The Wrath of God is Imminent, Intense and Inescapable — Isaiah 5:24-30

This passage sweeps over us with its dark, gloomy waves of judgment.  There is no glimmer of hope in this section.  God demonstrates the consistency of His character – both in being gracious and forgiving to those who repent and in being just to judge unrepentant sinners.  Remember how God revealed His name to Moses:  Exodus 34:6-7  “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished’

Summary:

–          Defense of God’s Faithful Character – Parable of the Vineyard –

Don’t blame God for the stinking fruit

–          Detailing of the Wicked Perversions — 6 Condemning Indictments in the form of proclamation of 6 Woes

  • 1. (:8-10)         Perverters of Possessions
  • 2. (:11-17)       Perverters of Pleasures
  • 3. (:18-19)       Perverters of Reverence
  • 4. (:20)             Perverters of Values
  • 5. (:21)             Perverters of Wisdom
  • 6. (:22-23)       Perverters of Justice

–          Description of Devastating Judgment

STINKING FRUIT DESERVES DEVASTATING JUDGMENT THAT IS IMMINENT, INTENSE AND INESCAPABLE

Number of different historical divine interventions in judgment in view:  all future from Isaiah’s perspective

–          Assyrian attack and resulting captivity – Northern Kingdom – 722 B.C.

–          Babylonian attack and resulting captivity – Southern Kingdom – 586 B.C.

–          Roman attack on Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

–          Judgments in the Great Tribulation Period – the Day of the Lord

–          Final Wrath of God in casting the wicked into Hell

I.   (:24)  DEVOURED BY DESERVED DESTRUCTION FROM THE LORD OF HOSTS,  HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL

A.  Metaphor of Destruction – Tongue of Fire

Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble,

And dry grass collapses into the flame,

Vs. 24 and vs. 25 both introduced by “Therefore

Acts 2:3  Holy Spirit comes upon the believers at Pentecost in the form of tongues of fire; Fire in Scripture often denotes the presence of God; Ex. 3:2The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed” – Here all of the stubble and grass are consumed immediately and violently – with great rapidity and intensity

B.  Totality of Destruction – From Root to Fruit

So their root will become like rot

and their blossom blow away as dust;

Brings to mind the contrast between the way of the righteous and way of the wicked in Psalm 1

Two paths . . . Two Destinies  “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

Root was futile; no lasting strength; fruit was a mirage; no lasting glory

Van Parunak: The simile draws on the final clean-up after grain harvest. The goal of raising grain is the edible kernel, which is wrapped in an inedible sheath and grows on top of an inedible stem. When the plant is mature, two processes are needed to retrieve the kernels. Both generate waste.

First, the heads are cut off from the stem with a scythe. The stalks that remain in the ground are called “stubble.”

Then the heads are crushed under a sledge to separate the husks from the kernel. On a windy hillside, the material is tossed into the air. The heavier kernels fall to the ground, and the husks blow off to the side. What blows away is called “chaff.”

After the kernels are safely stored, the chaff is burned to get rid of it. Cf. Matt. 3:12, “he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Sometimes the fields are burned as well, to prepare them for replanting.

Both the chaff and the stubble are very dry, so this fire burns very quickly. Thus the simile refers to the deliberate, rapid destruction of useless portions of the crop by fire. . .

The point of the comparison with the fire is in the rapidity with which this judgment comes.

C.  Justification for Destruction

For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts,

And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Grogan.  The series of “woes” is over.  The last of them was pronounced against evil judges; now the supreme Judge begins to declare sentence.  The fire of God will burn them; the hand of God will smite them.

Key explanation for the severity of this judgment

how does a person “despise” God’s Word? By ignoring it, by devaluing it, by refusing to live according to it.

1 Sam. 15:23, 26 Samuel’s rebuke of Saul —  “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.

Jer. 6:19  “Because they have not listened to My words, and as for My law, they have rejected it also.”

Why would someone ever foolishly reject God’s Word and God’s Authority?

