You know as I read through today’s reading, I couldn’t help but be transported back to my college years. I can still remember guys in the fraternity, and some girls for that matter, who had all sorts of bragging to do about the amount of drinking they had done. They were proud of their “abilities” to hold liquor and carry on. I wasn’t impressed then, and I’m certainly not impressed now. It’s just one example of how the words of Scripture are alive and should speak to us still today.
Isaiah may have been used by God to bring this message to Jerusalem and the land of Judah, but we can’t let it end there. There is just too much carryover into the world we are now part of. I think as we dig a little deeper into these “woe oracles” we’re going to see some very familiar scenes. For each phrase that begins “what sorrow” we know what is to follow is the woe condemning certain behaviors that have offended the Lord. Various themes of social injustice run through the woes including drunkenness (as I have mentioned), idleness, selfishness, pride, and oppression, to name a few.
We start right off in verse 8 with a picture of many real estate transactions taking place. As I understand it, there were wealthy people who bought up as much land as possible, forcing the smaller landowners to fend for themselves. Many of the original owners were left homeless hoping to be able to at least work for the new owner. That looks a little too familiar, doesn’t it?
Next, we have those self-absorbed people who are living a lifestyle of partying and drunkenness. Life is just one big party for them. The problem with these people is they “never think about the Lord or notice what he is doing.” Life to them is all about their own fame and having a good time. They seek popularity and believe their happiness will be found there. God says, “So my people will go into exile far away because they do not know me.” We know that the fate of those in Jerusalem would be exile, if not death. For us today, our own exile for behaviors displeasing to God is being separated from him, living apart from his light and salvation.
For the next woe, I picture carrying around a suitcase filled with bricks. The bricks represent that “baggage” we carry around including our sins, our hurts from the past, and false beliefs, etc. Why do we hold on so tightly to what has harmed us? And then there’s “those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever.” We all know people like this. They are so consumed with evil that they can no longer see the light. They have mistakenly told themselves lies, been led astray by the wrong people, and are totally not thinking about God or living life in the true light. While they may think they are happy, their lives are empty and unfulfilled.
Isaiah is clear in his message. He tells people their own behavior “is why the Lord’s anger burns against his people, and why he has raised his fist to crush them.” The Lord is not joking. His plan is to call upon distant nations to come and do his dirty work. The people will be caught unaware as they won’t ever imagine their fate will actually play out. God’s helpers “will roar like lions, like the strongest of lions. Growling, they will pounce on their victims and carry them off, and no one will be there to rescue them.” God will have washed his hands of those disobedient children of his.
What does this say to us? How can we avoid making the same mistakes Israel and Judah did? Sin has consequences. For each of our sins, our Lord Jesus had to take on one more.
Let’s pray … Lord, I can see patterns in today’s world of the very thing that caused anger to burn inside you. Forgive me for any part I have played in such activities. I do seek to be in communication with you every moment. I look for your guidance in my life. I long for your voice to direct my paths. Thank you for the assurance you are here. May my life reflect you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.