After experiencing a vision of God’s holiness, the prophet Isaiah responded to God’s call by saying “Here I am. Send me.” (Is. 6:8).  Then God told him, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely but learn nothing.’  Harden the hearts of these people.  Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing” (Is. 6:9-10). Isaiah would have an unwelcome reception as God’s spokesman.

Chapter 5 describes the spiritual condition of the people. God condemns sins of “exploiting others, drunkenness, taking pride in sin, confusing moral standards, being conceited and perverting justice” (Application Study Bible).  Because of these sins God had already punished the kingdom of Israel with destruction by Assyria.  Judah (to whom Isaiah was prophesying) would be next – if they did not repent. 

In verse 18, Isaiah gives a graphic picture of how people continue stubbornly in their sinful practices. “What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart!” Phillips translates as follows, “Woe to those who pull guilt down upon themselves with cords of wickedness and drag their sin along as if by a cart-rope.”

The people continued their sinful practices, while experiencing the consequences of their behavior: they were burdened and worn out in their narcissistic lifestyles. The Israelites were foolish enough to believe they could continue to sin even while they contemplated the possibility of divine intervention. They thought they could practice defiant behavior without fear of God interfering in their lives.  It seems we are doing the same thing today. With God removed from out national narrative, we can do as we please, giving only lip service to a God who seems far removed from the affairs of life. 

In verse 19, Isaiah describes the mocking of God. As they prospered in their sin, they did not believe God could judge them.  “What’s God waiting for? Let him get a move on so we can see it.  Whatever The Holy One of Israel has cooked up, we’d like to check it out” (Message).  The people were challenging God to make himself known by doing something – if he really was in control.  They were cynical towards any “moral standard” that implied consequences. In an attitude of disbelief and arrogance, they challenged God to act. 

With our defiant behavior, we could very well be challenging God in our day to bring his judgment.   Like the people of Judah – who kept on in their rebellious lifestyles, believing God would not bring judgment – we continually remove God from our affairs.   

God was warning the people through the words of the prophet not the justify their sinful lifestyle.  Isaiah’s warning in verse 20 has a very contemporary feel to it, especially when we are encouraged to believe a lie about what is sinful behavior. “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Is. 5:20 NLT). 

With ever greater confusion and chaos regarding basic human behavior, could we be inviting and even experiencing the judgment of God?  When the statement, “I am a woman in a man’s body” becomes acceptable, we have come to believe the lie. 

Prayer for this week: Lord, help me to better see where I might be calling evil good and good evil – and to stand for your truth.