Wednesday, June 28, 2023

2023.06.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 5

Read Isaiah 5

Questions from the Scripture text: What sort of composition does Isaiah 5:1a call this chapter? Who is the song for? Who is the song from? What is the song about? What does the well beloved have (verse 1b)? Where (verse 1c)? What did He do there (Isaiah 5:2a)? What sort of vine did He plant there (verse 2b)? What did He build for its structure and protection (verse 2c)? What did He put in it in His expectation (verse 2d)? What did He expect (verse 2e)? But what did it bring forth instead (verse 2f)? Whom does Isaiah 5:3 ask to do what? What case does the Beloved make about His actions (Isaiah 5:4a–b)? What about her actions (verse 4c–d)? What is He going to do to it now (Isaiah 5:5-6)? What is this vineyard (Isaiah 5:7a)? What (who) are the plant (verse 7b)? What two things did Yahweh want from them, and what two things did He see instead (verse 7c–d)? What does v8 pronounce upon whom? What do they have many of (Isaiah 5:8a, Isaiah 5:9b) and of what kind (verse 9c)? How greedy were they for such houses? What will Yahweh of hosts do to them (verse 9b–c)? Why will these houses end up empty (Isaiah 5:10)? What does Isaiah 5:11 pronounce upon whom? What are they spending early and late hours doing (verse 11b–c)? What do they live for entirely (Isaiah 5:12a–c)? What don’t they live for at all (verse 12d–e)? What is God doing in response (Isaiah 5:13)? What does He say He is doing on a spiritual level (Isaiah 5:14)? What does Isaiah 5:15 triply emphasize as a purpose of this (cf. Isaiah 2:11–17)? Who will be exalted/hallowed, how (Isaiah 5:16)? Who will enjoy the properties that are left behind (Isaiah 5:17)? What does Isaiah 5:18 pronounce upon whom? What are they working hard to maintain? Whom do they think/claim they wish to see, have near, and hear (Isaiah 5:19)? What does Isaiah 5:20 pronounce upon whom? What three things do they reverse? What does Isaiah 5:21 pronounce upon whom? How do these people appear (at least to themselves)? What does Isaiah 5:22 pronounce upon whom? What are they “mighty” in? What else do they love more than righteousness (Isaiah 5:23)? After these six woes, how does Isaiah 5:24 summarize Yahweh’s response? Why is He doing this? What (worse than fire!) is against them (Isaiah 5:24a–b, f–g)? Whom else will He summon against them (Isaiah 5:26)? What will they and their attack be like (Isaiah 5:26-30)?

In what way does God’s grace “run out”? Isaiah 5 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when it comes to churches and nations, there is a time of God’s favor that actually testifies against them if they do not honor Him, thus increasing their destruction when that time is up.

This chapter is remarkable. It identifies as the song of the Beloved to His Well-Beloved about His vineyard. But in its content it is a judicial case against her, and a description of a great sentence of wrath upon her.

It’s shocking to us to hear about grace being exhausted, but this chapter isn’t addressing individuals who have had their nature changed by the Spirit and united to Christ. It is addressing a church and a nation. We know that God’s patience with nations extends to a certain point, and then He destroys them in wrath. Nations rise; they progress or regress; and when the patience of God and the providence of God agree that their time has run out, nations are destroyed. Particularly empires. 

But let us also remember that this is true of churches. Revelation 2–3 details the risen Lord’s interaction with seven churches. For all of them, He has done much indeed, and He continues to know them and see how it goes with them, and love them and sympathize with them. But He is also offended at their backslidings and warning them; and, when their time runs out, His threats against them are great. It is no small thing for Jesus to fight against a church with the sword that comes out of His mouth (cf. Revelation 2:16, Revelation 19:21)!

Grace that was not repaidIsaiah 5:1–2. The history of Israel is described metaphorically here in a way that reminds us of all that God did for her in the way He formed her as He brought her from Egypt, and what He did for her in bringing her into the land and setting up His presence in the midst of her. But the metaphor also declares that her fruit was bad and useless. 

Wickedness that shall be repaidIsaiah 5:3-6. The Lord cares about what He sees coming out of a household, a church, or a nation. And He responds to its worth. God’s grace in Christ in the individuals is the only hope for these corporate, covenantal entities. And individuals who are righteous in Christ can never lose that standing or the blessedness that comes by it. But the corporate/covenantal entities themselves are judged in time on the basis of their relative faithfulness, and when they are punished, it is dreadful indeed! The Lord Jesus used a similar metaphor to warn of a similar situation to those in Israel who didn’t realize that not just a few Galileans but the whole of Israel were under the impending judgment of God (cf. Luke 13:6–9). 

