A Prophet’s Call To A Culture In Decline

Isaiah 5:8-23




1.                  We love Isaiah at least partly because of his beautiful images of forgiveness.

a.                   “They shall be as white as snow,” 1:18

b.                  “For you have cast all my sins behind your back,” 38:17

c.                   “I am he who blots out your transgressions,” 43:25


2.                  Perhaps those images were so vivid to him because he also saw so clearly the ugly truth about what sin is and what it does to people.

a.                   “But they have rebelled against me,” 1:2

b.                  “Bruises and sores and raw wounds,” 1:5-6

c.                   “Like a polluted garment...fade like a leaf,” 64:6


3.                  In our text he gets specific about the things he saw eating away at the culture in which he lived, the things for which his people so badly needed forgiveness.

a.                   God had planted Israel like a favored vineyard, but when he came looking for justice and righteousness, he found bloodshed and an outcry.

b.                  The prophet pronounces the woe of judgement upon the attitudes and the actions that were producing this tragedy.

c.                   It’s important to us because it sounds so much like the culture in which we live.





1.                  Take it all, v.8-10.


a.                   “I want what joins me, and I don’t want anyone else in on it.”


b.                  This is the kind of thing Ahab and Jezebel did to Naboth (1 Kings 21:1-16).

i.                    The law did not provide for land to be bought or sold; it was the inheritance that belonged to a family (Lev. 25:23; Num. 27:7-11).

ii.                  The greed which would add field to field had to involve extortion in some form or another.


c.                   One part of God’s judgement on this spirit is that it does not satisfy, either physically or emotionally.


2.                  Party on, v.11-17.


a.                   “It has to be fun.  Nothing else matters to me.”


b.                  This preoccupation with pleasure is condemned on two counts.

i.                    That appetite for what tastes good, sounds good, and feels good becomes the person’s entire life.

ii.                  He has no regard for what the LORD does.  He cannot see the work of God’s hands.


c.                   But the Holy God has a way of leading us to think of righteousness and justice.

i.                    Without knowledge of him, pleasure-seeking leaves a person hungry, thirsty, and captive.

ii.                  Ultimately, he finds that the grave, too, has an appetite--one that is never satisfied.


3.                  What consequences? v.18-19


a.                   Compare their mention of “the Holy One of Israel” (v.19) with what the prophet has just said about “the Holy God” who “shows himself holy in righteousness” (v.16).

i.                    Scoffing like this is something he challenged more than once (cf. 29:9-10).

ii.                  It is characteristic of a life dominated by “fun” and “stuff.”


b.                  The picture of their behavior may be taken in either of two ways.

i.                    They pursue iniquity and sin even though it just makes the way harder for them. (Cf. Prov. 5:22)

ii.                  They draw upon themselves the judgement due sin and iniquity.


c.                   Either way, it contrasts sharply with what God had done for them (Hos. 11:4).


4.                  Upside-down values, v.20


a.                   “The only wrong is right.”


b.                  This is worse than doing wrong, or even admiring the wrong, it is making wrong the standard and becoming the active enemy of the right.

i.                    Evil becomes good; good is the problem.

ii.                  Darkness becomes light; light is unwelcome

iii.                Bitter becomes sweet; sweet is distasteful.


c.                   Does moral perversion lead to every other perversion, or is it the result of all other forms of perversion?


5.                  Wise guys, v.21


a.                   This is the attitude which is the direct opposite of wisdom.  Remember Prov.3:7.


b.                  The problem the prophet is challenging is arrogance.

i.                    “I know more than anyone else I know.”

ii.                  “I’m sophisticated enough to handle things on my on.”

iii.                “Besides, no one is going to tell me what to do!”


c.                   Romans 12:16 will be the practice of anyone who really is wise.


6.                  What will you give? v.22-23


a.                   “Everyone has his price.  I’m brave enough to take the best deal.”


b.                  The prophet is confronting the lack of character he saw in his people, perhaps even in their judges or leaders.

i.                    They held nothing sacred; they had no convictions which they considered to be so precious they were not for sale.

ii.                  Consequently, they had no moral courage. 

(1)               They were heroes only a drinking.

(2)               They were valiant only at mixing drinks.


c.                   Through their weakness and cowardice, God was dishonored and people were deprived.





1.                  The judgement these woes have announced is described in verse 24.  The thought goes back to the fate of the vineyard described in the beginning of the chapter, and the natural consequences upon a culture are enforced by God’s nature.

a.                   “Their root will be as rottenness.”

b.                  “And their blossom go up like dust.”


2.                  Isaiah predicted the mountains would quake as a nation came from afar to execute the judgement of God (v.25-26).


3.                  It is no wonder he could so look forward to the time when the mountains would herald the approach of someone with a far different message: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7).