by Mike Ratliff
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)
The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18) On the other hand, genuine believers in scripture are described as those who do fear Him. Tragically, when moral issues between professing Christians and the unchurched are compared there is very little difference. There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty, etc.; in both groups. This evening on Facebook I was notified of a post by a friend that contained the following statement:
“..attending Church feels like returning to the scene of a crime.” ~ comment on a blog
What was my response? I simply said, “???” Then I began reading the discussion which had to do with the experience so many of the commenters had had with pastors, “…holding the people in bondage, or lying to them, or saying things that are just NOT from the Spirit of Jesus.” There were also examples of pastors manipulating their flocks with messages designed to instill fear in attempts to get them to support some sort of political agenda. My brethren, these sorts of things should not be happening within the Body of Christ.
What is wrong? The sin level has risen in the visible Church because there is the same level of fear of God in it that the lost have. In other words, there is no fear of God before their eyes. They actually fear men more than God. This sad state of affairs in the Church actually parallels the apostasy of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament.
Isaiah 5 is the conclusion of God’s evaluation of His people, which began in Isaiah 2:1. In Chapter 5 God compares His people to a vineyard, which He cultivated, but which did not bear fruit.
1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. (Isaiah 5:1-2 ESV)
Isaiah is singing this song to the Lord whom he loves. Who owns the vineyard? God does! He placed it on a very fertile hill. That would be the planting of Israel in the Promised Land. However, on a spiritual level, He gave them His Law and sent them prophets. This signified in Him digging it and clearing it of stones. This is the planting of God’s truth within them. This truth shed light into the darkness removing the stones of confusion and the ways of men and of legalism and self-righteousness. God did everything possible to point the Israelites in the right direction via the Law and the prophets. There should have been good fruit, but instead there was only bad fruit from this vineyard.
3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. (Isaiah 5:3-6 ESV)
God asked for the Jews to judge between themselves and Him. Read this passage carefully. God again repeated the charge that the reason He is bringing judgment upon them is that they do not produce good fruit, but only bad fruit. What are these fruits and what are their roots?
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! (Isaiah 5:7 ESV)
From this passage we see the good fruit and bad fruit. God looked for justice, but found bloodshed. He looked for righteousness, but beheld only the wail of the oppressed. The Hebrew word translated as “looked” here means “to look for patiently” or “to hope.” God is patient towards His people beyond anything we can imagine. The Geneva Bible and the King James Bible translate “justice” here as “judgment.” It is the Hebrew word “mishpat.” This word means “properly” referring to a verdict that is pronounced judicially. It carries with it the idea of all judgments being carried out in a manner that is right in all parts of government, not just the judicial section of it. If this is maintained by a society then this would be “good grapes,” but if injustice and corruption prevail then God sees “wild grapes.” In this song Isaiah tells us that God beheld bloodshed in Israel instead of justice.
The Hebrew word translated as “righteousness” here is “tsedhaqah.” It means “rightness, rectitude, justice, right, righteousness, justness, faithfulness, virtue, piety, mercy, mildness, etc.” The absence of this in society creates victims.
Now carefully reason with me here. The analogy is that God planted good seed in His vineyard and gave it everything it needed to bear the good fruit of Justice and Righteousness, but instead it bore only bloodshed and oppression. Why? Justice and Righteousness that God looks for in His people are both rooted firmly in the fear of God, not the fear of men. On the other hand, the bad fruit is rooted firmly in the world which has no fear of God before its eyes.
What are we to learn from this? You may be saying, “Well and good, but I’m not part of government.” Well, neither am I. However, I know that I am in position everyday all day to make judgment calls in my interactions with other people. So are you. If we fear God and walk before His face in light of that fear, will we judge others hypocritically? Will we falsely accuse people? Will we commit adultery? Of course not! However, if we are walking this life outside of the fear of God then we will be operating in the flesh and will make fleshly decisions that are rooted in the fear of man, not God. That means that we will do evil in the darkness and only stop when we are in danger of being caught.
The fear of God is the missing ingredient in most professing Christian’s walks. The Spirit-filled believer does fear God and walks in submission to Him in all things. The fleshly believer does not fear God and walks according his or her fleshly fears and lusts. They may indeed deeply desire to have victory over their sin, but are powerless to get it. They will try to be godly one of two ways that don’t work. The first way is to be legalistic. This is trying formulas for success or keeping rules. It will work only up the strength of one’s will power. The other way that does not work is to “let go and let God.” This is asking God to miraculously zap us so that we become instantly godly.
No, the only way to conquer our flesh and walk before the face of God as a Spirit-filled believer is to become a mature Christian. That requires cooperation with God in our sanctification. It means a life dedicated to repentance, prayer, and living in the Word of God by applying it to one’s life and submitting to everyone as Christ would. If we will do this we will find that we indeed do fear God and the fruit of that fear is a life that bears the fruits of justice and righteousness.
Soli Deo Gloria!