–          They prefer their sin; they imagine that God’s path of holiness and righteousness is restrictive and boring and unfulfilling; they want to live life to the fullest; they think happiness can be found in sinful pleasures for the moment

–          They want to control their own life; they love autonomy and independence rather than submission to God; they want to call the shots; think that they are wiser than God

–          They imagine that their perceived freedom is better than serving God; not realizing that they are actually in bondage to sin and to Satan

–          They are blinded by pride and selfishness and covetousness and the lies of Satan

II.  (:25)  DEVOURED BY THE OUTSTRETCHED HAND OF THE ANGRY ALMIGHTY – USES NATURAL DISASTERS LIKE EARTHQUAKES

A.  Imminent Judgment

On this account the anger of the LORD has burned against His people,

Bad things have been presented as going to happen – now the Lord presented as the direct agent

People in Isaiah’s day had been mocking the prophecies of impending judgment – I don’t see it; I don’t believe it is coming – Isaiah warning them that they are under the blade of the guillotine and it as about to fall in swift and punishing justice

B.  Intense Judgment

And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down,

And the mountains quaked;

Aside: How are we to respond to natural disasters like Katrina??

–          We cannot presume to know the mind of God in terms of His intent in allowing any situation to occur – sad commentary on the unloving spirits of some professed Christians who spoke out publicly linking the tragedy that played out in New Orleans to some of the debauchery that could be found in any major city in the U.S.; remember when the disciples asked Jesus in John 9:2Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”  Jesus rebuked them for such presumptuous reasoning: “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

–          If we are involved in a severe trial we must look to the Lord ourselves and examine our hearts to see if it might be some form of discipline for sin; to see if some type of response of repentance is needed on our part; but don’t force such counsel on others; remember the counselors of Job who tried to get him to take ownership for sin as the cause of his troubles … but sin was not the cause; don’t imagine that we are above God’s judgment; take a balanced perspective

–          We on the outside of the disaster must respond with hearts of compassion and mercy rather than judgment – remember that mercy triumphs over judgment

Is. 13:9  “The day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it

People today are not quaking in their shoes at the prospect of standing before God in judgment; they don’t believe in the intensity of God’s wrath; instead the afterlife is portrayed of some pleasant, peaceful journey where there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel as you pass from this life to the next; almost a serene type of pastoral setting like that pictured in the 23rd psalm where you rest comfortably in the meadow beside the still waters after the difficult trials of this life

When God’s wrath is displayed, the mountains quake – not a peaceful, serene picture but one of intensity and fear

C.  Inescapable Judgment

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.

Preceptaustin: God’s anger burning is a frightening metaphor, one that is frequently repeated in Isaiah (Is 5:25, 13:9, 13, 30:27). . .  His hand is still stretched out  – This anthropomorphism describing God’s hand is frequently used by Isaiah to picture of God’s power and authority. (see Isa 5:25, 9:12, 17, 21, 10:21, 14:26, 27, 31:3)

Cf. actual earthquake in days of Uzziah – Amos 1:1; Zech 14:5  you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

MacArthur: Josephus connects it with Uzziah’s sin of usurping the role of a priest (2 Chron 26:16-23).  An earthquake of severe magnitude occurred ca. 755 B.C.

Van Parunak: This “therefore” answers the taunting request of v. 19. They asked, “Where is his promised judgment?” Isaiah responds, “You saw a part of it already, in the earthquake.”

Beall: Note the same refrain in v. 25 as in 9:11, 17, 21, and 10:4.

Anger is inexhaustible – plenty more there to dish out – “His hand is still stretched out

Don’t think that God’s anger is over; more to come

III.  (:26-30)  DEVOURED BY THE ENEMY NATION COMMANDED BY THE SOVEREIGN LORD OF HOSTS – USES PAGAN NATION

A.  (:26)  Imminent Judgment

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.

