Audio Worship 5/07/2023 "Woe To Those Who..." Isaiah 5.1-24

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1586

May 7, 2023

Isaiah 5.1-24        Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Woe To Those Who...”

 

Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

8Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. 9The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”

11Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! 12They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands. 13Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst. 14Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down, her revelers and he who exults in her. 15Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low. 16But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness. 17Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.

18Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, 19who say: “Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!”

20Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

21Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

22Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! 24Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

 

 

  • A Sad Song

 

Isaiah 5 begins with a song. It is not a Hallmark movie song. It ends without happiness, not at all the happy final verse with everything all buttoned up after one hour and thirty-five minutes. This is a sad song. It is a love song, but a sad song. I guess it is more like a classic country song! Here are some lyrics:

 

Oh, my love, like a vineyard planted on fertile ground, clear of rocks, the best vines around.

Hope was kindled, for plump juicy grapes, built a tower and a vat for wine,

O beloved, this will be divine.

But hope was shattered at harvest time, my beloved vineyard, could this be mine?

I prepared and planted and loved with such care, but received a harvest of shattered fare.

Hope long past, sour grapes remain, shriveled and dry, my beloved has betrayed.

What shall I do? I did everything right. Hold back the rain, uproot all by night.

It’s a sad situation, that I must say, woe to any who walk in this way.

Love song, sad song, woes leading to strife. Reject not my Words, for only there you’ll find life.

 

Well, I probably would not make much money writing country lyrics! But this is a sad scene in Israel’s life as God did all things right to make them into a righteous and faithful people, and yet they rejected God and God’s Word. So the song ends and the woes begin. The woes are the indictments against Israel.

From the song to the woes there is a story, a narrative movement of hope to despair. There is a movement from promise to brokenness. Israel, graced from out of the wilderness to the promised land...planted, gifted, loved, cared for, with the expectation of gratitude, devotion, worship, and love. In the metaphor, good grapes for eating, wine making, and grape jelly! But what did God get? Wild grapes. Grapes that had no flavor, no use, no productive value, not even useful for jelly.

The prophets, and particularly Isaiah in this passage, have a word for our nation...that was graced out of oppression into a new promised land...planted, gifted, loved, cared for, with the expectation of gratitude, devotion, worship, and love. In the metaphor, good grapes for eating, wine making, and grape jelly! But what has God seen in return? Wild grapes. Grapes that have no flavor, no use, no productive value, not even useful for jelly. Might that fit our history to this point, the point of breaking covenant with God by rejecting His Law and despising His Word? God is looking for justice and righteousness and yet all that is seen is bloodshed and an outcry.

 

Is it time for the church to proclaim woes to the nation? Is it time for the church to proclaim woes to those who have lost their way in the left leaning part of the church? Is it time for a prophet to rise up with woes to those who tolerate sin by rejecting God’s Law? It is time for several prophets to speak against the evils of the world that twist and distort truth and thus lead people to spiritual death? Death in abortion, death in transgender procedures, death in calling evil good and good evil...death in calling bitter sweet and sweet bitter...death in claiming a man can be a woman and a woman a man...death in thinking that there can be more than two sexes...death in rejecting the Word of God and the true church...death in persecuting those who want to run their business by the convictions of their faith...woe to those who do any of these things and more, anything that rejects and despises God’s Holy Word.

What is a woe? What does it convey? Certainly it is a cry to watch out! It is a warning coupled with indignation. At its root, in Hebrew, it is an expression of pain. I’ve heard it defined as “death” or at the least a warning of something that could lead to death. Hosea 7.13 has a good definition along those lines - Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me. Destruction sounds pretty close to death.

If nothing else, we don’t want any “woes” directed to us!

 

 

 

 

  • Woe To Those Who…

 

First Woe – 8Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. 9The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”

 

This is something akin to large corporations or even government corruption driving out small family farms. It would equate to changing the playing field so that people lose their homes or land. Woe to those who abuse their power and seek to destroy those who have a right to the land. It is the pursuit of land and houses at the destruction or peril of others. It is the classic scenario of those who abuse others and take their possessions and yet are never satisfied so they continue to pursue this evil course of action. They are never concerned for the well being of others or what might be best for the good of the community. It’s all about what can be acquired no matter who is harmed in the process. The consequence to such a takeover would be inhabitable houses and land yielding nothing of value – sour grapes. No renters in ceased housing. No income. No harvest from farms acquired by fraud or greed. These are the kinds of consequences we like to see, just reward for iniquity.

 

 

Second Woe – 11Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! 12They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands.

 

 

This is the picture of those who spend all their days intoxicated, party animals who take no thought of what their actions might do to others. Life is only about the flesh and sensual pleasures. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you” (2 Peter 2.13). They never consider God or His works and they never see any productivity in their work. This looks like the misdeeds of leaders because the result of their gluttony is exile for the people and a lack of knowledge about God. God leaves them to their own desires (Romans 1.24). The pit, Sheol, swallows them up. The proud are humbled and the Lord exalted. That is to say that the arrogant, rich, and powerful who ignore God and reject His Word will be cut down like the vineyard in the love song.

