God's Punishment
of the Rebellious

Isaiah 65.1-9

Good News Translation (GNT)

1  The Lord said, "I was ready to answer my people's prayers,
   but they did not pray. I was ready for them to find me, but they
   did not even try. The nation did not pray to me, even though
   I was always ready to answer, 'Here I am; I will help you.'
2  I have always been ready to welcome my people, who
   stubbornly do what is wrong and go their own way.
3  They shamelessly keep on making me angry. They offer pagan
   sacrifices at sacred gardens and burn incense on pagan altars.
4  At night they go to caves and tombs to consult the spirits of the
   dead. They eat pork and drink broth made from meat offered in
   pagan sacrifices.
5  And then they say to others, 'Keep away from us; we are too holy
   for you to touch!' I cannot stand people like that-my anger against
   them is like a fire that never goes out.
6  "I have already decided on their punishment, and their sentence
   is written down. I will not overlook what they have done, but will
   repay them
7  for their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They have burned
   incense at pagan hill shrines and spoken evil of me. So I will
   punish them as their past deeds deserve."
8  The Lord says, "No one destroys good grapes; instead, they make
   wine with them. Neither will I destroy all my people - I will save those
   who serve me.
9  I will bless the Israelites who belong to the tribe of Judah,
   and their descendants will possess my land of mountains.
   My chosen people, who serve me, will live there.

Commentary on Isaiah 65:1-9 taken from
Working Preacher By Elizabeth Webb -
Theologian and Episcopal layperson Liberty, MO, USA

God's Punishment of the Rebellious

Isaiah 65.1-9

Wherever we point the finger, we do make sure that finger is pointed;
someone must take the blame for suffering that defies our understanding.

The Israelites who returned from exile in Babylon faced precisely this problem:
how can we explain the immense suffering endured by the people of God?
Despite the people's suffering, Second Isaiah promises a God who will
continue to bless Israel

The small groups of exiles who returned to Judah after Persia's defeat of
Babylon, in 539, faced hardship, famine, political in-fighting, and economic
oppression. How to account for this continued suffering, even after the
promised return to their homeland has occurred?

Third Isaiah, chapters 56-66, finds a way:
it is God's punishment for the people's unfaithfulness.

What is this unfaithfulness? Verses 1-7 of chapter 65 delineate the people's sins.
The first two verses depict a God who longs to be sought by God's people but who
is continually shunted aside.

God's voice even sounds plaintive here; "Here I am, here I am," God cries,
to a nation that turns away. Specifically, the people have turned to the practice
of pagan rituals.

"Sacrificing in gardens" seems to refer to the practice of fertility rituals,
and those who "sit inside tombs and spend the night in secret places" seem to be
those who engage in rituals for consulting the dead.

They eat the flesh of pigs, and they consider themselves holy, set apart,
by these practices, not because they belong to God.
The people's disobedience and infidelity have made them repugnant to God.

The continued suffering of the Israelites, therefore, is just punishment for their sin,
although not all of the people will receive God's punishment.
God "will repay will repay them for their sins and the sins of their ancestors"
for the people's actions.

It is the people themselves who are responsible for their suffering; God cannot abide
the unfaithfulness of God's own people, but must destroy those who disobey.
Yet God will not punish all; a remnant, a chosen few, will be redeemed,
who will receive all that had been promised to Israel.

As the winemaker does not destroy a whole cluster because of one sour grape,
so God will not destroy all of Israel, - I will save those who serve me.
Descendants of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms will inherit God's holy mountain,
and will settle there.

Even from among those who turn their backs on God, God will choose a remnant
in whom the promises to Israel will be fulfilled. So the problem of apparently meaningless
suffering is solved in part, in Isaiah 65, by pointing the finger of blame squarely at the people

What they have experienced is precisely what they deserve for their unfaithfulness to God.

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