor His activity in the world today. We
look at the world, and say, “Isn’t ‘mother nature’ amazing!”, and, as a nation,
we have learned to reject any notion that the creature has a Creator.
We say, “Wasn’t that an amazing coincidence!”, and deny the possibility of
Divine intervention. Evidently the problem is not new. In fact, one of the
final warnings before the second coming, in Revelation 14:7, is to “fear God, and give glory to Him, the Creator”.
So the continuing problem, during the entire course of Human History, is that we
deny God the honor that is His, and we honor ourselves or even Satan
(in various guises), in God’s place.
Final Reason for Judgment:
13 Therefore my people are gone
into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are
famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Verse 13 says “therefore…” (because of what went
before) “…my people Israel have gone into captivity.” Remember that this
passage was written around 760 years before Christ—about 160 years before the
captivity came from Babylon, and about 40 (or more) years before the Northern
kingdom fell to Assyria. But in the eyes of God it was already a done
deal. “Therefore, my people have gone into captivity, because
they have no knowledge.”(Knowledge of what? Of Science?
Vintnery? Warfare? Sin? No, rather, because they had no knowledge of God and
His statutes.) Their honorable men are famished; spiritual starvation had
weakened the nation. The multitudes are dried up for thirst…the living water of
God’s Word had been ignored or denied them, until they were utterly dry. Does
that sound familiar? How many people today are really “filled up” with God’s
Result of Judgment
14 Therefore hell hath enlarged
herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their
multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
15 And the mean man shall be
brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty
shall be humbled:
16 But the Lord of hosts shall be
exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
17 Then shall the lambs feed
after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.
So, in verse 14, still because of the listed sin, Hell (sheol—
the grave, the place of the dead) has opened wide, to receive the countless
dead that would soon enter. By the way, remember that this prophecy reaches
beyond just the contemporary judgment and touches the end times. In the
Revelation, we see that one half of the world’s population
will die during the great tribulation. The captivity of Jerusalem under
Nebuchadnezzar is just the “firstfruits” of God’s Judgment.
Verse 15 points out that this judgment applied to all walks
of life (the “mean man” is the “common man”…not people who are “mean to
others,”) and that no one could expect to escape, but that (in verse 16) He, the LORD
of Hosts, would be exalted in the judgment…That the God who is Holy shall be shown
to be holy, in Righteousness; it will
show that Judgment does not reflect poorly on God, but quite
the opposite—it exalts Him, as that is who He is—The JUDGE of all
the earth (Genesis 18:25).
[Judge of all the earth? Who does John 5:22 say is the Judge? (read it) Just for a moment, consider
John 1:18– “No man has seen God at
any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has
declared him.” This Judge, exalted in the Judgment, is Christ!]
We will soon observe some important things about God’s
character…we saw, back in Genesis, that God was the Creator, the Lawgiver, and
the Judge, beside being the sustainer, protector, master, etc. But we will see
which of God’s attributes takes precedence over all the others.
The Recipients of Judgment
18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity
with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:
19 That say, Let him make
speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy
One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!
20 Woe unto them that call evil
good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that
put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe unto them that are wise
in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
22 Woe unto them that are
mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
23 Which justify the wicked for
reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
He pronounces judgment on a series of groups of people—He
- To those who drag sin along with folly and deceit and keep wickedness moving. (There are many who have their “pet sin” and go far out of their way to draw others into that sin, or to force others to approve it.)
- To those saying “Judgment is coming? This I gotta see! Bring it on!” There are unbelievers who are excited about the news of the coming judgment, and seem to overlook the fact that it will also affect their own life.
- To those who call evil good and good evil, that replace light with darkness, and call darkness light, trade bitter for sweet, and vice versa. We humans try to redefine sin, and make our wickedness seem good.
- To those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight. They think they are really too smart for God. “Only fools believe the Bible…” 1st Corinthians 1:23 Points out that the Gentile world consistently sees the Cross as foolishness.
