Isaiah shares the fate of the wicked. The wicked’s woes are credited to them by their own hand. These are not sins innocently fallen into but lifestyles freely chosen.
There are six woes pronounced upon the wicked in this section. Isaiah tells them of their sin and gives them a good description of what awaits them for judgment. I have a feeling that these woes and judgments happened in the days of Judah and Jerusalem being taken as well as will happen in the future too. I’m MORE that certain these sins have NOT been wiped out.
There are also four “therefore” mentioned which state to Judah that their sins have caused this problem and there IS punishment due those sins. Again, I believe that these “therefore” consequences have happened in the past to some degree and will happen again in the end of days. So, let’s look at the sin and its ‘promises’.
The first woe has to do with greedy land grabbers. I will admit to having to look this verse up in my bible helps. At first glance, it looks like God was angry because houses and fields were getting too close together. What my bible helps explains is that this verse was referring to people who bought up several families’ properties and combined them into one and didn’t return them at the year of Jubilee. God said the HE gave them the land to begin with and HE assigned it to individual families. The family could sell their land or even themselves during hard times, but when the year of Jubilee came ALL had to be returned and a clean slate made of all debts.
As punishment for these greedy land grabbers, they would gain nothing from the land they possessed. Their fields would cost them more than they could produce. In verse 10, we are told that “a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.” I did a little checking and found out that an ephah is 1/10 of a homer, meaning that they planted TEN TIMES more seed than they got back. I would call that a ‘money pit’. When it came to the vineyard’s yield, ten ACRES would yield 5.8 gallons. Not even a gallon per acre! Talk about a small crop. God also said that the houses, “large and beautiful” would be desolate and empty. No renters, no family, no owners either because the people would go into exile. What was taken by the wealthy would result in them being taken by other nations. And their land would be left for the wild animals and the nomads.
The second woe regards those who are drunk all the time. These people could find ANY excuse to drink, including drinking as part of a sacrifice. It wasn’t a little wine with dinner but an all day every day affair with alcohol. Early in the morning until late in the evening. There must have been quite a few of these people for God to single out this particular sin. Even in their celebrations that were supposed to be for the Lord, “they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of His hands” (verses 12b). ‘Party’ for drink’s sake instead of a celebration of what the Lord has done.
God says that they will be “brought low” and “humbled” as they are taken into exile. I have a feeling they would also be one of the first groups to call out to God for help. They knew of God’s works and partook in His celebrations, but left Him out of them. When in trouble they would want Him back in again.
Both these groups, God says He will humble and bring low. Those who have gotten rich off the backs of their brothers and those who party for party’s sake. Both of these groups would have to have a fair amount of money to afford their lifestyles. Yet, that money is NOT going to save them. The “therefore” for this is “My people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst” (verse 13). The second “therefore” continues that punishment with “the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down, her revelers and he who exults in her. Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low” (verses 14b-15).
Isaiah moves on to the next set of woes. The first two woes have a LOT in common. The first one is the person who refuses to give up their sin. They ‘pull it around with them’ all the time and then dare God to do something about it. “If I’m lying, I’m dying” or “may God strike me dead if I’m lying”. When He doesn’t punish them immediately, they think they can go on as before. They are also the ones who say, “What has He done for me lately?” “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality. They have rationalized their sin by saying that if it was REALLY that bad, God would do something about it NOW, and since He hasn’t, then ‘all is good’.
The second group takes it a little bit farther and “call evil good and good evil” (verse 20b). These people say that what they are doing isn’t sin at all. “Times have changed and that was just a cultural thing, not a sin thing.” “God doesn’t understand! That’s just the way I’m made. And since He made me this way it must be alright.” God made me with a temper but it is NOT alright if I act on it and kill someone.
This is a BIG issue in my society today. I don’t know about other countries, but the United States of America is well down the road of “calling evil good and good evil.” Even some of my own grandchildren have been fooled into buying what this perverse world is selling.
The next, and last, two woes are close in company with the previous two. The person who is “wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight” will be right there with those who are fooled. They will provide the arguments for calling evil good and good evil. And they will listen to NO ONE to the contrary, for they “know of which they speak.” They will claim to have researched it and studied the issues. They will claim expert status and convince MANY to follow their lead. They will not question their own conclusions or motivations.
Finally, the “heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his rights” (verses 22b-23). These will be those in power over the people. Drinking seems to be a requirement for those in power. Other than while ‘physically on the job’, a ‘lubricant’ can often be found in their hand. Many a business deal or an alliance has been forged over drinks. “Justice” or un-justice has been bought and sold in the same manner too. Not every crooked deal or purchased verdict comes with an alcohol proof rating, but MANY do. It appears that was also the case in Isaiah’s time or God wouldn’t have called it out.
These four woes get a little bit different “therefore” as compensation for their sins. They get a stronger reaction from God. Their “therefore” contains fire and death. Their actions have greatly angered God and is still doing so today. We are told clearly that “His hand is stretched out still” (verse 25d). These people not only abuse God’s laws but convince others that they don’t matter anymore. No, we don’t live under the Law handed down through Moses but we DO live under God’s same standards of morality. The 10 Commandments STILL apply for they are CERTAINLY covered in the commandments Jesus gave us.
These woes have God signaling the nations all around to come and cut down the offenders. This includes taking many into captivity. I can easily see the ‘leaders’ in these areas being killed in such a conflict. The ones leading the people astray. And God says the nations that He calls will do and EXCELLENT job of carrying out His punishment on those ‘deserving individuals’. This will be something that happens probably for the rest of time until Jesus steps back on the scene and defeats ALL the evil in the world.
So, what would the Spirit have us take from this today? First and foremost, DON’T join in with any of these ranks! God WILL judge man for his actions. Even if it doesn’t look like it sometimes, HE is always watching. Sin HAS a price. Either you pay it or you accept Jesus offer to do it. I DON’T want to encounter those “therefore” in my life. The one I do want is found later on in Isaiah and it has made it into song. “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return.”
Father God, You are NOT blind to sin. And sin STILL requires payment. THANK YOU JESUS that You paid for ALL my sins! THANK YOU HOLY SPIRIT for convicting my spirit of my sins and bringing me to repentance. THANK YOU FATHER GOD for making the plan for forgiveness. Without You plan I would be just as ‘ripe’ for captivity as those Isaiah was speaking to.
Help me Holy Spirit when I’m even tempted to think about “maybe God didn’t mean ____.” Father, You haven’t changed from the beginning of time and won’t for the rest of eternity. What You call sin is STILL sin. No matter what man says! Keep me watchful of Satan’s tricks and send those that my children and grandchildren WILL listen to. Bring someone across their paths, corporately or individually, that will open their eyes to the truth and turn their hearts towards You. I leave them, again, in You hands. Please forgive me for the times I’ve tried to take them back and fix the issues myself.