Following his mourning of Israel as the unproductive vineyard, Isaiah takes his hearers through a series of woes on the wicked. The chapter ends with an army coming onto Jerusalem, akin to the judgment Isaiah proclaims verses 6-7 on the vineyard. Just as the land of that vineyard will be desolate, so will the land of Jerusalem be desolate. The message in the immediate context is the coming judgment from Assyrian army, but it was more than that. As Isaiah goes through the list of misdeeds, it is hard to see how it’s different from any of the previous things that the prophet condemns Israel for. But there are some important nuances to his delivery, and many things we can learn.
There is a unique characteristic Isaiah’s proclamation about “those who rise…that they may run after strong drink (v. 11)” (in essence, drunks). In verse 13, he says “my people go into exile for lack of knowledge.” In our modern day, Rick Warren tells us that church needs a reformation of “deeds not creeds”. But while there may be a lack of action in our churches, good Christian works cannot be sustained unless you’re reminded who you are doing them for: Your Lord and Savior, hung on a cross.
This to me is one of the trappings of the social church, and to a certain degree, modern evangelicalism. While it is a good thing that the church is involved in social programs, if the message isn’t preached constantly from the pulpit, then there is the danger the church will becoming the church of the social/political agenda, as is clearly seen with the ecumenical movement’s vigorous support of the HHS Mandate and all it entails (i.e., universal distribution of the morning after pill).
When Isaiah again condemns “those who are wise in their own eyes” in verses twenty one, I see the connection to the lack of knowledge. By not studying God’s law vigorously, the Israelites have invented their own knowledge to distract them from its truth (just as Jeroboam build high places in Israel after the split of the one kingdom, to distract the ten tribes from the temple in Jerusalem). This connection between lack of knowledge and disobedience convicts me in one way: I’m a football/ESPN fan. I don’t mean to condemn everyone who watches the network or who has a favorite team, but, like any other good thing, you can get too much of it. And with so much sports knowledge out there, it’s easy to eat their cotton candy and get puffed up.
That leads to the recurring them throughout this book: everyone who is doing evil, whether it is those who are compiling wealth (8-10), the corrupted judges (23), or the drunkards, they do it to the hilt and make it their livelihood to do wrong. (Think of our own noble rebel culture). This is why God sends an earthly army as His instrument of punishment.
Now, to the connection between 6-7 and 25-30. Again, the devastation is obvious, but the specific language brings up great points for us to follow. In verse 26, Isaiah says God will “whistle for them (the army) from the ends of the earth”, the same phrase that Jesus uses when He sends out the disciples in the great commission. Paul Kretzmann interprets this, not only as the judgment of the Assyrians, but in a secondary sense, the destruction of Jerusalem by the romans in AD 70. Once again, we see why it would have enraged the Jewish religious leaders when Jesus told the parable of the vineyard. While He was not their political Messiah, Jesus was proclaiming a civil judgment on them. Let us take head from these verses and know that God does stand to judge us if we put our confidence in our acts of service to Him. Save us, Lord Jesus. Amen.