Our reading today picks up after yesterday’s warning to “stop regarding man, in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” For in the Day of the LORD, “mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold… to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of His majesty.”
In chapters 3 and 4 the LORD promises “…to enter into judgment with the elders and princes of His people…” Listen for the accusations He levels, and later, when again promising a day when the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, there will appear over Mount Zion a familiar sight: “a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of flaming fire by night.”
In the middle of chapter 5, Isaiah draws a critical distinction: “Man is humbled, and each one is brought low…But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows Himself holy in righteousness.” Multiple times throughout these opening chapters, the LORD is not satisfied to refer to Himself simply by name, but insists that His right to judge is based upon a holiness and righteousness that man does not possess.
This is crucial to the indictment against Israel. The LORD Himself is the horizon against which Isaiah can declare, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil… who are wise in their own eyes.” The LORD planted a vineyard and gave it everything it needed; what more was there to do for it? Why did it not produce good grapes?
The commissioning of Isaiah in chapter 6 occurs “In the year that King Uzziah died,” approximately 740 B.C. It’s as majestic and terrifying as anything we witnessed with Moses and Aaron. Seraphim calling to each other above the throne “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of Hosts!” …Isaiah’s terror at the vision, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips! …and his response to the LORD’s query, “Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us? …Here I am! Send me!”
Our verse for this week is Romans 8:38-39: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Isaiah 3 through 6. Now let’s read it!
Isaiah 3 - 6
3:1 For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts
is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah
support and supply,
all support of bread,
and all support of water;
the mighty man and the soldier,
the judge and the prophet,
the diviner and the elder,
the captain of fifty
and the man of rank,
the counselor and the skillful magician
and the expert in charms.
And I will make boys their princes,
and infants shall rule over them.
And the people will oppress one another,
every one his fellow
and every one his neighbor;
the youth will be insolent to the elder,
and the despised to the honorable.
For a man will take hold of his brother
in the house of his father, saying:
“You have a cloak;
you shall be our leader,
and this heap of ruins
shall be under your rule”;
in that day he will speak out, saying:
“I will not be a healer;
in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
you shall not make me
leader of the people.”
For Jerusalem has stumbled,
and Judah has fallen,
because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD,
defying his glorious presence.
For the look on their faces bears witness against them;
they proclaim their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
For they have brought evil on themselves.
Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.
My people—infants are their oppressors,
and women rule over them.
O my people, your guides mislead you
and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.
The LORD has taken his place to contend;
he stands to judge peoples.
The LORD will enter into judgment
with the elders and princes of his people:
“It is you who have devoured the vineyard,
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor?”
declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
The LORD said:
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty
and walk with outstretched necks,
glancing wantonly with their eyes,
mincing along as they go,
tinkling with their feet,
therefore the Lord will strike with a scab
the heads of the daughters of Zion,
and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.
In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.
Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;
and instead of a belt, a rope;
and instead of well-set hair, baldness;
and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;
and branding instead of beauty.
Your men shall fall by the sword
and your mighty men in battle.
And her gates shall lament and mourn;
empty, she shall sit on the ground.
4:1 And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”
In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
5:1 Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He 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.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What 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?
And 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.
I 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.
For 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;
but behold, an outcry!
Woe 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.
The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
“Surely many houses shall be desolate,
large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”
Woe 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!
They 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.
Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.
Therefore 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.
Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.
But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture,
and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.
Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
who draw sin as with cart ropes,
who 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!”
Woe 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!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!
Therefore, 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.
Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,
and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them,
and the mountains quaked;
and their corpses were as refuse
in the midst of the streets.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.
He will raise a signal for nations far away,
and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
and behold, quickly, speedily they come!
None is weary, none stumbles,
none slumbers or sleeps,
not a waistband is loose,
not a sandal strap broken;
their arrows are sharp,
all their bows bent,
their horses' hoofs seem like flint,
and their wheels like the whirlwind.
Their roaring is like a lion,
like young lions they roar;
they growl and seize their prey;
they carry it off, and none can rescue.
They will growl over it on that day,
like the growling of the sea.
And if one looks to the land,
behold, darkness and distress;
and the light is darkened by its clouds.
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.