Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
Exegesis and Application
In Isaiah 50:10, the great prophet tells the children of God that they will be surrounded by a “dark” culture without “light” and that they must “trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God” in order to survive.
Earlier, in 5:20, Isaiah has described the “dark and lightless” culture as a society that “calls evil good and good evil and who put darkness for light and light for darkness and who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Moral values have become completely clouded by rebellion against God. Calvin argued that once fear of God vanishes in a society then that same society will “commend what is bad and condemn what is good.” It is important to see that people still call things “good” and “evil,” and still value moral distinctions. What is missing is the ability to rightly distinguish between what is really good and evil. Moral perversion is allowed to run rampant when “good” becomes “evil,” “light” becomes “dark,” and “sweet” becomes “bitter.” John Oswalt has written, “Sin is not content to live alongside righteousness anymore than disease will co-exist with health. Sin can only be satisfied when righteousness is destroyed. If the ethical imperative is dependent upon human reason alone, that reason is no match for rampant self-interest. In fact, self interest will press reason into service to justify its own behavior.” Two hundred years ago, August Friedrich Vilmar (1800-1868) cited instances where murder was been described as a “sacred duty,’ adultery as a “moral necessity” and theft as a “divine mission.” The great Jerome (347-420) noted that this perversity is a crime against God and we see it demonstrated in the Jerusalem crowd choosing the notorious murderer Barabbas over the pure Messianic King for life and liberty (Luke 23:19). Nothing has changed.
Christian journalists: As our culture continues its slide into a thoroughly post-Christian mindset, the media newsrooms will reflect this slide. In metropolitan areas, the newsrooms will be even more post-Christian and thus hostile to Christian sensibilities. The Christian journalist needs to remember that she works in a place of “darkness,” “evil,” and “bitterness.” Still, if God has called you to be a journalist, then this is the place where you are to labor. “Only a prior commitment to the revealed wisdom of God … can make possible genuine long-lasting righteousness both in individuals and in society” (Oswalt). A Christian worldview which sees reality described as Creation – Fall – Redemption and reports and writes accordingly will prevail in bringing justice to our neighbor. Indeed, as Edward Young has written, “Perversion is of the very essence of sin; for sin is the transgression of God’s law.” He who willingly transgresses God’s law proclaims that the law is wrong and the opposite is right. What that rebellious man needs is the Redemptive power of the Holy Spirit who causes old thinking to pass away and new thinking to begin (2 Cor. 5:17).