- To those who are champion drunks—they brag about how much liquor they consume, and how “sophisticated” their taste in liquor has become.
- To those who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the righteousness of the righteous. This could be the blatant taking of bribes, or just the cronyism that gives favors to friends, at the expense of the rightful expectations of those who have earned those rights. It might be at a government level, a civil organization level, a corporate business level, or even in private dealings. If a man is willing to turn a blind eye to evil to benefit the doer of evil (or himself,) and not to stand for what is right, to defend those who have done right, then he is guilty of this charge.
24 Therefore as the fire
devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall
be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast
away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised
the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore is the anger of
the Lord kindled against his
people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten
them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of
the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is
stretched out still.
26 And he will lift up an
ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the
earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
27 None shall be weary nor
stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of
their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
28 Whose arrows are sharp, and
all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their
wheels like a whirlwind:
29 Their roaring shall be like
a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of
the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
30 And in that day they shall
roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land,
behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.
Verse 24, 25—Judgment has been coming regularly for these
things, because they have cast away the Law of the Lord of Hosts, and have despised the Word of the Holy
One of Israel. His Word and His Holiness take precedence over all else.
The judgment isn’t over yet—in verses 26-30, He brings swarms of enemies
against them, overwhelming the land, and bringing utter ruin.
The judgment spelled out in verses 25-30 was to be partially
fulfilled in the armies of Babylon, though He does not name them until later. Ultimately,
it will be fulfilled during the Great Tribulation, as we see in Zechariah 14:1-4. We see a hint of
this, in the continuing use of the phrase “in that day.” This phrase, denoting
the coming “Day of the LORD,” was first mentioned in Isaiah 2:12, and is referenced all the way through the book.
So, the fulfillment of the Judgment which
Isaiah predicted ran from about 600 BC in the Babylonian captivity, all the way
to the second coming of Christ; and then he predicts the blessings
throughout the Millennial Kingdom age, as we began to see in chapter 4. This
book is one of the most far-reaching prophecies in the Bible.
How does this affect the Church, today? Can we apply the
principles in any way, so as to make use of this chapter today? We know that
the passage is specifically addressed to Israel, Judah, Jerusalem, and the
inhabitants thereof, but, we want to see how to address
sin in our own lives, so that God does not find it necessary to chasten us as
his erring sons. We are the Church, not Israel, but, as those who are “dead
with Christ, and risen from the dead with Him,” it seems we should
be able to apply His Word to our daily lives.
- Perhaps all it will do is to make us take a
closer look at the sin in our own lives, because we can clearly see that God’s Righteousness
and His Judgment are not to be trifled with.
- Perhaps it will drive us to examine our tendency
toward self-justification…the tendency we have toward excusing our own actions,
even when they are plainly wrong.
- Perhaps it will lead us to not so strongly look
forward to the coming Judgment, as every single one of us knows people to whom
it will mean an eternity without Christ, and without hope. (Yes, it means
release for us, but it will mean utter destruction for most.)
- Perhaps it will motivate us to look for
opportunities to turn others back from that destruction, since
that is precisely what we are called to do.
- The Great Commission is for all believers: we do have
a responsibility to offer eternal life to others, and to love them as Jesus
does, and to forgive them as He says to do.
Isaiah 5 is God’s
response to unbelief and rebellion. Such things should not be part of our
lives, but the fact is that they often are. At minimum, we can take our warning
from this passage and confess our sins, and seek to walk in obedience to the
Next time, we will see the call of Isaiah, to a specific ministry.
Please notice that, according to Romans
8:28-30, if you are a believer, then you, too, are already called. You are
not to wait to be stunned by Jesus on the road to Damascus, or be devastated by
His Holiness, in a vision, like Isaiah, Daniel or John. You are already
called to serve. Let’s get with it!
Lord Jesus, please help us to focus our attention on you, the Holy God
and Savior, rather than upon our own desires and goals. Re-mold us into your
image, and redirect our steps to walk with you.