God’s manifests His grace upon all types of individuals. Remember, grace is His unmerited favor displayed towards those who deserve His wrath and judgment because of their sin. While mercy is God not giving sinners what they do deserve, which is judgment, grace is God giving sinners what they do not deserve, which is salvation.
In Isaiah 56:1–8; 57:1–2, 14–21, Isaiah chronicled several types of individuals for whom God blessed during the prophet’s lifetime. These were individuals and people groups which God had displayed not only His saving grace, but also His subsequent blessings.
However, Isaiah 56:9–12 and 57:3–13 chronicled the LORD’s judgment upon those who are not recipients of His grace. Isaiah identified two specific people groups facing God’s wrath. These were Israel’s religious leaders (56:9–12) and Israel’s idolaters (57:3-13).
With respect to Israel’s religious leaders in the 8th century B.C., they were guilty of three primary sins against the LORD and His people.
First, they suffered from self-induced spiritual blindness. Isaiah 56:10 says, “His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.” The prophets, who were God’s watchmen, failed to warn Israel to repent of their sins. The prophets ignored and abdicated their responsibilities.
Second, the religious leaders were greedy and self-centered. They only followed their own desires and were intent solely for personal gain. Isaiah 56:11 says, “The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.” Isaiah compared these false prophets and priests to ravenous dogs, only interested in satisfying their own gluttonous appetites.
Thirdly, they were materialistic drunkards. Isaiah 56:12 says, “Come,” they say, “let me get wine; let us fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure.” Their inebriation completely obscured any responsibility they had for their people.
The result was God’s people were unprotected from the symbolic wild beasts of the field; the enemies of God (Jeremiah 12:1-9; Ezekiel 34:1-8). Isaiah 56:9 says, “All you beasts of the field, come to devour— all you beasts in the forest.”
At the same time, the ungodly in general were pursuing their own sins and rebelliousness against the LORD. This included wickedness (57:3-4) such as adultery and lying, idolatrous worship (57:5-11), and false righteousness (57:12-13).
John Calvin wrote that, “Wicked men grievously deceive themselves by supposing that there is no greater happiness than to have life continued to a great age, and by thus pluming themselves on their superiority to the servants of God, who die early. Being attached to the world, they likewise harden themselves by this pretense; that by nothing else than a manifestation of God’s favor towards them while others die, they continue to be safe and sound.”
The wickedness of foolish men continues to this day. May we, who are children of God, be the salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) which is needed in today’s fallen and rebellious world. Pray our godly pastors and church leaders that they will continue to be faithful watchmen.
Soli deo Gloria!