A Sad Song Over A Blessed People

Bible Book: Isaiah  5 : 1-7
Subject: Blessings Spurned; Backsliding; Fruitlessness; America; Revival, Need for
Introduction

Somewhere I read that William Gladstone, the renowned statesman, was asked, "What is the most serious thought which enters your mind?" His instant reply was, "My personal accountability to God." Indeed, it is sobering to any rational person to think upon the fact that one day each person must give an account to God. Today we are going to look at the subject of personal and national accountability to God from Isaiah 5:1-7.

Michael Armstrong told of an ancient accountability system in Rome. The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible - he stood under the arch.

In our text, we discover that God holds a nation responsible for its actions and non-actions. God decided to put His words of disappointment in the nation of Israel into song. The text reveals that God is singing this sad song to His beloved - the people He had chosen and the land He had blessed. The subject of the song is the squandered investment of the love of God given to a people who had taken God’s blessings for granted.

Harry Truman, the late President of the United States, is said to have had a policy that stated, "The buck stops here." That meant that he took responsibility for whatever went wrong during his administration. Today, most leaders and most people have a rather different policy: "The buck pauses here but it definitely doesn't stop here!" Be assured that God will stop the accountability where it belongs, whether in our lives or in our nation.

Also, however, be assured the "buck" stops in the church. That is where judgment begins. Almost all New Testament writings detail the responsibilities incumbent upon the Christians in the local church. We must be careful about linking America with The Church of our Lord. I love my country and served in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966. My father served in the Army during WWII in France and Germany. My brother's son served in the gulf wars. I know what it is to protect freedom and I thank God for my country; on the other hand, America is not my major concern. My greatest concern is the local church and our faithfulness to Christ. Our nation has only existed a little over 225 years and will one day collapse like all other forms of government, but The Church will never fall. It is built upon Jesus and He is the Chief Cornerstone. We must be careful not to wrap The Church in the American flag. When it comes to marriage and family, we must keep this in mind. A pastor told me this week about a leader in his church that has left his wife and moved in with another woman. He still comes to church and expects to be treated as if everything is fine in his life. Listen to me carefully - before we start trying to straighten out the world, we better start straightening out our local churches. We must never limit God's Church to any nation, any government or any nationality. In Revelation we read that the people who sing the new song in heaven are from every tongue, tribe and nation.

So, let us consider a trio of truths which emerge from this ballad that God Almighty penned and related to His servant Isaiah. If pondered properly, these poignant points will prod us to progress in our life for Christ! Listening to this text from the Word of God ought to cause each of us to consider our responsibility based upon God's blessings.

And, let me add, if you are unsaved, this penetrating poem from God's own heart will lead you embrace Jesus Christ as your Savior. You will see that God will hold you accountable even for this message that is being preached today. We must answer to God for what we do with what He provides.

A lady called R. E. Neighbor and asked 'Brother Neighbor, where is the bible verse that says every tub must stand on its own bottom?"

"There is no such verse in the Bible," replied Dr. Neighbor, but the thought is expressed in this verse: 'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body … whether it be good or bad.'"

I. THE STANZA CONCERNING INVESTMENT 5:1-2a

The Lord relates how much He invested in the Hebrew people. He blessed them in numerous ways. I want you to think of the following points that God emphasized and relate them to your life and to America.

A. Preparation

He “dug it”

The Lord prepared the land and the nation that His people occupied. He had it planned before they got there. It was accident that they were in a fertile land of milk and honey, it was part of God’s plan for them from the beginning. He had promised it to Abraham. He had led them out of Egypt to go forth to occupy it.

I feel that God has done something similar to us in America. He has blessed us as no other nation that ever existed on the face of the earth.

Also, on a more personal level, we can say that the Lord prepared a plan of salvation at great cost to Himself in order for us to be part of His kingdom. He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16) for us. Our redemption is simply part of God’s plan.

