The message of Isaiah 5 is just as relevant today as it was when the prophet delivered it to the people of Judah over 2500 years ago. The nation of Judah was on a downward spiral towards an encounter with God’s holiness. God, who does all things with redemption in view, was warning the people to repent or face His wrath for their unwillingness to turn around. His judgment would be poured out in the hopes that men would reform and walk with Him as they learned of the discipline of a loving God who cares enough to correct His erring people. It was not only for them; consequently, God wanted the people of Judah to be a witness to a lost world. He had to correct them so that they could be that witness.
By looking at this letter we can see many parallels to the very situation that we face today in America. Solomon was correct when he assessed that, “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9d). The six woes given by the prophet Isaiah are clearly seen unveiling themselves in the last few decades of American history while showing our departure from the values of Christ that made our nation great. Serious judgment, then, is inevitable unless severe contrition is seen in the land. Judah did not repent, and we know that God kept His word about judgment. Where does that leave America today?
Woe 1—Insatiable greed for worldly gain!—Isaiah 5:8-10. His word is simple. God is saying, “shame on you for buying up all the houses and land until there is nothing left”. The thrust of the message is the same we hear in many pulpits today. Prosper! Prosper! Prosper! It has been this way since the postwar 1950s. The sacrifices of the Great Depression and World War II were in the rear view mirror and greed became the new gospel. Jesus did not die so you could be sated with the temporary goods of this world. He died to free you from sin and to make you a witness to a lost world. Where has that truth gone? He promised to leave them without home or land. Will He do it again in America?
Woe 2—Live it up!—Isaiah 5:11-17. Life is a party, so avoid boredom at all cost. That seems to be the new mantra. Maybe that is why most “ministries” are centered on fun and excitement at the cost of discipleship and prayer. Call a feast—fill a church. Call a fast—watch them flee. Isaiah warned that this would lead them into captivity, and we see a whole young generation in captivity now to the trinkets of this world rather than becoming willing and obedient followers of Jesus Christ. Ever since the late 1950s and the early 1960s we have been in party mode. That makes sense! All that money from the decade before had to be spent in some pursuit now didn’t it?
Woe 3—Defiant skepticism!—Isaiah 5:18-19. Isaiah used an illustration from farming since his message was geared to an agrarian society. In essence he was (and is) saying that Judah was walking away from God, but they were pulling their sin behind them as if it were a cart load tied to them. Meanwhile, they were asking questions like, “What is God going to do about it?” When men follow greed and then regress to fulfilling their own lusts, the next logical step is to doubt God. Isn’t that what happened to the nation during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Outright unbelief and skepticism set in masquerading as intellectualism. Soon, anything that was associated with Christ was to be thrown out.
Woe 4—The confusion of morality!—Isaiah 5:20. America, like Judah, quickly eroded after the nation began to doubt the Bible. In the 80s we were inundated with a “new morality”. The homosexual agenda was on the rise and abortion was an established right. The idea of sin was suddenly antiquated and anyone standing for righteousness was seen as weird. When a society is devoted to sin, they sin presumptuously and ignore the convicting power of the word and the Holy Spirit. They adopt their own sinful standards and then blast those who speak of true righteousness. They rewrite the rules to suit themselves.
Woe 5—Self sufficiency and conceit—Isaiah 5:21. When values are blurred and absolute truth is rejected, the next step is to become satisfied with self and shallow spirituality. Who needs a God to tell you what to do—are you not your own god anyway? In the 1990s, we began to see all of the vestiges of Christianity and Judeo-Christian belief challenged. From the Ten Commandments, public prayer in Jesus’ name, manger scenes, and displays of crosses; all that was associated with Christ had to be challenged. We were our own and didn’t need the old ways. We could do it on our own. However, when you reject light—darkness invades. It was during this time that our nation was rocked with domestic terrorism and the beginnings of the rise of Islam along with all of the other false beliefs that were invading our nation such as the” New Age”. Many just claimed to be proud, cosmopolitan, intellectuals who were actually beyond the idea of a “god”.
Woe 6—The systematic perversion of justice—Isaiah 5:22. The judges of Judah were masters at mixing whiskey sours but their ideas of justice were as weak as straw. The death of ethics and the development of pride and conceit always lead to a perverted sense of judgment. That also is a good descriptor of the last decade or so. One only needs to see what has gone on with the California amendment against gay marriage or other like cases to see that we have hit every woe in this nation. Like Judah who was dispersed by Babylon, we are awaiting judgment. There is not a seventh woe. There is a promise, however!
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. 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. Isaiah 5:24-25
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