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Explore the Bible Series

March 12, 2006

 

Background Passage: Isaiah 5:1-6:13

Lesson Passage: Isaiah 6:1-11

 

Introduction: This passage introduces some of the most vivid themes of the Prophecy of Isaiah.  In addition to the pointed, extended analogy of the vineyard (Chapter Five), the text draws us into the very throne room of God (Chapter Six).  There, through Isaiah’s eyes, we gain a glimpse into the glory of God as he sits enthroned in regal glory.  We should approach this study with great expectation and humility.

 

I.                    The Analogy of an Unprofitable Vineyard (5:1-7)

A.     Isaiah’s beloved (v.1a): The prophet used very familiar language to refer to God, but affection and reverence are twin graces.  Isaiah took exception to the unfruitfulness of Judah because of his deep, abiding passion for the Lord.

B.     The husbandman’s preparation and care for the vineyard (vv.1b-2): No one could fault the husbandman for failing in his careful concern for the vineyard.  He dug it, cleared it of stones, planted it with the best grape vines, constructed a watchtower, and hewed out a winepress. The Lord of the winery gave all diligence to building a productive vineyard. Judah, by application, enjoyed great privilege.  God had provided every necessary thing for the nation to grow in holiness, devotion, and justice; nevertheless, the people did not live up to their privilege.

C.     A call for Judah to judge herself (v. 3): The vineyard, of course, represents Judah, and, in an amazing twist, God called upon the unfruitful men of Judah to act as jury in their own trial.  By implication, the case is so convincing that even the accused had to acknowledge guilt.

D.     The Lord’s judgment in the case against Judah (vv. 4-7)

1.      Jehovah stated the obvious and undeniable fact that Judah had brought forth wild grapes (v. 4).  These wild grapes were worthless: bitter and distasteful.  The Reformation Study Bible points out that the Hebrew word (translated “wild grapes”) means “stinking things.”

2.      God’s plans for the unfruitful vineyard (vv. 5-7): It will be unprotected, devoured, trampled laid waste, and unattended.  The Lord pledged to withhold the rains.  The useless vineyard cried out for justice.

 

II.                 Six “Woes” Pronounced on Judah (5:8-30): This section expands on the indictments against Judah.  These six pronouncements define the “wild grapes” produced by this untoward people. 

A.     The First “Woe” (vv. 8-10): Judgment on Greed.  The land came to Judah as a stewardship from the Lord.  It did not belong to the people; rather, God lent it to the Jews for blessing and wise use.  Wealthy people bought up the land to build huge estates, and the poor lost their portion of the inheritance.  Jehovah would bring desolation on the beautiful houses and devastation to the land and crops.

B.     The Second “Woe” (vv. 11-17): Judgment on Drunkenness: The sottish people lived to drink.  They pursued strong drink from morning until evening.  Their corruption was further evidenced by the seeking of entertainment and amusement (v. 12). God promised to show himself in righteousness and holiness; thus, he brought the people to death and destruction (vv. 14-15).

C.     The Third “Woe” (vv. 18-19): The Mockery of God and his Judgment:  The people of Judah obviously did not believe that God would really judge them; thus, they invited the Lord’s punitive actions.  As Paul described in Romans, “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” 

D.     The Fourth “Woe” (v. 20): The Failure of Moral Uprightness and Discernment:  The verse makes it difficult to tell if these people have stumbled to such depths as they deliberately call “evil” things “good”; or, perhaps, they have lost all moral discernment and can no longer tell good from evil.

E.      The Fifth “Woe” (v. 21): Self-deception and Arrogance:  These people believed themselves quite insightful and wise.  They mistook shrewdness for wisdom. 

F.      The Sixth “Woe” (vv. 22-23): Injustice: The writer continued the theme of the ravages of drunkenness on a society.  In this case, he emphasized the complete collapse of the system of justice in Judah.  Inebriated judges acquitted the guilty and condemned the innocent.

 

III.               God’s Current and Impending Judgment on Judah (5:24-30)

A.     God’s wrath like a consuming fire (vv. 24-25):  Isaiah compared God’s judgment to a wildfire that might sweep through a field of dry grass.  The inferno blazes through the field quickly because of the heat of the terrific heat of the fire and because the stubble and dry grass are ready fuel.  Judah, just like the brittle blade, will be easily and quickly consumed by the blast of God’s wrath. Verse twenty-five makes clear that the judgment of Judah had already begun.

