Pray and Read: Isaiah 5 (pictured: Tissot's Isaiah)
Contextual Notes: Isaiah 1-5 form the preface to Isaiah’s great prophecy. In chapter 5, the close of the preface begins with a parable in poetic form about a vineyard. This song is one of the finest examples of the prophet’s art and skill in the whole book. Its structure resembles the joyful songs of sweetness which were common at the grape harvest, but this one ends on a ‘sour’ note. In verse 7, the song reveals the vineyard and the owner and the perverse fruit that Israel had produced.
That vineyard is Judah. Middle Eastern grapes were one of the land’s three most important products along with olives and grain.
Throughout Scripture, fruit and fruitfulness serve as metaphors for the visible product of one’s inner character (Jesus’ teaching in both Matthew 7 and Luke 6). The clearest expression of the metaphor is in Galatians 5:22-23 which identifies the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in a believer. The parallel in Isaiah is clear. The Lord looked for His people to produce the fruit of justice and righteousness, but instead society was marked by injustice and crime.
After the song of the vineyard, chapter five ends with a series of teaching applications that come out of the parable. In this case they are in the form of ‘Woes,’ or specific reactions the Lord has against the state of the vineyard. The six woes are on those monopolizing land ownership (5:8-10), those living profligate lives (5:11-17), those who taunt God in their evil (5:18-19), those who distort good and evil (5:20), the self-important (5:21), and those who corrupt justice (5:22-25). Because of these, the judgment of God was coming on them (5:26-30; Col. 3:6).
Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 5 to teach Israel that God expects the good fruit of Godly living and will punish the bad fruit of selfish living.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about right relationships with God and others.
- God expects the good fruit of Godly living (Isa. 5:1-7)
- God will punish the bad fruit of selfish living (Isa. 5:8-30)
Exposition: Note well,
1. GOD EXPECTS THE GOOD FRUIT OF GODLY LIVING (Isa. 5:1-7).
a. Isaiah now sings for the Lord “the one I love,” “my loved one” (5:1).
b. God longs for the good of his people (James 1:16-17), but he has been deeply hurt, so much that Isaiah speaks for him. This song tells of the relationship between God and his people as being like the vineyard owner and his vines. The owner has been devoted to his vineyard, doing everything to promote good growth and protect the vines, but he only gets bad fruit (5:2, 4). The good fruit he expected was justice and righteousness, but the vineyard has produced bloodshed and distress (5:7).
c. In the rocky, hilly land of Israel, great care and hard work combined to preserve the soil and moisture needed to produce good fruit. Stones were removed to make terraces to conserve water and prevent soil erosion. Irrigation and constant hoeing to take out weeds that would take the scarce water were used. If there was not enough moisture, the crop would be small and sour.
d. The vine is often an image of Israel in the O.T. (Psa. 80:8, 14, 15; Jer. 2:21; Hosea 10:1; Zech. 3:10). God is the vineyard keeper who nurtures and protects his people. Yet despite God’s loving care, the nation continued to produce the bitter fruit of sin rather than the sweet fruit of righteousness.
e. 5:5-6 – The people had rejected their owner, so the Lord had stopped his protection and blessing on the nation. Now the people would find themselves at the mercy of threats from every direction.
f. 5:7 – Key verse. “men of Judah” in the NIV is actually the singular “man of Judah,” (aish Yehudah) a prophecy of the Messiah, the garden of delight harkening back to Eden. In John 15:1-8, Jesus calls himself the ‘true vine’ (John 15:1-7), reminding us that only through an intimate personal relationship with Him can any human being produce the fruit God desires. To help the hearers remember this key message, Isaiah uses a memorable word play. Hebrew justice – mishpat is paired with bloodshed – mispah, and righteousness – shedaqah with distress – she`aqah.
g. APPLICATION: Does this remind you of a nation you know? When we should be celebrating new life in wombs, we have turned away from justice for the oppressed inside them and turned instead to bloodshed. Instead of celebrating the joy of a young woman coming of age, we have turned aside to the distress caused by human sexual trafficking. Instead of showing justice to those who commit crime, we find more rights for the criminals than we do for the distressed victims. Our nation needs leadership that is again built upon the foundation of God’s word and Biblical values rather than the evolutionary concepts of socialism and humanistic Gnosticism.
