Thursday, June 20, 2013

Isaiah 5 – Justice Against the Unjust

“But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.”
— ISAIAH 5:16 (NRSV)
The iniquities of unfruitfulness and social injustice are pieced together with a prophecy for homeland invasion predicted, in this section of early Isaiah. The following three themes are present.
1. First, Judah’s National Unfruitfulness
In all of Judah’s sin there is the striking prevalence of unfruitfulness; gorgeously juicy grapes are expected by the Lord from his vineyard, but instead the yield is only wild grapes—fruit that has gone its own way, meeting no agreed minimum standard.
Likewise, Judah had borne seriously deficient fruit. The fruit borne was not only unusable and worthless, but it led to a great deal of evidence for social injustice.
Question 1: Think of forces closer to home and known in this day that resemble what is described in Isaiah 5:1-7. What is God’s expectation of his Elect, and what might be the consequences for corporate disobedience? How might God judge those who have not only been unfruitful, but evil, abusive, and neglectful?
2. The Weightiness of Woes
There are six woes (“Ah” in the NRSV) that punctuate verses 8-23 (vv. 8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22). These are structured in the way of building a crescendo of judgment. Rarely anywhere else in the Old Testament is there such a weightiness of woes as in this chapter. Yahweh’s judgment is, at the time, impending. The woes are a response to the despicability of the responsible ones’ abject lack of social injustice.
Question 2: We could be forgiven for thinking the Lord is an angry God, wanting to cruel those of us who fall short. But this chapter is about gross negligence; the holy nation had neglected its privilege (to be a ‘chosen’ nation). How might we be reassured in this post-Jesus day in regard to the times we fall short of the glory of God?
3. The Consequences Waiting
Injustice bequeaths for itself the consequences of that sin. The natural laws in play today are a direct witness of the natural laws in play in Isaiah’s day 2,700 years ago.
These natural laws suggest the consistency of eternity; God is the same, yesterday, today, forever. Consequences wait for us and they are disposed to us because of our actions, like they were for the Judeans.
Question 3: Whenever people get spiritually complacent (prideful) they leave themselves exposed to the consequences of God’s judgment. Think of a time in your own life when God’s judgment spoke through you via the consequences. What was the effect and what did you do about it?
Justice is coming against the unjust and we can trust God by faith for that to occur. We are urged to be just in our dealing with others, just as we are blessed with confidence when justice prevails. Although justice seems tardy, it always translates into consequences when it eventually arrives. It’s best we work diligently for justice.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

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