We can say on a national level that God prepared a land for us – and land of liberty, the envy of the world. People around the world complain about America, but everyday thousands try to get into this country legally or illegally because they know it is a land of opportunity. The Lord blessed His Church in America and used His people to spread the gospel from America to the entire world. These blessings come from His heart and His hand. Certainly we are not like Israel. America is never mentioned in the Bible as God's chosen nation. His Church, however, is mentioned as God's chosen and we must be sure that we are living as He tells us to live.

He “cleared it of stones”

The picture here is one of a farmer who very laboriously removes huge, heavy rocks in order to plant a profitable crop. It is a back-breaking task that takes enormous effort. God is saying that He has blessed His people with opportunities to produce success for themselves in their lives and in the nation He has provided. Without Him and His work in our behalf, we can accomplish nothing (John 15:5).

So, we can see that whether we look at this from a view of antiquity involving God’s people, a view of our personal lives in Christ, or a view concerning our beloved country, we are blessed by God. Without Him, none of the victories are possible.

B. Protection

He "built a watchtower"

The Lord did more than just prepare the Promised Land for His people, he placed a watchtower in it. The watchtower was necessary in those days because raiders would often wait until the owner of the land had done all the work, all the plowing, all the planting and watering, and then they would rush in and steal the harvest.

God protected the land from those who would destroy it. Israel was not blessed simply because she had great soldiers and leaders, but because the nation had God’s protection. The same is true of individuals within the land. They were blessed because God had placed a watchtower over them and had kept the enemies at bay.

Are you getting the picture of the message in God’s song so far? God prepared them for blessings, and God protected them from break-ins. Has God not done the same for us? This Old Testament experience is but an example of how God blesses His people and looks to them to acknowledge His blessing and to honor Him through it. We must never take for granted what God has done and IS DOING for us.

I think on a personal and national level that many people have begun to take for granted the incredible blessings we enjoy. Our materialistic and hedonistic age has led to excesses in attitude and behavior that God will not long ignore. This is especially true when it comes to our behavior as Children of God. Those of us who are saved must look to our own house and be sure that we are following our Lord faithfully. He prepared the way for us at the cross and rose to lead us victoriously. No matter where Christians live in this world, no matter what nation they belong to, they are to honor Him in all they do.

But there is more!

C. Production

He provided a "winepress"

God placed a winepress in the vineyard of the Promised Land so that the land could be productive. He is the One who provided the success, wealth and blessings that came from the land. It was not just the ingenuity of the people, the hard work or wisdom they possessed that brought about success, it was the Hand of the Lord that accomplished these things. Sure, God demands of us that we do our part in using what He provides, but without His provision no success is possible.

I was invited to speak at a Men’s Breakfast when I was a very young preacher. I was perhaps 24 or 25 years old at the time. I ate with the men before I was to speak and I was seated next to a man who was older – perhaps in his 50s. We talked and he told me about his business and the great success he had experienced through the years. As he kept talking, he began to brag about all he had done. He then said something that made me cringe. He said, “I am a self-made man. Nobody helped me. What I did, I did alone!”

My answer to his statement had a dual meaning. I answered, “Yes, I can see that you are a self- made man.” He looked at me and said nothing. I think he was trying to decide if I was being sarcastic or recognizing his acumen in business. I can assure you it was the former and not the latter that I had in mind. When I stood to speak, I added a line to my message, “In God’s eyes, there are no self-made men who are truly walking with God.” I’m not sure if he heard me or not.

Sadly, in Isaiah’s time, the people became self-centered. They felt all they had, they had achieved on their own. They patted themselves on the back and they forgot God. Does that sound like anything what we are experiencing today? This same attitude is permeating our country and, I fear, our churches as well.

We need to pray for…

“Enough happiness to keep us sweet.

Enough trials to keep us strong.

Enough sorrow to keep us human.

Enough hope to keep us happy.

Enough failure to keep us humble.

Enough success to keep us eager.

Enough friends to give us comfort.

Enough wealth to meet our needs.

Enough enthusiasm to make us look forward to tomorrow.

Enough determination to make each day better than the day before.” (Pulpit Helps, 12/1990, page 21.)

But, may I add most importantly – we must pray for enough faith and gratitude to remember that every good and perfect gift comes down from God!!!