An enumeration of wickednessIsaiah 5:7-23. Having identified the vineyard and the vine as Israel and now Judah in Isaiah 5:7, the Lord now pronounces a series of six woes upon Judah. Each of the woes showed the enormity of their offense and the propriety of His response. 

The first two woes (Isaiah 5:8-17) attack the worldliness/fleshliness of the people: houses, lands, drunkenness, parties—these they loved! The Lord? They hardly thought about Him (Isaiah 5:12d–e). And so He would empty the houses, dry up the lands, give them hunger and thirst, and swallow up their parties by the grave like a giant-mouthed creature. Finally, when they are brought low (Isaiah 5:15), and the Lord properly exalted (Isaiah 5:16), those who had been lowly would be taken care of (Isaiah 5:17).

The next three woes (Isaiah 5:18-21) attack the false religion of the people. They actually loved to draw near to sin (Isaiah 5:18) while thinking and acting as if they loved to draw near to the Lord (Isaiah 5:19, cf. Isaiah 58:2)! 

And while they claim to love good and light and sweet, their hearts and minds were so backwards that they would say/think this about things that were actually evil and darkness and bitter (Isaiah 5:20). In a culture (and church culture) that claims to be all about love and freedom, let the reader understand and see how so much of what is called love is actually hate, so much of what is called freedom is actually bondage, etc.!

They thought they had wisdom and prudence, but it was not coming from God’s Word and therefore wisdom that is in God’s sight (Isaiah 5:21). It was merely a self-flattery of wisdom or prudence. They just enjoyed feeling as if they were wise. How very well this describes so many contexts now, from universities, to social media, to the spiritualized  sayings of people sharing in “small groups.”

The final woe (Isaiah 5:22-23) was especially upon the “mighty” ones among them. They were actually just mighty in indulging themselves (Isaiah 5:22), leaders of the worldliness already condemned in woes 1–3. Their cravings also for money outweighed any desire for justice or righteousness (Isaiah 5:23).

An anatomy of wrathIsaiah 5:24-30. Having heard the six woes, and the LORD’s detailing of what He is responding to, we are not at all surprised at the intensity of His response (Fire devouring stubble (Isaiah 5:24a)! Flame consuming chaff (verse 24b)! The other-worldly character and zeal of the invaders that He will summon from the end of the earth (Isaiah 5:26-30)! But the Holy Spirit here also wants us to see how personal the response is. His anger (Isaiah 5:25a). His hand stretched out (verse 25b). His anger (verse 25f). His hand stretched out (verse 25g). The repetition of the metaphor in verse 25 drives the message home: this is personal. 

Similarly, in the end, it is the sword that comes from Jesus’s mouth that destroys unfaithful churches (cf. Revelation 2:16), nations (cf. Revelation 19:15), and even whole horde of the enemies of God in the last day (cf. Revelation 19:21). It’s personal. It is from His presence and from His glory that eternal destruction will take vengeance on those who refuse to acknowledge God or who reject the gospel of Christ (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7–8).

The Lord is personally interested in, personally receiving, the conduct of households, churches, and nations. And He is not passive. He will respond. He gives time. He gives many undeserved advantages. And how great have been the advantages for some of us! Hardly any household or church or nation has been given such advantages as those of the author, and he feels this indebtedness keenly. 

How much more important, then, that each of us not be found in ourselves! Christ’s household, Christ’s church, Christ’s kingdom… we must each be found in Him, first and foremost, if we will contribute to health and righteousness in the other corporate entities of which we are apart. He only is the True Vine, and in Him alone can we bear good fruit (cf. John 15:1–11). If our household is to be fruitful and multiply, both physically and spiritually, in succeeding generations; if our church is to have its lampstand maintained to it rather than being destroyed by the sword of Christ; if our nation is to be spared from ending up on the ash-heap of history’s empires… then let us, and the other members of each of these, all abide in Christ by faith! And let us bear fruit in keeping with repentance!

What sort of case might God make against your household? Against your church? Against your nation? What good can you see from any/each of these, which is proceeding out of its members’ union with Christ? How are you abiding in Christ first and foremost? How are you bearing the sort of fruit that contributes to your home/church/nation continuing to receive His mercy and blessing?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we know that families, churches, and nations receive much good from Your hand and will be held accountable for what fruit we produce. Help us! We dread the worldliness of our desires. We dread the manmade ideas that threaten to contribute to our worship or morality. We dread the prioritizing of material things over those made in God’s image. And yet, we see evidence of all of these in our hearts and even in our actions. Forgive us, O Lord! You would be righteous to stike out against us personlally with Your hand. But, our hope is that You have borne the wrath that we deserve, personally, in Your Son. We praise You that He is the true Vine. Grant unto each of us to be grafted into Him, and to bear such fruit in the home, such fruit in the church, and such fruit in the nation as would make each of these an object of Your blessing, we ask in His own Name, the Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, from the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” 

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