Those who reject God’s Word will end destroyed, dead, the recipients of woe. In the end, those who are humble before the Lord, the lambs, shall eat from the spoils of the arrogant.

 

 

Third Woe – 18Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, 19who say: “Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!”

 

Death will come to those who promote and exalt sin. Woe to those who know that something is sin and yet promotes it as not sin. Woe to those who actually pull sin toward them, inviting sin as if it was a good thing. They welcome sin through lies and falsehood. They reign in sin like pulling on the reigns of a horse. They tempt God and ridicule prophets. This sounds a lot like today when people celebrate sin and speak out against Christians as being hateful and bigoted. They compare us to terrorists and seek to silence our voices and totally stop the proclamation of the gospel. I caught a little of the coronation ceremony of King Charles and heard some of the liturgy and preaching. I imagined that the major mainstream networks were not pleased to have so many times the name of Jesus was proclaimed!

 

 

Fourth Woe – 20Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

 

This woe might fit today’s culture wars best among these woes. Evil is good, good is evil. Sin is fine and Christian morality is flawed. Darkness is really light and light darkness. Two plus two equals five. Anything goes as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. Bitter is sweet and sweet bitter. Everything in that politicians speech was just the opposite of what she was saying! The devil is the father of these lies (John 8.44). Men can be women and women can become men. Criminals are protected while police are vilified. These are the people who accuse everyone else of the very things they themselves are doing. They project their own guilty shameless acts on others in order to deflect from their own sin. They are completely oblivious to reality. They do not praise what is good, but instead they justify evil, promote it, and try to force us to do the same. Woe to those who call evil good, destroying the lives of children through all this trans nonsense. Woe to those who allow males to enter in female locker rooms and restrooms putting darkness for light. Woe to those who are destroying women’s sports and women’s rights with all this insanity and yet calling us in the wrong for fighting against it all. Calling evil good and good evil is completely upside down and we should be praying earnestly for all of this to end.

 

Fifth Woe – 21Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

 

Those wise in their own eyes might be described as irrational and arrogant. I recently heard the expression of a foolish person as one who pairs together ignorance and arrogance. It is difficult to have a conversation or debate with such people. They think they can outsmart God! But they are fools and we really cannot have a rational or civil conversation with a fool. I have been thinking a lot more about Proverbs that speak to arguing with fools as we seek to address all the foolishness in society to day.

 

Proverbs 12.15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

That is precisely the meaning of this fifth woe, woe to those who are foolish.

 

Proverbs 14.7 Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

I think about this from time to time and especially when I see people trying to have a rational intelligent debate. It is not worth our time and effort. Fools will just try to cut you off every ten seconds or fill the air with nonsensical words.

 

Proverbs 23.9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.

One thing I think is true, those who despise the gospel and the Word of God are fools. We might as well not waste our breath.

 

 

Sixth Woe – 22Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!

 

Much like the second woe in this list, this woe speaks of those who act as a people intoxicated. They free the guilty, seek prison reform that favors criminals, and defund the police. They deprive the innocent of justice by doing things like sending IRS agents to your door the same day one might testify before a congressional committee. Just to name a recent example!

Such injustice will lead to death, to woe. Their roots are rotten and their blooms will dry up like dust.

 

  • What Leads To Woes

 

Why are the woes given? Very simple answer – they have rejected and despised God’s Word (Isaiah 5.24)

 

2 Timothy 4.1-5 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

Woe comes under the category of reprove, rebuke, and exhort (4.2)

 

2 Timothy 3.1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

 

Not sure if the current days are the last days, but we are certainly in days that reflect every fallen attribute in verses 2-5.

 

Woe to those in 2 Timothy. For Christ will judge the living and the dead! Christ reigns! Christ is risen! And there will be no woes for His own. Death is defeated – good news rings in our ears and our hearts. But woe to the world if they do not turn away from the rejection of God’s Word. Woe to those who despise His Law, for God will judge. But there is still hope for them, if they repent and profess Jesus Lord and Savior. There is hope and there is time, but we must also be prepared to pronounce woes in hoping that these warnings will lead to a hearing the Gospel. For only in Christ can people be saved from death and sin. Only in Christ can God’s Word be embraced instead of rejected, loved instead of despised, trusted instead of scorned. So let us be ready, to recognize both a time for woes and a time to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Isaiah is just as on target today as it was centuries ago. Woe to those who...reject God’s Word, refuse to hear about Jesus Christ, and ridicule the church. May the Lord have mercy on them and may our words reflect God’s call to repentance and God’s message of salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 


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