Look at all you have and remember that without God’s blessing you would not have it. Look at this nation, from sea to shining sea, and remember that unless God keeps His hand on us, our productivity and protections will disappear. I sometimes fear we are already under God’s hand of judgment now for our lack of gratitude of all He has done for us, and this applies to the people who claim to know Jesus more than any other people.

Let’s note now what God said in the second stanza of his song to His beloved.

II. THE STANZA CONCERNING DISAPPOINTMENT 5:2b-4

A. What God Expected

He sought "good fruit"

Luke 12:48 contains the words, “To whom much is given, much will be required…”

Indeed, God came looking for “good fruit” from Israel, the nation He had founded, blessed and protected. He does the same with all those He blesses. He is looking for us individually, ecclesiastically, and nationally to bring forth fruit from the riches He has poured out upon us. He has provided and now He seeks accountability. When God walks over the field of your life, or our country as a whole, do you think He sees “good fruit?” It is a question we MUST ask! We must especially ask that question in the local church. If we aren't living right, seeking God and obeying Him in our living, how can we expect the world to ever come to Christ?

B. What God Exposed

He found "bad fruit"

When God examined the people and the land in Isaiah’s day, He found “bad fruit.” In fact, the Lord states that what He found when he walked through the vineyard He had planted and protected were thorns. I could not help but think of Jesus on the Cross and the thorns on his brow as I read this passage. He came to love, heal and forgive, and they gave Him thorns!

Sadly, so many take the grace and goodness of God in Christ and give Him thorns in return. We can all be guilty of this terrible disservice to our Lord. Certainly you can say that our nation has accepted all of God’s benefits and produced thorns of rejection and paganism. Don’t get me wrong, I know that America still has many God-fearing and born again people within its borders. I know that America gives much to the world from her resources. I know that we stand to protect so many who are less fortunate. However, one cannot deny that we have, to a large degree, turned our back on Him. God is not pleased with “bad fruit” when He has provided good ground. But, again, America is not Israel. The major concern for us ought to be how we are living as born again Christians. I promise you that God is looking at His church and how we live rather than at our nation how they live. God loves the lost. He cares for those who are trapped in sin. But He will not tolerate His own saved people living in rebellion. I ask every Christian in this room to look no further than your own home, your own life this morning, and ask if you truly love and serve the Lord as you should. He has been good to you - are you being good and producing good fruit for Him?

C. What God Expressed

He asked "what more could have been done"

God points out that He did all He could and would do for the people. What more could we ask of our God.

He has given us His Son for a Savior.

He has given us His promises as a comfort.

He has given us His Word as a guide.

He has given us His Spirit as a companion.

He has given us His Church as a fellowship.

He has given us His work for significance.

He has given us the promised of heaven.

He has given us gifts for productivity.

He has given us all we need and so much more.

What more could HE have done? So much of what He has provided has been squandered!

I read somewhere, I do not remember where, of a man in Saskatchewan, Canada, who owned one of the finest collections of rare and valuable violins in the world. He owned violins such as Stradivarius, Nicolaus Amati, Leopold and others. But, he did not play them. No one played them. They were mute and out of circulation. They gave forth no sweet music to be heard. He simply kept them in a collection and horded them away from the public.

It is a sad thing for such great instruments to be idle. What about the idleness of God’s people? We have been blessed, but are we using the things God has given us to bring glory back to Him? That is the question! Certainly the people in Isaiah’s day were not doing that and I fear we are far from doing so as well.

What, then, will the giver of the vineyard do about the situation? That brings us to the last stanza in God’s song to His beloved.

III. THE STANZA CONCERNING JUDGMENT 5:5-7

A. Something Removed

He will remove the "hedge"

God declared the remove of His protection. He said that the hedge will no longer surround you. How very sad! If God takes His hand off of a person, church or nation, what do you think will happen? If He removes the “hedge” what will occur?

When I read this text. I thought about how I felt early on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. I look back on that day as a day God lifted a finger of protection to remind us of how vulnerable we became. Don’t you know that enemies are all around us – both physical and spiritual? They wish to injure or destroy us. They will, if the “hedge” of God is removed.

