Every one of us ought to read the woes against the pharisees and tremble as we recognize that the judgment pronounced on them we also ought to face. But, unlike Isaiah in Isaiah 6, there is no 7th pronouncement of woe. Jesus is not a servant of God who needs to turn and confess His own sin. Instead, he is the Suffering Servant of God, the Messiah, who has no sin. And yet He was made to be sin for our sake, that we might be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
The Great Sequoias are one of the most majestic things on earth. The grow to enormous sizes. They live for millennia. But as amazing as they are, they require fire to reproduce. Apart from forest fires their cones won’t open and release the seedlings, the ground won’t be clear from underbrush and leaves for the seeds to germinate in the soil, and light and water will not be able to reach the forest floor to give them the proper conditions to grow.
This is remarkably similar to the way we see God’s judgment used in the Scriptures. In Hebrews God tells us that “for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11, ESV). But this is also what we see modeled throughout the Scriptures. When judgment is threatened or pronounced, apart from the final judgment, one of God’s key purposes is always to bring people to repentance. Think of Jonah who preached “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4, ESV), only for his pronouncement of judgment to be used of God to turn the Ninevites to repentance and life, delivering them from judgment. And Jonah knew this would happen. He tells God later, “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2, ESV).
This came to mind recently when studying Luke 11-12. At the end of Luke 11 Jesus pronounces 6 woes, or curses, on the pharisees and lawyers for their hypocritical religious practices that are not only a demonstration of their own idolatry, but that are also leading the people to destruction. Reading these 6 woes ought to remind us of Isaiah, as it doubtless did the pharisees and lawyers who knew God’s Word so well.
In Isaiah 5 God also pronounces 6 woes on His people for their sin.