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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 5:11-17

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, November 14, 2007

11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning
   to run after their drinks,
   who stay up late at night
   till they are inflamed with wine.
   12 They have harps and lyres at their banquets,
   tambourines and flutes and wine,
   but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD,
   no respect for the work of his hands.
   13 Therefore my people will go into exile
   for lack of understanding;
   their men of rank will die of hunger
   and their masses will be parched with thirst.

The Second of Isaiah’s six woes is against people who over-indulge in pleasures while the Lord is ignored. The parties are not just binges with a bottle; the best traditional music was there, too. But what might be an enjoyable soirée turns out to be just a group of falling-down drunks. This Hollywood / Manhattan lifestyle is driven not only by greed, but by drowning the emptiness of a godless life in alcohol. Ecclesiastes 10:16 condemns this because early morning drinking also makes a person unfit for work. So the louts, Isaiah says, will become Galoots—exiles—because they don’t get it. They think they’re civilized, but even the brightest and best among them will starve to death when the party is done and the cake is gone.

14 Therefore the grave enlarges its appetite
   and opens its mouth without limit;
   into it will descend their nobles and masses
   with all their brawlers and revelers.

The Hebrew word for grave, Sheol, is based on the word for “ask.” The picture is that the grave asks and asks and keeps on asking and is never satisfied no matter how many times it is “answered” (Habakkuk 2:5). The picture is made even more vivid when we remember that graves in Israel were usually a single cave in which many people were buried—the one grave would keep on “asking” until it consumed generation after generation of an entire family. High or low, rich or poor, everyone goes.

15 So man will be brought low
   and mankind humbled,
   the eyes of the arrogant humbled.
   16 But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice,
   and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.
   17 Then sheep will graze as in their own pasture;
   lambs will feed among the ruins of the rich. (NIV)

Verse 16 gives us glimpse of something that was always on Isaiah’s mind and which he will describe in the next chapter—the holiness of God on his throne in heaven. Our holy God knows the consequences of our sins. And that’s where God’s compassion for us is so clear. Jesus said “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Of course he promised to send us the Holy Spirit to guide us and to fill us with faith—we received the Spirit at our baptism. But Jesus himself is speaking when he says, “I will come to you.” He came to his disciples after he rose from the dead, to assure them that he is truly risen, and he will also come again on the Last Day for every single one of us, to raise us all from the dead and bring us into heaven. In Jesus, our sins are forgiven. In Jesus, our repentance is heard and recognized and accepted. In Jesus, we have peace with God. It is faith and trust in Jesus that assures us that we are forgiven, and that we have a place with him forever in heaven.

Note: 5:17 The word “lambs” here is an unusual word in the original Hebrew, perhaps related to an Akkadian word (guru, “sheep”). It could also be translated “passing strangers” or “tramps.” The point is that the wrecked environment described in the first woe (Isaiah 5:8-10) no longer feeds the greedy owner at all, but the food that grows wild and unharvested goes to whoever or whatever happens by.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.