You see, the church may well come under persecution in America because we have failed to witness to His salvation and goodness. We have judged others while living lives that do not honor Him. If God takes His hand off your life, your home, or your church, what do you think will happen?

B. Something Refused

The vines will "not be pruned"

God states in this song that He will no longer “prune” the vineyard. This image is a vivid one. The Lord is revealing that He will let the enemy of the fruit go wild within the vineyard. In other words, God was going to let the enemies of the Land have their way.

What if our enemies were turned loose on America? What if the spiritual enemies were turned loose on our churches – or our families? May I submit to you that the issue is no longer, “What if,” but has become, “What now!” We can see that our enemies are already at the gate and some have already infiltrated our country, our churches, our homes and our lives. Be assured of this, God is not playing around with His Word and His promises. It is interesting to me that people want to believe every positive promise of God in the Bible, but they are quick to reject every negative promises. I will guarantee you that EVERY PROMISE of God is true – both the positive and the negative. It presumes upon God to believe one and reject the other.

C. Something Restrained

There will be no "rain"

Everyone knows that one thing you must have to grow a crop – any crop – is water. You must have rain. In this song recorded by Isaiah, God states that He will withhold the rain. There will be no water.

Note that water is not something we can produce -. Water is a product of God. God is saying that He alone can bless us, and if we squander His blessing for too long, He will withhold the blessings in the future and allow us to manage on our own. Anybody here really want to do that?

I have read with interest lately the “water wars” that are beginning in America and around the world. Water is becoming a sought after commodity. In California there are areas where the water table has been depleted. The ground is dry above, but even more importantly the ground is dry beneath. In other words, the people cannot even dig wells deep enough to find an aquifer. There is simply no water available. California is building one of the largest desalination plants in the world as fast as they can in order to turn sea water into potable water for the citizens. Let me tell you something, if God turns off the water, the garden is going to die – period!

Conclusion

I know this song from Isaiah was written long ago to His people – the Hebrew people. But we are told in the New Testament that the things that happened to them are examples for us in the Christian age. In 1 Corinthians 10:6 we read:

“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.”

“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)." He does not change. He will not judge a nation which spurned His blessings, and then wink at another. He will not chastise one person for wasting His sustenance and then turn a blind eye to another. He will not take His hand from one church that ceases to serve Him faithfully, and continue to bless another. He is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11).

Today, God is calling us to return to Him with all our hearts. He is calling us to bring forth fruit. Note John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (NKJV)

God can do, give and provide all we need, more than we can ask, and even more than we can imagine! But will He or should He provide anything to those who have taken from His hand and produced thorns? Those who ministered in the early days of the New Testament Church did so in a secular, multicultural, sinful society. Paul preached in cities where sin reigned and Satan ruled. In Ephesus where he planted a church, the great prostitution organization on earth existed. Paul did not fight the society; He presented the Gospel of God's grace, love and salvation. The Church has not risen on what it opposed, but has been built on what it is for - JESUS!

God’s song shared in Isaiah 5 is a Sad Song and so is a life, a church, or a nation that takes God’s blessings for granted. We must return. We must repent. We must renew our commitment to Him and begin to do the first works! When Jesus visited the Church of Ephesus, He reminded them that they had left their first love. My dear friends, our first love is not morality - it is the Master - Jesus. When we love Him and serve Him with love and devotion, He will tend the "garden" in which we live, and if we do not obey Him, He will take His hand off that "garden". May God help us today to avoid hearing God sing this Sad Song over our lives, our homes, and our churches.

Some fear that America is going to be destroyed. That is not my fear. God got along just fine without America for over 1,700 years, and He can do His work through some other nation if He so chooses. My fear is that God will stop blessing the work of His Church and saved people in America because we have left our first love. It is time to bow before Him and renew our commitment to Him. It is time to look at our lives and ask if we are who WE ought to be. Let His judgment begin right here - right now - not with the world, but with us. If become what we are supposed to be, the power of God will flow through us to the world, just as it did in the early church throughout the world.