The title for this article comes from the oft-quoted Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil …” Isaiah’s “woe” was designed to awaken and convict the nation to turn back to God before the hammer dropped. Sadly, that didn’t happen. A lack of fear, repentance, and reverence for God led to physical and spiritual judgment.
In the Bible, the word “woe” carries the idea of impending judgment brought on by the wrath of God in sin. It signifies overwhelming grief, sorrow, and regret, accompanied by suffering.
The word “woe” adds a power-packed punch to what the prophet Isaiah is vocalizing. In essence, he is saying, “Listen, this is serious! If you don’t heed my advice, the judgment and justice of God will fall, and the hammer will hit hard.”
It's been said that not even Sodom and Gomorrah reached the level of decadence that we see today in America. Praise God for the remnant and the churches that intercede. In my opinion, they are the only thing keeping God’s judgment at bay.
Sin fascinates before it assassinates
When Isaiah pronounced this “woe” the nation of Israel had become comfortable in their sin. Moral conviction was fading and obedience to God was passé. As a result, they began to compromise and drift further from God. They were calling evil good and good evil. Two of the top evils were infanticide (laying their newborn children on the searing hot arms of Molech as a sacrifice) and sexual sin. Ring a bell? We still sacrifice our children on the altar of sexual sin.
As I’m writing this, the news just broke of Justice Alito's thoughts on Roe v. Wade. The news that this law might be overturned has created a huge uproar. Imagine being angry that babies will live — “woe be to those who call good evil.”
Israel, not unlike America today, paid no attention as their leaders seduced them to do more evil than any other nation before them (see 2 Kings 21:9). They failed to see that when sin fascinates, it assassinates.
Can you hear Isaiah today? I sure can.
- Woe to the school districts who promote sexual perversion and undermine the family.
- Woe to the universities who mock God and teach their students to do the same.
- Woe to politicians who call evil good and good evil and have the blood of the innocent on their hands.
- Woe to pastors and Christian leaders who encourage sin by their silence, and who openly embrace apostasy.
- Woe to the media who lead people astray by twisting the truth to promote the demonic agenda of darkness.
- Woe to the film industry who bows to the whore of Babylon — the stench has reached the nostrils of God.
- Woe to liberal churches who say that they love people but hate God’s Word.
Yes, all of those points are hard to hear for those caught in sin and enamored by idolatry; that’s the point. The “woes” are meant to sound an alarm. They allow the hammer of God to break and the fire of His Word to devour sin.
His Word is also like a double-edged sword that cuts deep and discerns the motives of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Continuing to drink the poison
Instead of humbling themselves, repenting, and turning back to God, most dig their defiant feet into the soil of sin. Instead of running to the cure, they continue to drink the poison. As a recent headline illustrates, they become angry and belligerent: “Liberal group calls for protests at conservative Supreme Court justices' homes” (more here). They are not open to opposing views — “my way or the highway” is their mantra.
This begs the question: Why do certain groups seek to silence God’s truth and adamantly oppose His Word, whereas Christians are open to dialogue and discussion? It's because the truth invites scrutiny, and error runs from being challenged. It also has to do with the darkness hating the light because their deeds are evil. In short, God’s Word exposes evil hearts and demonic plans.
The cure has never changed
Sadly, without a massive spiritual awakening, the divide in our country will only get wider. We all must learn from King Josiah in the Old Testament. Once he heard what God’s Word said about the current condition of the nation, he humbled himself in a profound way, repented, and asked for God’s intervention. God’s answer also offers hope for us today: Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself, I heard your cry and answered your prayer. I have stayed my hand of judgment for now (paraphrasing 2 Kings 22:19).
The cure for spiritual disease never changes: humility, repentance, brokenness, and desperation lead to spiritual health. Our cry must resemble Isaiah’s: “Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence” (Isaiah 64:1).
Like any parent, God hears the cries of His children: Oh God, would you rip Heaven open and come down and help us? This is our only hope. Would be to God that the nations would tremble again at His presence (cf. Isaiah 64:1-2).
In these dire times, let’s make sure we’re on the right side of the “woe.”
Special Note: In 2020, I spoke about revival with 2 Chronicles 7:14 as the backdrop. All three messages can be heard here.
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. Shane's sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at shaneidleman.com or wcfav.org. He is the author of Feasting & Fasting, If My People, Desperate for More of God, and Help! I'm Addicted. Follow him on Facebook at: facebook.com/confusedchurch. You can also follow Pastor Shane on the new free speech platform Parler https://parler.com/profile/ShaneIdleman/posts.