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“Woe!” verses “Whoa!”

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

I believe that we need to resurrect the word “woe!” It is an ancient word worthy of post-modern attention and a small word that carries a big punch.

In Old Testament times “woe” was a pronouncement of judgment on those who dared to disobey God’s Word. It was a shot to the heart (ala Bon Jovi), a punch in the face (ala Rocky) and a kick to the spiritual solar plexus (ala the Prophet Isaiah.)

As a matter of fact this quasi-cranky prophet wielded this word like Scarface wielded a machine gun, with deadly intent. In chapter five of his book Isaiah unleashes the woe word six times on the disobedient Jews. When they said hello to his little, three-lettered friend they were kissing their keysters goodbye. Why? Because his little “friends” were angry Assyrians who would soon descend on the sin-filled tribes of Israel and devastate them.

But in Isaiah 6:1-8 something completely mind-blowing takes place. Isaiah suddenly catches a glimpse of the Lord in all of his glory and is devastated. He was no longer shocked by the sins of the Israelites but by his own sin. He proclaims a judgment upon himself by declaring,

“Woe to me! I am a man of sinful lips and I live among a sinful people!”

His icy finger of judgment, that had been busy pointing at all of the idolatrous Israelites, was unexpectantly turned upon himself and he saw himself for who he really was…a sinner in the hands of a holy God.

What does this have to do with us today? This…too many times we point our condemning fingers at the “sinners” all around us. We look at them and say, in so many words, “Woe to you!” But a millisecond in the presence of Christ would change all that. We would see ourselves for who we are. We would turn our index fingers toward ourselves and proclaim with Isaiah, “Woe to me!”

We should not be proud of the fact that we are Christians. Instead we should be grateful that God, in his infinite mercy, reached into our dark, depraved, judgment-worthy souls and switched on the light. When we we deserved the fires of hell he gave us the hope of heaven!

When we start to think about the amazing grace that God bestowed upon us through Christ Jesus, there is only one word to describe it…


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