Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 30:11-20
Sermon Title: Glorify the Lord
Memory Verse: But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. (Isaiah 5:16)
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.
God’s Glory Scorned
God is glorious. He is loving, merciful, holy, just, right, and good. God is the Creator of the Universe. He is the sovereign Master and Lord.
God creates us with the purpose of serving Him. We serve a wonderful Master who loves us, is generous, and desires for us to find joy and fulfillment. Our labor and toil for God are for our pleasure and satisfaction.
The Bible often compares us to plants. Psalm One says the righteous man is as a tree planted by the stream. Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches. Jesus speaks of people as wheat or tares in the judgment. The Apostle Paul says that he plants the seed, Apollos waters, but God gives the increase. Paul speaks of Gentiles as a wild olive branch grafted onto the tree of Israel.
Like plants, we are to grow and mature. Jesus says that we are expected to bear much fruit and glorify God. God works in us, and we bear the fruit of justice, righteousness, goodness, love, peace, and so forth.
The biggest enemy of God’s glory is a prideful plant. Pride has a person believe they may exist without God’s nurture and care; that they don’t need God. Pride has a person believe they are not a servant of God, but they serve themselves.
In the first part of chapter five, God says that the people of Judah are His delightful plant (Isaiah 5:7). God toils to provide the perfect conditions for His delightful plant to bear good fruit; however, the plant only bears rotten fruit. God’s work is not glorified in Judah or the surrounding nations. There is no justice, compassion, grace, peace, lovingkindness, or truth. Instead, the fruit of Judah is the fruit of Satan, bloodshed, and corruption.
The problem is not with the God’s work in the vineyard; the problem is that the plant is rotten and filled with pride. The plant believes they don’t need God. Pride has a person believe they do not exist to serve God, but serve themselves.
A quick word about the structure of chapter five. As mentioned in previous messages, Isaiah’s primary literary style is Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry style is unfamiliar because it is not chronological. We are familiar with Greek and Latin poetry which is written chronologically. To help us understand, we will need to rearrange verses to simplify the content. Doing this will not change the meaning, but it will make it easier for us to understand.
Rotten Plant Yields Rotten Fruit
Isaiah gives two reasons as to why the people of Judah are gone astray and do not produce good fruit. These are key verses summarizing the condition of the people of Judah.
But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands. (Isaiah 12b)
For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 24b)
It is because of these two behaviors that God is angry. They are filled with pride and do not consider God’s work, and they despise the word of God. They despise the glory of God by disobeying His word and not doing as God commands. God is not their Lord. They have a different lord, and the name of their lord is, “me, myself, and I.”
They don’t wake up in the morning thinking of God and how God is gloriously loving and selfless and what a joy it will be to bear fruit for Him. Instead, their pride has them believe bearing fruit for God is below their dignity. They want to serve themselves.
The plant of Judah is rotten, and a rotten plant produces rotten fruit. The fruit is identified by the word woe. The word is proclaimed “woe” six times. The word expresses that there is an impending judgment. It is an expression of grief and distress. In the context of this passage, it means God is going to pour out His wrath.
Fruit of Greed
8 Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, so that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!
The people of Judah disregard the law of God which specifies who is to receive land. God gives each tribe a specific plot, and they are to keep the plot in the family. The people of Judah are taking land which doesn’t belong to them. They are greedy land-grabbers who sit in the middle of their property all alone. The bear the fruit of greed.
Fruit of Pleasure-Seeking
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them! 12 Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine;
The priority of the people is to party. They wake up in the morning, and the party starts. Their social occasions are a celebration of eating, music, merriment, and drinking. Seeking their own pleasure and satisfying the lust of their flesh is their priority. The plant that does not consider the work of God’s word yields the fruit of pleasure-seeking.
Fruit of Godlessness
18 Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes; 19 Who say, “Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; and let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come to pass, that we may know it!”
