This is the first in a series that I pray will work all the way through Isaiah, with an eye to seeing Christ where He is truly presented.
Isaiah is a vision given to the son of Amoz. This gives us a clue about the nature of this book – similar to John’s Apocalypse, wherein he was shown a vision and told to write what he saw. So as you read Isaiah, bear in mind that visions tend towards the symbolic, often using common vernacular to paint a word picture of something else. Isaiah brings a four-fold message to the reader: a.) Accusing God’s covenant people of sin, rebelling against the God Who made them; b.) Sinners are instructed to repent and reform; c.) Announcing God’s judgment on people because of their sin; and d.) Revealing the redemption of His people.
Chapter 1. We find out who Isaiah is the extent of his vision. Isaiah 1:1 (HCSB) The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Isaiah 1:2-4 (HCSB) Listen, heavens, and pay attention, earth, for the LORD has spoken: “I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s feeding trough, ⌊but⌋ Israel does not know; My people do not understand.” Oh sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, brood of evildoers, depraved children! They have abandoned the LORD; they have despised the Holy One of Israel; they have turned their backs ⌊on Him⌋.
Out of the gate, YHWH brings a charge against Judah. He calls heaven and earth as witnesses, reminding His covenant people that He raised them and they have rebelled, turned their backs to Him; weighed down with sin, full of wickedness.
Isaiah 1:9-11 (HCSB) If the LORD of Hosts had not left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would resemble Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats.
How often did Israel lament that if YHWH had not acted, they would like Sodom and Gomorrah! Isaiah then addresses Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah and tells them He’s fed up with their hypocritical religion.
Isaiah 1:13-15 (HCSB) Stop bringing useless offerings. ⌊Your⌋ incense is detestable to Me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies— I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with ⌊them⌋. When you lift up your hands ⌊in prayer⌋, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
When unrepentant sinners do religious rites, they are detestable, burdensome, hated, and YHWH will not pay attention to them. If your religion is mere formalism, it is detestable to God. If you and I are not repentant and humble, thankful and in awe at being in Christ, we are tiresome to God.
Isaiah 1:16-17 (HCSB) “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.
Israel had a long record of abusing widows and orphans, waiting for their Sabbath to be over so they could cheat people with unbalanced scales. They were called to repent and make good on those they had taken advantage of. Then we read, “Come, let us reason together …” And then:
Isaiah 1:19-20 (HCSB) If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
This is the constant refrain in Scripture is those who do not repent will suffer the wrath of God – for the mouth of YHWH was spoken it (cue Handel!)
In verses 21-23 Israel is judged as guilty – doing all the same things He noted earlier in this chapter. The rulers were corrupt and vile. Yet in verses 24-31 God promises to punish His enemies, remove the dross from Israel, make the remnant righteous, a faithful city.
Isaiah 1:27-28 (HCSB) Zion will be redeemed by justice, her repentant ones by righteousness. But both rebels and sinners will be destroyed, and those who abandon the LORD will perish.
Here is the repeating contrast, repentant people redeemed by justice are made righteous. Rebels and sinners will be destroyed.
Be not deceived – God is not mocked, is not ignorant of our sin. Foolish are we if we think we can wink at sin or, hiding it from other humans, thinking He doesn’t see either. Let us agree with God – everything good is from Him; we can add only sin. By His Spirit we are given the will and the ability to do good (Phil 2:13).