Isaiah Chapter 5 – The Heart of God
Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. (vs 1-2)
Isaiah chapter 5 is commonly called “The Song of the Vineyard of the Lord,” or “The Parable of the Vineyard of the Lord.” Regardless of whether it was originally a song, a parable, or a poem, it is considered a literary masterpiece by bible scholars. The imagery is masterful, and the story it communicates is powerful.
It’s the story of a loving Father who plants a vineyard in good soil that was carefully prepared, planted with the best stock of grapes, a strong fence and a tower to protect it, and a winepress to extract the precious juice from the grape. This vineyard had it all! Can you guess who the vineyard is that God is describing? Of course, its the nation of Israel.
What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?
This passage is an indictment against Israel, with God declaring that He had given them everything they needed to bear good fruit, but instead they squandered it. And there is always a price to pay for squandering our opportunities.
Guys, I see a great parallel between Israel and our own country. We live in a country that has been blessed beyond measure: We have abundant natural resources, we have smart and talented population. We’re protected by two oceans and a strong military. We have a system of government that provides freedom to choose our own leaders, freely pursue our dreams, and freely practice our faith. The problem is that in large part we’ve forgotten where those blessings came from. Instead of giving glory to God, we pat ourselves on the back for being so awesome!
God declared six woes to the population of Israel, and I think we would do well to hear them and apply them to our own lives:
1. Greedy Capitalism
Woe to those who join house to house; They add field to field, Till there is no place. Where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land! (vs 8)
God isn’t against capitalism, matter of fact, He instituted it, along with guidelines so that it would be done fairly (Lev 19:35-36). What God is condemning is the greedy capitalism, crony capitalism… capitalism that creates great gain at the expense of others. In effect, people whose god is money. God promises that the profits will not last, the time of reckoning will come.
Woe to those who rise early in the morning, That they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them! The harp and the strings, The tambourine and flute, And wine are in their feasts; But they do not regard the work of the Lord, Nor consider the operation of His hands. (vs 11)
This woe is against those who pursue pleasure above all else. “I work hard, I play hard!” is the motto of this person. Great gain to the person without God is usually followed by great consumption, and the seeking of great pleasure. Some of the biggest industries in our country are alcohol, gambling, illicit drugs, pornography…
Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as if with a cart rope; 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 near and come, that we may know it.” (vs 18-20)
This is describing the person that says “God can’t tell me how to live; I live how I want! God Him bring judgment, I’m ready!”
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; (vs 20)
This is the person that says “what’s wrong for you might might not be wrong for me, it’s all in your perspective.” Even worse are those who attempt to draw God into their approval rationalism – “God is fine with my lifestyle.” It won’t work, because God is not mocked.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! (vs 21)
There’s nothing wrong with being smart. I’m amazed at the advances that mankind has made, and I’m happy to take advantage of them to make my life better… but when we become so smart we disregard the wisdom of the Lord, we’re in trouble. Psalm 14:1 teaches us that its the fool who says “There is no God.”
6. Substance Abuse
Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man! (vs 22-23)
The numbers are staggering; Nearly 10% of the population abuses illegal drugs, and 10% consider themselves “heavy drinkers.” That’s close to 30 million people with a substance abuse problem. And guess where most of the money comes from that purchases those illegal drugs? It’s stolen or conned from people who are trying to live right. The cost to our nation is estimated at $524 BILLION (yes, billion) per year.
The Result? Judgment…
Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, And the flame consumes the chaff, So their root will be as rottenness, And their blossom will ascend like dust; Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them And stricken them, And the hills trembled. Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away…(vs 24-25a)
Ancient Judah was experiencing these social woes because of one reason: They had turned away from God, and they were following their human nature. They enjoyed the blessings, but they forgot who provided the blessings. God had warned them of this:
“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied…”
“…then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'” (Deut 6:11-13, 7)
God not only warned them not to forget Him, He warned them of what would happen:
25 “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth.
33 A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually.
36 “The Lord will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods—wood and stone. 37 And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the Lord will drive you. (Deut 28:25, 33, 36)
Which is exactly what Isaiah warned them was coming:
He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, And will whistle to them from the end of the earth; Surely they shall come with speed, swiftly. No one will be weary or stumble among them, No one will slumber or sleep; Nor will the belt on their loins be loosed, Nor the strap of their sandals be broken; (vs 26-27)
The nations that God will use to discipline Judah, the Assyrians and the Babylonians, will be all business. Their armies were strong, fast, well armed, and gave no quarter. Sobering.
But after all of this warning and woe, there is one verse I will leave you with:
…But His hand is stretched out still. (vs 25b)
In other words, even when Judah, or us for that matter, have ran far from God, His hand is STILL stretched out to us, calling us back, offering forgiveness and restoration.
There is still time for our nation, but it won’t change because we elect the right party or person to office. It will change when individuals turn to God, acknowledge Him for His many blessings, and submit our hearts to Him.
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
That, my friends, is the heart of our God!