The people of Judah drag sin around like a cart tied to them. Wherever they go, sin is present. A cart rope is very strong because it can pull great weight and not break. They are as strong as a cart rope in pulling a heavy weight of sin.
As they sin, they mock God. Isaiah warns them of judgment, and they mock God and say, “bring it on, make it quick, prove it so we may see it.” They don’t believe God will punish them for their sin and mock God to Isaiah’s face.
The plant that does not pay attention to the work of God’s hands yields the fruit of godlessness.
Fruit of Perversion
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
The people are twisted. They don’t know right from wrong. They have no spiritual discernment. The plant that ignores God’s word does not know the truth and yields the rotten fruit of perversion.
Fruit of self-esteem
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!
Rather than follow the word of God and obey God’s commands, they follow their own rules. They believe themselves to know better. They see themselves as highly-intelligent and sophisticated. They don’t need God’s word. The plant that ignores God’s word yields the fruit of an inflated self-worth.
Fruit of Injustice
22 Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!
This may look like a repeat of a previous woe, but it is not. This verse is more about injustice than drinking. The world is looking for heroes who will stand up for justice and righteousness. It takes a champion to fight the bully. But, there are no heroes for justice, only heroes in getting drunk. They are known for being able to consume large quantities of alcohol more than rescuing those who are in the clutches of bullies and villains. The plant that ignores God’s word yields the rotten fruit of injustice.
The point of this chapter is that pride leads to disregarding God and His word and produces rotten fruit.
God’s Glory Defended
The remainder of the chapter speaks of how God will glorify Himself and humble those who seek to exalt above God. It is the day of reckoning for the pride of men.
The humbling of man and the glorification of God is a primary theme of the introduction. God said twice:
The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day (Isaiah 2:11, 17)
And again, in this chapter
So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased, the eyes of the proud also will be abased. 16 But the Lord of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. (Isaiah 5:15-16)
With the remaining verses, Isaiah tells of how man will be humbled, and God will be exalted:
Fruit of greed is stopped
9 In my ears the Lord of hosts has sworn, “Surely, many houses shall become desolate, Even great and fine ones, without occupants. 10 “For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine (5 gallons instead of 500 gallons), and a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain (10 bags of seed to yield one bag of seed).”
Pleasure seeking is stopped
13 Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge, and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst. 14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; And Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.
Fruit of self-esteem stopped
15 So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased, the eyes of the proud also will be abased. 17 Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture, and strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy.
The rotten plant which produces rotten fruit will be destroyed
24 Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into the flame,
So their (plant) root will become like rot and their (plant) blossom blow away as dust; For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people, And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down. And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets. For all this His anger is not spent, but His hand is still stretched out.
Battle ready nation will take Judah captive
The promise of how the exile and the death of the men of Judah becomes clear. God will call a nation to do His bidding:
26 He will also lift up a standard to the distant nation, and will whistle for it from the ends of the earth; and behold, it will come with speed swiftly.
27 No one in it is weary or stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps;
nor is the belt at its waist undone, nor its sandal strap broken.
28 Its arrows are sharp and all its bows are bent;
The hoofs of its horses seem like flint and its chariot wheels like a whirlwind.
29 Its roaring is like a lioness, and it roars like young lions;
It growls as it seizes the prey and carries it off with no one to deliver it.
30 And it will growl over it in that day like the roaring of the sea.
If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress;
Even the light is darkened by its clouds.
Hard times indeed!
Hard times will fall upon the people of Judah. The daughters of Zion will have plucked out scalps and wear sackcloth. One out of every eight men will fall by the sword. The gifted artisans and craftsmen will be exiled as slaves. The fields and houses will be desolate. Society plunges into anarchy. God is very angry.
We need to stop and think about the severity of this punishment. God hates pride.
In their pride, the people of Judah go about their day with complete disregard for God. They set out to accomplish their agenda which is merriment and pleasure seeking. They do not see being a servant of God as rewarding. They will rather serve themselves. The commands of God are below them. They follow their own rules. Good is evil, and evil is good.