Vs. 17 – reference to “strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy

Hab. 1Perplexity of the prophet: The prophet wrestles with the appropriateness of God using the wicked Chaldeans(Babylonians) to judge His own people – Divine discipline can be packaged in strange ways; unrestrained cruelty; but ultimate accountability … “the just shall live by faith

Perplexity regarding God’s ways and God’s timing should never shake our faith in God’s righteous judgments or faithfulness to His prophets

When God calls this foreign nation to come in judgment; they come immediately and swiftly; no delay

B.  (:27-28)  Intense Judgment

1.  Fully prepared for battle

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.

girding up your loins so you would not trip

2.  Fully equipped for battle

Its arrows are sharp, and all its bows are bent;

Always store a bow unstrung; when you are ready to use it you string it; locked and loaded

3.  Fierce and swift in the execution

The hoofs of its horses seem like flint, and its chariot wheels like a whirlwind.

C.  (:29-30)  Inescapable Judgment

1.  Image of  the Roaring, Growling Lions – Catching and Dragging Off Their Prey

“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. And it shall growl over it in that day

loud roar of lion as it sets out on its hunt; contrasted with growling as it protects and eats its prey

2.  Image of the Roaring Sea

like the roaring of the sea.

            3.  Image of the Dark Storm Clouds

If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress; Even the light is darkened by its clouds.

No hope of deliverance

Young: The preceding judgments had all been insufficient.  God’s outstretched hand, the symbol of His power and strength, will still carry out His purposes, inflicting new judgments beyond those which had already been executed. . .  Capable is the enemy and ready for attack.  He is also fierce and bold, and one who will have success.

Oswalt: For Isaiah at that point, it was not so important to specify who the destroyers would be as it was to indicate the imminent, irresistible, and wholly-to-be-expected nature of what lay ahead.

Preceptaustin: The beastly aspect of the barbarian brutish nation is dramatically described. There is no one to deliver from such an overwhelming force. Israel is like a helpless prey before the powerful predator.

Van Parunak: They are “locked and loaded.” The arrows are sharpened, and the bowstrings have been placed on the bows to make them ready for action. (A bow is stored unstrung, so that it will not lose its tension.)

God could also use:

–          Financial Disasters

–          Health Disasters – Disease and Plague

–          Internal Treachery

CONCLUSION:  Application:  Look at Final Judgment – both believers and unbelievers face ultimate accountability – for the believer, our worthless deeds will be burned up without reward, but for unbelievers their fate is one of condemnation and eternal suffering in hell

A.  Imminent

James 5:9  “the Judge is standing right at the door

Jonathan Edwards – July 8,1741 – preached the most famous sermon in the history of America: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” – taps into much of the same imagery Isaiah used in our passage:

“There are the black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you.  The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor”

B.  Intense

Rev. 20:14-15  “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”   Not just tongues of fire but lake of fire

Many evangelical scholars are backing away from the concept of eternal punishment in hell in a lake of fire; watering down the scriptural doctrine to advocate annihilationism (the wicked will cease to exist after death) – men like John Stott … listen to the words of R.A. Torrey:

“Shallow views of sin and of God’s holiness, and of the glory of Jesus Christ and His claims upon us, lie at the bottom of weak theories of the doom of the impenitent.  When we see sin in all its hideousness and enormity, the Holiness of God in all its perfection (cf. Isaiah 6), and the glory of Jesus Christ is all its infinity, nothing but a doctrine that those who persist in the choice of sin, who love darkness rather than light, and who persist in the rejection of the Son of God, shall endure everlasting anguish, will satisfy the demands of our own moral intuitions.”

Robert A. Peterson: A TRADITIONALIST RESPONSE TO JOHN STOTT’S ARGUMENTS FOR ANNIHILATIONISM:

I have weighed the argument that hell-fire signifies unbelievers’ extermination and found it wanting.  Although some hell-fire passages could be interpreted in this way, they should not be. This is proved by the fact that fire signifies the suffering of pain, not consumption . . .

http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/37/37-4/JETS_37-4_553-568_Peterson.pdf

C.  Inescapable

Jude 15   the Lord will come “to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way; and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”  There will be no escape from the final wrath of God

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