Six Woes on a Decadent Nation (Part 2)

As I mentioned in last week’s bulletin, a friend recently pointed me to Isaiah 5:8-23, and I read it over and over, stunned at its imagery and prescience. Though directed at God’s own people Israel on the eve of their destruction (see 5:24 and following), it is a fitting message to any society on the downward edge of moral decline. We’ve already seen the first three trends from verses 8-19, greedy accumulation at the expense of others, leisure that replaces godliness, and lies used to introduce immorality. Now we conclude with the final three trends that will produce societal woe and judgment, in verses 20-23.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (20).

As Isaiah considered the moral underpinnings of Israel, he discovered that people were not content to simply choose evil, but also felt compelled to redefine evil as good. Isaiah saw educators and influencers upending morality.

Our society is literally full of such efforts, with social media making it easier and easier for evil ideas to be heard, spread, and normalized. An October 5, 1992 cover story for Time Magazine, “Lying, Everybody’s Doing It,” pointed out the benefits of lying. It helps mitigate conflict, it helps people get promotions and obtain prosperity, it helps people maintain their privacy (these are all things I believe one can accomplish without resorting to lying).

The website of “Pro-Choice Action Network” lists the benefits of legalized abortion. It limits the financial and social consequences of unplanned pregnancy; it enables young women to pursue a degree or career. The website declares, “Women should not be expected to sacrifice their personal freedom to have babies they do not want.”

A widely cited study on cohabitation by Becker, Landes, and Michael, quoted by the National Institutes of Health, declared that cohabitors “have a more precise estimate of their match quality, and should experience fewer bad surprises during marriage” as well as enjoy lower costs of living.

When fornication, murder, and lying can be successfully re-cast as blessings, we are in for trouble!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight! (21).

Isaiah saw leaders who make mankind the only standard. This prideful approach misses out on the wisdom of God present in Scripture, and leaves our limited human minds fumbling for direction and suffering the consequences of our shortcomings. Sadly, it also means that those with power and strength eventually will impose their “wisdom” upon 

everyone else.

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine
And valiant men in mixing strong drink,
Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! (22-23).

With biting sarcasm, Isaiah describes people who have so lost sight of virtue that they can only compete in sin. Isaiah sees a once-great society who’s only remaining accomplishments are in immorality and oppression. Truly, a few notable exceptions, our society seems to be producing less and less of value and more and more filth. Our great exports and innovations seem to come more from Hollywood and Silicon Valley than Detroit and Kitty Hawk.

When such woeful things predominate in society, God’s judgment is surely near! This should cause us to rethink our true loyalties, to remember that the church is the only true “Christian nation,” that our mission is to spread the news of the gospel, to save people from Satan’s clutches, and to provide a hope for a future with God.

–John Guzzetta