They exalt themselves above God. In the fight against God’s glory, God always wins. God alone is the most-high. He does not give His glory to another. The proud are made humble before God.
The Apostle Paul told the church in Rome that “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4).
The plant of Judah is corrupt and yielding rotten fruit because:
they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands. (Isaiah 12b) and … they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 5:24b)
We need to examine our lives to see if we are prideful. Every day we live without regard for God and His word is a day we live in pride. Pride produces the fruit of greed, pleasure-seeking, perversion, godlessness, and injustice. The fruit they yield is not godly fruit, but the fruit of the world.
Pride leads to disregarding God and His word and produces rotten fruit.
The cause of all the rotten fruit in our society is pride. People ignore God because they know better. It is easy to see in our culture that people are very prideful. Rebellion to the Lord and disregard for His word is producing the same fruit as the people of Judah. The root of the problem is to be filled with pride and not consider the works of God nor His word.
We must be careful to not put the cart before the horse. We can’t say, “don’t be greedy, instead be generous” and expect everything to be fixed. We need to address the plant, not the fruit. If we fix the plant, the good fruit will follow.
If we are to bear good fruit, we need to do the opposite of the people of Judah.
We need to humble ourselves and: pay attention to the deeds of the Lord and consider the work of His hands. and submit to and obey the law of the Lord of hosts and love the word of the Holy One of Israel.
What does that look like from a practical standpoint? In short, we need to be God-centered and not self-centered.
First, consider the work of God’s hands
Stop thinking about yourself and put your focus on God. To consider the work of God’s hand is to take time every day to think about the goodness of God. Consider how God loves us unconditionally. Consider our salvation in Christ. Think about the cross. Think about forgiveness of sin. Think about God’s judgment of evil.
We must not only think of God’s work in the past, but we must also consider God’s work presently. We need to be in conversation with the Lord and ask Him to show us what He is doing today. Look through our agenda for the day and think of how God is intimately involved in every step. Here’s my agenda, I think this is what you want, but if you change it, help me to hold it loosely.
As servants of God, we are not to take care of our needs first. We are to seek for His kingdom to come and for His righteousness to be accomplished. Too often, we serve ourselves rather than God. The people of Judah are greedy, pleasure-seekers. Theirs is not the fruit God seeks.
As the verse says, we need to pay attention to the deeds of the Lord.
Second, love the word of God
God rebukes the arrogant who wander from His word and give it little time. We are at the height of arrogance and pride when we live as though we do not need the Scriptures as a lamp unto our feet. The closer we are to God’s Word the closer we are to God.
Love the word because it reveals the truth about God and His unconditional love. Love the word because it will give us an accurate mirror of who we are.
Cherish the Word of God and hide it in our heart that we may not sin against God. Read and meditate on God’s Word day and night because it reveals our pathway to joy. Don’t be arrogant in thinking there is not a need for the Word of God to serve as our counselor to help us think rightly.
Become a student of Scripture. Read it regularly. Memorize verses and meditate on the promises of God.
When we love God’s Word, it is our delight. The word of God is not bitter or burdensome. Instead, the Word of the Lord is sweet to our taste, sweeter than honey. The command of being generous is like eating honey. When we love God’s Word, and we are given the command to love our neighbor, it is as if we are given a piece of gold.
Our love of God is measured by our love for His Word. In the same way, our commitment to God is measured by our commitment to obey and follow what His Word says.
Expect good fruit
We may have great confidence in the word of God and that it will work in our lives to produce fruit.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Learn from the people of Jacob during the time of Isaiah. They did not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands. In their pride, they rejected the law of the Lord and despised God’s Holy word. In doing so, they bore rotten fruit in their lives, and the result was catastrophic.
Be a person who is after God’s own heart by centering your life on the greatness of God. Take the focus off yourself and put it on God. Do it for His glory and your joy.