B.     God’s sovereignty over the nations (vv. 26-30):  The great powers of the Middle East, at the beck and call of the Lord, will converge on the recalcitrant people of Judah, and their armies will devour Israel like a loin consumes its prey (vv. 29-30).

 

IV.              Isaiah’s Vision of Jehovah (6:1-13)

A.     The approximate date of this vision (v. 1a): Isaiah identifies this event with the death of Uzziah, probably around 739 B.C.  Judah had lost a good and talented king; yet, even as earthly monarchs perish, Isaiah saw Jehovah, enthroned in heaven.

B.     Isaiah’s description of God (v. 1b):  The prophet, according to his claim, saw the Lord sitting upon a throne; however, we find no reference to the appearance of God’s likeness.  Perhaps Isaiah could find no words to describe the glory he beheld.  Of course, God does not have a corporal body like men, but the Lord did manifest himself to Isaiah in some physical appearance.

C.     The appearance of the Lord’s throne room (v. 2-4)

1.      sitting upon a throne”: the text emphasizes the royal prerogative and authority of God. Isaiah saw God in his regal splendor, glorious sovereign of the universe.

2.      the train of his robe”: Isaiah’s description of God gets no higher than the hem of the Lord’s garment.  The train of his robe filled the Temple with wondrous glory.

3.      “Above him stood the seraphim”: These six-winged, angelic beings stood poised above the seated Monarch.  With two wings they covered their faces, indicating the radiant glory of the Lord.  The seraphs employed two wings to cover their feet, perhaps as a mark of humility, and with two wings they flew.  The scene must have flooded Isaiah’s senses as the majestic cry of “Holy, Holy, Holy: coupled with the stately image of the enthroned Sovereign.

4.      the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called”: The cries of the seraphim rocked the very foundations of the Temple.  Smoke filled the sacred scene as well. Oswalt surmises that the smoke came from the altar of incense.  The context, however, suggests that the smoke may have arisen from the sacrificial altar from which the coal was taken (See v. 6). 

D.     Isaiah’s response to the wondrous vision (v. 5): The magnificent scene in the Temple quickly brought Isaiah to an awareness of his unworthiness to experience all of this.  The prophet observes four things about himself.

1.      “Woe is me”: Isaiah perceived his utter sinfulness before this majestic scene. He realized that he was ruined, just as the people of Judah had brought destruction on themselves.

2.      “I am lost”: Isaiah realized that he had no place in the Temple.  How had he come here, such an unworthy creature?  He, no doubt, felt that he had intruded into the Temple. 

3.      “I am a man of unclean lips”: The chorus of the seraphim seemed so magnificent that Isaiah realized his sinful lips could not add to the worship.  His defiled mouth could not utter the name of the Lord of Hosts with the purity of the seraphs. 

4.      “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips”: Isaiah identified himself with the sinful people of Judah.  At heart, he was not different from them; therefore, he shared the same condemnation as the people. 

E.      God’s grace toward Isaiah (vv. 6-7): Note that Isaiah seemed overwhelmed by his unworthiness, and the text gives no indication that he sought cleansing.  Perhaps he felt his case hopeless.  From the midst of the smoke a seraph emerged with a burning coal from the altar.  The angel touched the prophet’s lips with the coal pronounced the poor sinner clean from his sin. 

F.      Isaiah’s commission (vv. 8-13): Finally, God spoke from his throne.  He asked, “Who will go for us?”  Immediately, Isaiah volunteered to go where God would send him.  Then, the Lord revealed to Isaiah the difficulty of his calling.

1.      make the heart of this people dull” (vv. 9-10): Isaiah’s task was a judicial act.  God sent him to blind Judah’s eyes and deafen their ears. 

2.      “How long, O Lord” (vv. 11-12): Isaiah recoiled a bit from the difficulty of the assignment.  God told him that the prophet’s message must continue until God had completed his acts of judgment on Judah.

3.      though a tenth remain” (v. 13): God’s judgment will thoroughly cleanse Judah from its sin, but, even in the midst of justice, God remembers mercy.  Jehovah will spare a tenth of the people, a small remnant will he preserve.  The “tree” of Judah will be hewn down, but a stump of hope remained.

 

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do the “woes” of Chapter Five parallel characteristics of contemporary American culture? Do our churches reflect these unsavory characteristics as well?  How should the church address these concerns?
  2. How should the vision of Isaiah, recorded in Chapter Six, shape our understanding of God?  Of ourselves?  Of our ministry for the sake of God’s Kingdom?