Continuing with the seven sins of Judah found in Isaiah 5, I want to focus on the last two sins and God’s judgment on a corrupt nation.
Intemperance – “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,” Isaiah 5:22
This is the sixth and final woe. It is linked to the seventh sin, which does not contain a woe. But while they are linked I believe they are separate sins. The above scripture is quoted in the English Standard Version (ESV), which is the version I typically use. However, I am going to deviate here because I think there is more to this statement than just over indulgence of drinking. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) translates the verse this way: “Woe to the strong ones of you that drink wine, and the mighty ones that mingle strong drink:” Now, this may seem to say the same thing as the ESV and other translations, but I think there is a slight variation that is missed. The focus here seems to be that we have heroes of drinking. The Septuagint varies just a little to say, “strong ones” who drink or “mighty ones” that mingle. The difference being that the words strong or mighty ones would imply either great men of war or men of wealth. And that these great men are over indulging in drinking and like behavior. I think this is important when we look at the final sin (remember the sixth and seventh sins are linked). John Gill in his commentary on verse 22 says that these men could be “men of war” or “men of riches”. It really doesn’t matter because men of war and wealth can be the same individuals anyway. The point is that these are men of power and influence, great men. There is nothing more tragic than great men clinging to the more base appetites of the flesh. Let’s move on the last sin.
Corrupt Judges – “who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!” Isaiah 5:23
This is the seventh and final sin of Judah. You see that this is the only sin that does not contain a woe. And as I have stated, that is because it is linked to the sixth woe. The wording of verse 23 refers back to 22. When it says “who acquit the guilty”, it is referring back to the mighty or strong ones – the great men of the culture. This would no doubt include those who have the power to acquit the guilty – judges. You can see how and why the two sins and verses are linked together. Verses 22 and 23 are saying two different things about the same group of people. The great men of our land who overindulge themselves also accept bribes from the guilty and deprive the innocent. The prophet is clearly addressing corruption in the high places of the nation. Now, I am not a judge, so I am not in a position to say if (or to what extent) this occurs in our nation. All I can say is that it occurred in the land of Judah, and just as with the other six sins, there is judgment for this sin. When there is corruption at the highest levels of government, because of its affect on the innocent, God is swift to bring righteous judgment.
Before we conclude the seven sins of Judah, I want to mention the last part of Isaiah 5. This is God’s judgment for the many sins (wild grapes) of his people. While we are not Judah, I think it is important to understand the nature and character of God. Rebellion does indeed bring judgment.
Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! Isaiah 5:24-26
For Judah, we see God’s judgment is to devour their land, and God’s anger is so intense that there will be people dead in the streets. Normally God’s judgment is very quick because he is a gracious God. But here we see that due to the gross nature of the sin of Judah, God’s anger is not turned away, his hand is still stretched out against them. Verse 26 says God will raise a signal, he will whistle for a foreign power to come and conquer his people (likely Assyria). The language of these judgments is intense and frightening. God is going to purge his people of their sin with forceful, righteous judgment – for that is the only thing that will save the people he loves. As we look to America and consider our own gross sin, we must consider how close we are to God’s judgment. Listen up, friend! God is coming! He is coming with intense, righteous judgment. And while we may not know what that will be, we can be sure he is coming to purge sin from his people. We are ripe with wild grapes, and God is coming to prune and cut us back. He is going to cut the sin out, no matter the cost. Is that scary? Yes it is. But God is coming so that we will no longer stray from him. There is only one thing to do in our dire situation – repent and beg for God’s great mercy!