He waited for justice, but behold, bloodshed; and for righteousness, behold, an outcry! Isaiah 5:7
Justice, Righteousness – When Jesus quotes this passage in Isaiah (Matthew 21:33-46), He applies it in the same way that the prophet did. It is a metaphorical description of judgment found in the parable of the wicked tenants. God in His goodness does everything necessary to prepare a place of harmony and fruitfulness. But the ones He leaves in charge of His carefully constructed garden not only refuse to use the vineyard as the Master wishes, but also seek to take possession of it for themselves. They kill the Master’s messengers and eventually the Son. What is the result? The Master will come upon them with vengeance, destroying them and removing their authority. What was true of the leadership of Israel in the 5th Century BC is also true of the leadership in the 1st Century AD. Those who refuse to use what God provides for God’s purposes will be removed. God’s purposes will prevail no matter what.
Buried in this verse in Isaiah is a Hebrew word play that shows us just how razor sharp the edge between obedience and disobedience really is. The text reads, “He waited for mishpat (justice) but, behold, mispah (bloodshed), and for tsedaqah (righteousness), but behold tseaqah (outcry). Once you see it phonetically, you can understand how powerful the verse really is. The difference between obedience and disobedience is just a single letter. Leadership is granted to those who are meticulous in their obedience.
In Hebrew, meanings derived from these slightly altered words are fundamentally related. Justice has something to do with bloodshed. Righteousness has something to do with a call for help against iniquity. The difference is all important, but the difference is just a tiny shift. If my leadership is motivated by God’s goodness, I will confront bloodshed, fight against bloodshed and abolish bloodshed. If I slip from exhibiting God’s character in my leadership, I will end up on the side of bloodshed. The root word means outpouring. Here the message is that leadership devoid of God’s justice will result in the outpouring of false judgment on the innocent. What this means in graphic terms is that a society without godly leaders will put to death those who do not deserve to die.
In the same way, leadership without blameless conduct and integrity will result in tseaqah, an outcry from the oppressed regarding the outrage of sin. This is the wailing cry of despair by those who are abused because of godlessness. Righteousness is the only protection against exploitation of the ones who have no voice in society. The role of true leadership is to act as the voice of these invisible members of humanity. Leaders who take advantage of the unnamed through their position and power are guilty of an enormous sin before God. And He does not forget!
We see God’s word to Isaiah about the consequences of godless leadership. We see Jesus endorse Isaiah’s pronouncement. Now the question sits with us. What kind of leadership do we endorse? What kind of leaders do we follow? If God did not overlook the sins of Israel, do you think that God will overlook ours?
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