October 08, 2012
Woe unto them
Isaiah, the “gospel prophet,” was unsparing in his righteous denunciation of the evil of the nation. It is he who penned words familiar to everyone who preaches the gospel: “We are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). His gospel opens with an equally scathing denunciation of the evils of the nation amongst whom he moved, and the times in which he lived.
No less than six times in Isaiah chapter 5 he pronounced woes upon the people. In v 8 he pronounced woes on the selfish and covetous, those who were amassing personal property and land, forgetting that the land belonged to the Lord.
The self-indulgent are next on his list of those to warn. The scoffers (v 18), the subverters of truth (v 20), the self-complacent (v 21), and the scandalous judges (v 22-23) also come in for his condemnation.
Six woes pronounced on others. But in the following chapter, he gets a sight of the throne and suddenly things change. Now it is, “Woe is me” (Isa 6:5). He realizes two fatal flaws in himself: he is undone – what he is in himself; and that he was a man of unclean lips – the leprosy of sin was evident in his life.
Matthew 23 parallels Isaiah 5 in many ways. Now it is the Lord Jesus who is pronouncing woes on a hypocritical nation. Now there are eight woes which punctuate the chapter. The hypocrisy, blindness, cruelty, avarice, externalism, materialism, and legalism all come in for His condemnation.
But there is one huge and marked contrast with Isaiah. When we come to the end of the chapter, there is not a “woe” but a “blessed.” The chapter closes with the Lord Jesus looking forward to a coming day when Israel will say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.”
There is no woe for the Lord Jesus as there was for Isaiah. For Him there is only a “blessed.” Isaiah was undone in himself; of Christ alone it can be said, “In Him is no sin” (1John 3:5). He was not a man of unclean lips, but full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Without a trace of Adam’ sin
A Man unique in origin
All fair without
All pure within
Our blessed Lord
1. The Lord Jesus was not only greater than the “average” man, but greater than the greatest of the saints; not only greater than the greatest of the saints, but greater than the greatest at their greatest strengths. Think of the faith of an Abraham, the meekness of a Moses, the devotion of a David, and the patient endurance of a Joseph. Consider how the Lord Jesus was superior in each of these.
2. Look at what the Lord Jesus condemned in Matthew 23 and trace the contrast to all of these in His own life as depicted by Matthew in his Gospel.
3. Isaiah had to confess that his lips were “unclean.” In Psalm 45:2 it says concerning the king that “grace is poured into Thy lips.” Can you find some things the Lord said that are only recorded in Matthew’s Gospel which display His grace? How about Matt 3:15; 9:13; 11:28-30; 12:12 17:7; 26:53?