Text: Isaiah 5:13-30
When God’s people go astray, He sends His prophets to frankly and bluntly warn them of their sin and admonish them to repent and return to Him. Again, when I speak of God’s people, I am speaking of the church, Jewish believers, and Jews that do not yet believe that Jesus is their Messiah.
In the days of Isaiah, God’s people are headed for disaster — exile (separation from His presence), and even death and condemnation. Oh, but if they will repent as I did, the Lord and I will rejoice and sing (Zephaniah 3:17)!
The LORD does not desire for any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). So, He sends Isaiah to speak to Jerusalem and Judah. He gives Isaiah visions, and words with which to paint a picture of what the Lord has shown him.
And He sends me to the church today, though I am only a pastor and teacher. But by His grace, I am what I am. As I read Isaiah, I see what the Lord showed him, as if the Lord was showing it to me. If I were going to give this a title, I would call it, “The Consequences of Not Knowing Him.”
Verse 13 —
Therefore, says the LORD. A good Bible student will want to know what the “therefore” is there for! Therefore — because His people do not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, nor consider His ways (Isaiah 5:12), they reveal that they have no knowledge of Him. The consequence of not knowing Him? They will go into exile, separated from His presence. It is the same today.
This “knowledge” is from the root word yada, which refers to the intimacy of a marriage between a man and a woman. He wants you to be married to Him, beloved!
God’s rebellious people had no respect for His deeds on their behalf, and the work of His hands on their behalf. Instead, they feasted with the world, with idolaters, with false prophets and teachers! It is the same today, among rebellious believers. With whom are you feasting, beloved? Whose words are you eating?
Because of their and your lack of intimate knowledge of Him, you will endure famine and drought. In the natural, the LORD commanded the clouds not to rain (5:6). Lack of rain means lack of crops. Lack of crops means famine.
But then and now, many are in spiritual famine and drought —
Amos 8:11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.”
You will not be able to hear Him when He speaks, because you will be separated from His presence. But He intends to restore you, if you see your heart’s poverty-stricken condition and repent!
Verses 14-15 —
Therefore, because God’s people do not pay attention to His deeds and do not consider the work of His hands, Sheol (hell) has enlarged itself and opens its mouth wide to swallow them! There is no limit to how many of God’s rebellious people hell will swallow. All of man’s splendor, the multitudes, the pomp and tumult of their revelry, and those who jubilantly worship what the world worships, will descend into hell’s gaping mouth.
Social status among His rebellious people will not affect His judgments against them. Both the low and the mighty will be abased (humbled). The eyes of the proud and lofty also will be abased.
Verses 16-17 —
But the LORD of Host’s judgment of the rebels among His people will cause Him to be exalted, because it is right for Him to bring down the proud, the lofty, the rebellious. He gives them what they have chosen to receive.
The holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. He is holy, His character above reproach. He judges rightly.
Why is He called righteous, in His judgment of His rebellious people? Isn’t it terrible to send people to hell? Ah, but they send themselves there, for they have been warned by the prophets He has sent again and again, and they have scoffed at His warnings. It was their choice to disobey, and now they will pay the price. He is true, both to His promises, and to His warnings.
The pride of His rebellious people — the land — will be turned over to lambs who will graze among the ruins. And strangers will come upon the ruins, and eat in the ruins of the homes of the wealthy, those who were prideful, greedy and cruel to their brethren.
Verse 18 —
Woe to those who drag iniquity (moral perversity) with the cords of falsehood, and sin (willful disobedience) as if with cart ropes. What a picture! So much moral perversity that it must be dragged along behind them with the cords of their lies to their God and their brethren! So much willful disobedience that it must be piled in a cart, and pulled by ropes over their shoulders! They create great burdens for themselves!
What are you dragging? Do you lie to God? Do you still willfully disobey Him? Then you are familiar with the weight of your sin and moral perversity, just as I was, before I repented and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Oh, but then! My sin nature was crucified when I was filled, and the cords of sin and moral perversity were severed forever! What a weight was lifted! I was completely freed from slavery to sin, just as Jesus Christ promised (John 8:31-36). He will do the same for you, if you repent!
Verse 19 —
Woe to those who say, Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it, and let the purpose of the Holy one of Israel draw near, and come to pass, that we may know it!
His rebellious people say to their God, “Bring it on! Show us what You are going to do! Hurry up and do it! We are not afraid of You!”
Verse 20 —
Many of His people, then and now, call evil good and good evil. Woe to them! Many substitute darkness for light, and light for darkness, exchange sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet.
They bless sin, and curse those who call them to repent. If there is light (revelation), they reject it and put spiritual darkness in its place. They reject the sweetness of God’s Word, which is like honey from the comb (Psalm 19:10), preferring the bitterness of their rebellion.
John Oswalt says of those who mock God’s ways, “In order to justify their own behavior, they must (claim) that their evil is good, that their darkness is light, and that their bitterness is sweet.”