2. GOD WILL PUNISH THE BAD FRUIT OF SELFISH LIVING (Isa. 5:8-30).
h. Poor national leadership: Isaiah lays out the sinful attitudes that hinder the Lord’s works (5:12, 19). They are greedy accumulation of property (5:8-10); drunkenness (5:11-12; Prov. 31:4-5; Amos 2:11-12); manipulation and lying (5:18-20); the pretense of wisdom (5:21; 1 Cor. 1:18-31), and the perversion of justice (5:23). The source of all these sins is their rejection of the word of the Holy One of Israel (5:24). All of these focus on the lack of leadership stemming from a lack of understanding (5:12-13)
i. 5:8 – ‘add house to house’ –In that day, expanding one’s real estate holdings was usually as someone else’s expense. A few bad harvests might mean losing one’s land. In Israel this was not just an economic, but a theological crisis. Land was part of the covenant. God distributed the Land in small parcels so every family would have a homestead (see Leviticus 25). Also, the decision makers in every community were the landowners. The individual who had the majority of land rights in the area had power to do whatever he wanted. For some to have so much at the expense of others who have less and less is a great and terrible injustice. The wealthy today need to take heed.
j. 5:10 – Reduced yield: Normal wine production for that day was 1000 gallons of wine per acre. Here 10 acres would produce only six gallons. Normal grain production was 1:10, i.e., 1 bushel of seed produced 10 bushels of grain. Here, six bushels of seed would produce a half bushel of grain.
k. APPLICATION: In a day of government bailouts and multi-million dollar bonuses to corporate CEOs who cook their own books and sink their own companies while their customers lose a lifetime’s retirement in a single month, their homes in a matter of months, and must use their grocery money to pay bank fees, we find that many things have not changed in the human heart. It certainly has not evolved in the last three millennia, it has devolved in sin. We may find that in the end our government was bribed through lobbyists and ‘friends’ to overlook corporate indiscretions, but God will not forget. We have already seen the fall of companies and reduced yield after their mammoth deceptions. Enron,
l. 5:11 Wine – Wine is often associated in Scripture with joyful occasions, but the O.T. is blunt when it comes to drunkenness and love of strong drink (Prov. 20:1; 21:17; 23:20-21). The N.T. views alcohol abuse as a characteristic of a pagan, not a Christian lifestyle (Eph. 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3).
m. APPLICATION: Are you a slave to alcohol? Do you party on the weekends and then show up all prim and proper on Sunday? Has your family suffered under the scourge of drunkenness? Do you know someone who is enslaved by alcohol? Such a one through habitual sin has come under domination of not one, but two demonic spirits, one of alcoholism and one twinned with a spirit of addictions. Addiction spirits are generational, that is, they run in families. If you or someone you know is enslaved by an addiction and wants to be freed from it, there is hope in Jesus Christ. Call our office for an appointment, and we can cast out those demons and give you freedom to say no to that addiction.
n. 5:20 Calling evil good – It is still done today with improved efficiency. Homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle, even healthy and normal. Same-sex marriage is considered by some a right. Abortion for convenience is not murder but being ‘pro-choice,’ except that one of the people involved does not get a choice.
o. 5:23 – Judges bribed: Bribes are temptations everywhere competing parties work to outmaneuver one another in courts (Ezra 4:4-5; Micah 3:11). Exodus 23:8 forbids the taking of bribes and the perversion of justice as an offense against God, the weak and innocent, and the entire community. (see Amos 5:12; cf. Lev. 19:15; Prov. 6:35; Micah 7:3).
p. ILLUSTRATION: A judge named Karboi Nuta is a friend of ours in Liberia, West Africa. Because of his integrity and refusal to take bribes, he has risen as a young justice in the Liberian court system, from Criminal Court B to a Circuit Court judge. When he arrives in the outlying areas, he finds murder and other major criminal cases where the poor were victimized to be routinely ignored on the court docket, but those who have money to bribe regularly have their cases heard and rendered in their favor. He creates quite a stir when he tries cases from years ago which have never had a hearing. Despite the wealthy working against him, he continues to be promoted, avoid threats, and succeed. What is his motivation? His relationship with Jesus Christ. He was intentionally discipled while a student at African Bible College.
q. The land grabbers will have no harvest and their homes will be ruined (5:10, 17; Amos 3:15). The wild partiers will die of hunger and thirst (5:13). Instead of eating, they will be eaten by death (5:14). All their pride and wisdom will come to nothing (5:15; 25-30). The punishment is not abandonment now (5:5-6). God himself strikes them down (5:25) and summons a foreign nation to attack his people (5:26), one which doesn’t sleep (5:27), has perfect equipment (5:28), is fierce as a lion and as irresistible as the sea (5:29-30).
r. APPLICATION: God is in full control of international history. The Assyrians march at his bidding. This lesson is developed in Isaiah 10:5. The gods of Assyria did not govern the fortunes of that nation. YWHW did. Today, the gods of ‘market forces,’ ‘nuclear proliferation,’ ‘terrorism,’ and ‘the international debt crisis’ are the so-called controlling powers of the world, but the Lord is in control of this world still.
The God who controls international history expects the good fruit of righteousness from you. If you do not have a personal relationship with God, you cannot produce that fruit. You must submit yourself to the Holy One of Israel, that Man of Judah. Would you do that today?
Perhaps you need to come forward and ask forgiveness for a sin in your business or in your family that needs cleansed. This altar is open.
Tokunboh Adeyemo, Africa Bible Commentary, 813.
F.F. Bruce, International Bible Commentary, 723-725.
Lawrence Richards, Bible Readers Companion, 414.
Walton, Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament, 589-591