The Awful Rewards for Injustice
Chapter five of Isaiah rounds out the Lord’s indictments of Judah’s behavior, which is rooted in injustice. It begins with Isaiah singing a song about his “Beloved,” who is the Lord, and the “vineyard,” which his Beloved planted. It is clear in the story that the Lord does everything He can do for His vineyard, digging it, clearing it, planting the best grapes. But what did the vineyard do in return? It yielded wild grapes. Switching to the first person, the Lord then calls on the people of Judah to judge between Him and His vineyard; that is, themselves. Had not God done everything He could do for them? The story speaks to Judah’s faithlessness to the Lord, just as we saw in Monday’s devotion. God had done His part; why had Judah (God’s people) failed to do theirs?
Because of their love for sin, especially, injustice. It is woven throughout the entire chapter. “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land,” speaks to the greed of the rich who buy up all the land and leave their poorer brethren with nothing. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them,” obviously speaks to excessive drinking, but again the accent is upon those who can afford such luxurious and selfish living. These even dare the Lord to punish them: “Let the counsel of the Holy One draw near, and let it come that we know it.” These know nothing of the fear of God that is the path of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7 and throughout); they know not that “our God is a consuming fire,” and that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31 & 12:29). Instead they tempt God by calling good evil and evil good.
We live in such days as these, when the salaries of few equal the lifetime earnings of multitudes. I do not blame people for acquiring wealth, as long as it is honest. But the Scripture blames us for how we use our wealth. Do we “add house to house and room to room,” or do we spend it on the poor, or at least on those agencies (preferably Christian) that help the poor and share the gospel with them? These are grave concerns for Christians that evangelicals have long ignored, opting to preach about sexual sin and immorality in general (which does need to be addressed in these perverse times). But the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of justice, not that everyone gets the same reward (certainly not, Romans 2:6), but that we should be ever mindful of our poorer neighbor who may need a helping hand. In short, Advent requires that we examine ourselves to see how we are using our resources for justice, and particularly on behalf of those who need what we could afford to share.