Verse 21 —
Even today, many of His people are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight! Woe to them! They use man’s wisdom to justify their sin. They trust man’s wisdom in order to make their ministries prosper. They think they know better than God.
I am not against education. But many believers and leaders of today’s church exalt those who have doctorates, whose heads full of knowledge but whose hearts devoid of God. Oswalt confirms that many who teach in seminaries do not even believe in God and Christ, beloved!
Verse 22-23 —
Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, then and now! They are not heroes or valiant men of the LORD. They are not ones who defend His holy name. They are defenders of their right to drink and participate in perverse sex.
Woe to those who judge God’s sinning people as “not guilty,” because they receive payment for dismissing the sin. Woe to those who rob those who are in the right, who are righteous before God!
Verses 24-25 —
Therefore, because His people rebel against Him, the LORD’s anger burns against them. So, just as a tongue of fire consumes stubble, and dry grass collapses into the flame, so the root of His rebellious people will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust. They will be consumed, they will collapse, they will rot, they will blow away as if they were dust.
Why? He repeats the details of their rebellion. They have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. I wish I could say that today, God’s people no longer reject His law and despise His Word.
I wish I could say that today, believers are holy as He is holy. But they reject and despise Him and His Word, just as in the day of Isaiah! They say to those who speak the truth, “Those words are harsh. Those words are painful for us to hear. Those words make us feel bad about ourselves! God is love, just love, that’s all He is! So you are not speaking for Him, and we will not listen to your words!”
So Isaiah sees what the LORD will do to His people then, just as I see what He will do to His people now, unless they repent! His anger burns against His rebellious people.
His hand is stretched out (He strikes them down), to execute judgment upon them. Isaiah uses this phrase 16 times over 66 chapters. He strikes them down! And when He strikes them down, the mountains quake and the torn corpses of His rebellious people lie in the middle of streets and are swept away like refuse (filth).
But because of all they have done, His anger is not yet spent. His hand is still stretched out, to further judge His wayward people!
Verse 26 —
Isaiah receives a terrifying vision of how the LORD will further judge His people. He will lift up a standard (a banner, a sign inviting invasion) to the distant nation (Babylon) and whistle for it from the ends of the earth!
And behold, it will come with speed, swiftly! Who is in charge? The LORD, even when He calls enemies to discipline His people! And Babylon will hurry, speedily! The LORD’s judgments are swift!
Verse 27 —
The LORD describes the invading army. No one in it will be weary or stumble. They will be surefooted and strong. None slumbers or sleeps. They are not lazy. Nor is the belt of the waist undone. They are in a constant state of readiness for battle! Nor is its sandal strap broken. They are perfectly equipped!
Verse 28 —
The invading army, Babylon, is poised for battle! Their arrows are sharp. All its bows are bent, ready to send the arrows to their target. The hoofs of their horses are as hard as flint, fully protected against the hard ground. The wheels of their chariots are like a whirlwind, because they move so quickly!
Verse 29 —
The roaring of Babylon is like a lioness, like the roaring of young lions. Babylon is powerful, it makes a great noise, it is strong. It growls as it seizes its prey — God’s rebellious people! And it carries them off, with no one to deliver them from its jaws! The LORD has commanded this army to overrun His people, to destroy them if they resist, or to capture them and to carry them into exile.
Verse 30 —
Isaiah hears the growl of the armies of Babylon. It is like the roaring of the sea. And Isaiah sees the armies of Babylon coming into the land.
The enemy’s armies are so vast that their feet, their horses, and their chariots create a cloud of dust that darkens the sky and hides the sun. And indeed, the LORD’s rebellious people will be distressed (sorrowful and anguished), at the sight of them!
Beloved, the LORD takes no pleasure in punishing His people —
Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”
He has commanded them to be holy as He is holy, good as He is good, righteous as He is righteous. But they have not paid attention to or considered His deeds and the works of His hands, on their behalf.
They have rejected Him in favor of their own wisdom, and in favor of the gods of the lands that surround them. They call evil good and good evil. So, He disciplines and punishes them. If they go into exile, they will survive, He says through His prophet, Jeremiah —
Jeremiah 27:12 I spoke words like all these to Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people, and live! 13 “Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, famine and pestilence, as the LORD has spoken to that nation (people) which will not serve the king of Babylon?”
But again, many will rebel, and will refuse to go into exile, and they will die. The LORD will not allow them to be victorious over King Nebuchadnezzar, the servant He has chosen to discipline and punish His wayward people (Jeremiah 25:9).
It is the same today, beloved. Even when the LORD brings punishment upon His people, even when He disciplines them, many resist and rebel. And they perish because they have rebelled against Him, though He warned them again and again.
If His hand is stretched out toward you, to discipline you, then allow Him to do His work in you. Repent and return to Him. He will surely restore you!
Lord Jesus, may those who believe in you hear and heed Your words, and repent. Amen.