We’ll soon be witnessing the various parades for Christmas. Brightly colored floats dotted with festive people, smiling, tossing candy and being merry. But, imagine if that procession were heading toward a large ravine filled with a burning chasm of lava! What would you do?
What a terrible description is that given in Isa 5:18 of the inevitable progress of sin! The bacchanalian procession which is seen, in Isa 5:14, descending with music and flowers into the open gates of Hades is described in Isa 5:18 as being drawn down by a cable. Men begin with a thread, but the thread of habit becomes a rope, and the rope grows to a cable, which ultimately lands a man in the pit. –F.B. Meyer
I had to look up ‘bacchanalian’ in the dictionary. It describes drunken revelry or a drunken orgy.
It would be easy to pass off such a description as applying to eeevil men. Yes, those godless heathens who drink alcohol, or watch porn, or skip church!
Unfortunately for folks who would draw that conclusion … they’re the ones to whom Isaiah is writing! He’s writing to God’s people! He wasn’t a prophet to the Canaanites, or the Egyptians, or some other heathen group. No, he was sent to Israel and the House of Judah!
He was decrying the state of the priests and the folks going to Temple for worship! He begins chapter 5 describing them as a vineyard that God had pruned and tended … yet produced wild grapes (which, are small, seedy and bitter).
The people who consider themselves Christians are the audience that must read Isaiah and wonder … does this describe me? Have I harbored some sin that I view as a small thread … maybe outbursts of anger which cause others to tip-toe around so they don’t rile the beast within you? Maybe jealousy that burns with covetousness at others who appear to have a better marriage, a more popular family, a group of cool friends, a successful career? Perhaps a “healthy competitive spirit” that is actually rivalry with others. A sense of superiority because you’ve been accepted in a growing church and you believe you are part of something big that God is doing.
Wine, drinking, etc. that’s fine. To prohibit it is just legalism. Same with entertainment … a “strong Christian” can watch smutty shows, excessive violence, drab, nihilistic shows and movies, read books and watch things that extol sorcery and witchcraft without it affecting their walk with God (who abhors sin).
Isaiah points out that these ‘wild grapes’ have not been responsive to the tending of God’s work. They call wrong right and right wrong. They take bribes and distort justice.
Spiritual abuse in so-called churches is rampant! And it always has been. The Church persecuted people just as bad, if not worse than the Roman Empire did under Nero. The Church, during the Reformation, hunted down the derisively named Anabaptists and drowned them, hanged them, and burned them … in the name of God.
Such utter blasphemy and hypocrisy of these waterless clouds is astounding. And it happens still today. Some little horn rises up and usurps the authority that only belongs to Christ himself. He does so for sordid gain (we call that career advancement) or personal fame.
These useless grapes will read from the Bible. They may preach 90%+ truth. But then, they toss in some small thing that leads people to follow them more than the Lord.
Unlike John the Baptist, they never say “I must decrease, He must increase.” (John 3:30).
Unlike Paul, they are loath to worry that after preaching, they themselves might be disqualified. Rather, they will be the ones who stand in judgement, with the audacity to argue with God Most High by saying, “Lord, we did all these things in your name!” (Matthew 7:23).
They are the bright, pompous, religious self-sanctified procession of smiling revelers who believe they hold the Truth, while on that path to Hell.
Each must examine himself/herself and be strict, as Paul was, to ensure that he is not found disqualified. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
The mark of a true child of God, a good grape, if you will, is one that hears the Word of God, and does what He says.
Jesus made no exceptions when he taught that his followers should have no “rabbi” or “teacher” over one another. They have one teacher, that’s Jesus. (Matthew 23:8). And yet, instead of following this, so-called leaders of the congregations will misinterpret passages about being elders ruling over the body of Christ. And, contrary to every teaching from Christ, they seek honor from people in their church, rather than God (again, twisting scripture in favor of the lusts of their flesh).
The mark of an overseer of God’s people is that he should excel in the fruit of the spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This list shows up in a variety of places in the epistles of Paul and Peter. They’re elaborated in the qualifications of an “elder” or “overseer.” Ephesians 4:2 and 1 Peter 5:5 include “all humility” as another trait.
The true fruit of the True Vine will demonstrate the growing influence of that Spirit, producing in them … humility like Moses, like Jesus, like Paul, like Peter. They will have love that is inspired not by how many people think they are loving, but true love that causes them to obey the words of God and fear the righteous Justice that rules God’s universe.
Isaiah is writing to Christians. Each of us must be warned against being lax in regard to God’s pruning influence. Without it, we’ll find that we’re not Christians at all, but rather we’re in a procession leading to the pit.