ISAIAH, Part 1

A Great Invitation

Isaiah 1:1—20

Isaiah is the “king” of the major prophets. His writings are among the most profound of all literature, and his prophecies are the most distinctive in all the Bible. Isaiah was a prophet, a statesman, and an accomplished orator. His ministry was extensive, spanning many years and many topics, and it was far-reaching in its influence. The final 40 years of the eighth century BC produced many great men and world leaders, but the greatest of these was the prophet Isaiah. His name means “the Eternal One is Salvation,” and he often engages in a play on words using his own name to emphasize the central theme of his ministry: Salvation by faith.

The historical background of Isaiah can be found in 2 Kings 15—20 and 2 Chronicles 26—32. The first verse of Isaiah 1 gives us the vital historical information that allows us to pinpoint precisely when the prophet lived, where he lived, and, if we are the least bit familiar with Hebrew history, what the conditions were like while he lived and worked.

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

We know nothing about Isaiah’s father, Amoz, except that Amoz shouldn’t be confused with Amos, the minor prophet. What we do know is that by the time young Isaiah arrived on the scene, Israel had fallen into degenerate times. His arrival on the scene was just as timely and fortuitous as Moses’ many generations earlier. In Acts 7:20, Moses is called “no ordinary child,” and we can say Isaiah was also “no ordinary child.” In a world that had become dark with sin and rebellion, and full of despair and hopelessness, the vision that came to Isaiah came at exactly the right time. God’s time is always the right time and God always has the perfect way of revealing to human beings both their sin and guilt and His compassion and mercy. Both of these aspects of God are revealed in this chapter.

1. Their guilt

With one startling sentence, God charges His people with the sin of rebellion:

I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. (verse 2b)

Even though God was addressing His people only, His message was meant to be heard by both heaven and earth. Here we see God, standing up as it were, stating His case before the whole universe against His stupid and disobedient people. God is calling all creation, terrestrial and celestial, to hear His complaint—His lawsuit.

Isaiah pictures God as a father whose children have snubbed their collective noses at Him and gone their own way and are doing their own thing without regard to what their Father wants. God had nourished them and brought them up out of the wilderness and into the land of privilege and plenty. He had given them everything and more, yet without a moment’s hesitation, as soon as they were able to, these “children” spurned their heavenly Father, turning against Him.

We as Christians have got to ask ourselves, Have we not also been the recipients of tremendous blessings, nourished and brought up in the “land of the Gospel light and privilege?” Have we also shunned and spurned God, our heavenly Father?

Let’s think about that as we look at how Israel had rebelled against God.

(1) They were inconsiderate. my people doth not consider. (verse 3b)

To be inconsiderate means to be thoughtless and thankless. The House of Israel had become just that toward Jehovah, their Owner and Provider. It is a terrible thing to become so self-centered that we cease to think about the work of the Lord and stop considering all that He was done and is doing for us. Yet “self-centered” is a very apt description for the average Christian in these days of plenty.

Think about it; what preoccupies your thought-life during any given day? Do you reserve thought about God for just before you drop off to sleep at night, before each meal, and a little longer on Sundays? You may justify that thoughtlessness by saying, God understands I have to work…raise my family…God knows how busy my life is…there are only 24 a day, you know! The thing God understands is that when you spend 95% of your waking hours thinking about your life and 5% thinking about Him, you’re inconsiderate! If you’re a husband, I challenge you offer excuses as lame as those to your wife when she confronts you about never talking to her, or engaging her in meaningful conversation.

When you start treating God as shabbily as that, you are already on your way to becoming a backslider, whether you know it or not.

(2) They left God. They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. (verse 4b)

It isn’t much a walk from treating God with contempt and presumption to leaving Him altogether. Their thoughtlessness resulted in a willful, deliberate departure from Jehovah.

When a Christian begins to take God for granted and when he treats God with an arrogant presumption that says “He’ll always be there no matter how I treat Him,” pretty soon that Christian slips into a backslidden state. This is an incredibly dangerous position to settle into, for the backslidden state happens so gradually that when one is aware of it, it no longer matters.

(3) The became perverse. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. (verse 5)

The nation of Israel had become a nation of perverts, involved in perversity constantly. From the dictionary:

Perverse: Obstinate in the wrong; stubborn; intractable; hence, wayward; vexing; contrary.

The people were living in a backslidden state, in a state of perpetual rebellion, and they were suffering terribly on account of a lifestyle that was contrary to God’s will. Now that’s perverse, and anybody who prefers to live like that is a pervert.

How that must break God’s heart. Having to chastise His people, yet His people responding with even more rebellion. Here the terrible sadness in these words:

In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a ravenous lion. (Jeremiah 2:30)

(4) They had become totally corrupt. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil. (verse 6)

This pitiful description of Israel was both real and symbolic. Physically, they were suffering as a result of sin and spiritually they were killing themselves bit by bit. Nothing they did could stop the national bleeding.

What Isaiah’s people didn’t comprehend was that healing only came from God. When people are right with God, spirits are healed, sin is overcome, bodies and minds restored. No pill or treatment or therapy can heal the total person apart from Jesus Christ. He is the Source of life. Therefore to shun Christ is to shun life and prefer death. That is corrupt! We know how the Lord deals with people like that:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)

2. God’s offer

It all sounds so depressing and hopeless. But we serve a God of hope! We serve a God who doesn’t give up easily.

Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (verse 18)

These incredible words contain:

(1) A startling revelation.

Just when we think there is no hope; when we think we’ve committed the sin that would forever separate us from God, along comes God with this amazing offer. Israel of Isaiah’s day had fallen far but not so far as to be out of God’s reach.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

That’s how God works. He doesn’t wait for us to get right before saving us. While we were at our worst, Christ died for us. Amazing love.

(2) A strong invitation.

God’s call couldn’t have been stronger:

Come now, let us reason together… (verse 18a)

The first thing we need to understand with this statement is that God is pressing His people to make a decision. It’s an invitation, but it is also an ultimatum: repent and be forgiven.

The second thing that strikes us is God’s use of the word “us” in His call. God recognizes and declares our kinship with Himself. God does not reason with animals. He reasons with people capable of reasoning with Him.

The last thing that should be pointed out is the word “reason.” It is a legal word that means “do decide a case in court.” But instead of pronouncing judgment on guilty human beings, our Judge offers us pardon!

How easily it would have been for God to wipe Israel off the map. But He is ever patient, loving, merciful and full of grace. We may be thoughtless, but we are always on God’s mind. God’s invitation is continual; to this day His words resound: Come now, let US reason together…

(3) A precious promise. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (verse 18b)

God condemns sin and sinners, but thank God that’s not the end of the story. Scarlet and crimson were the colors of the robes worn by the princes to whom Isaiah preached. God’s promise was that, even though one’s sins may be as irremovable the stain of blood, grace could restore purity of character.

God can do that because not only is He the offended One, but He is also the Judge. God’s power is in and behind this great promise; His power can turn the sin-stained, scarlet-dyed clothes that make up our filthy rags into a the white robes of a blood-washed saint!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

(4) A condition. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” (verses 19, 20)

This is God’s ultimatum. A lot of us wish God had finished speaking at the end of verse 18! This condition, or warning, cannot be ignored. That little word “IF” is most important and it makes it plain that God has honored the soul of man by giving him a part in his own salvation. Man cannot and does not initiate the call to salvation nor can he save himself in any way, but note this: God cannot forgive an unrepentant soul. A sinner must exhibit repentance—God cannot do the repenting—before God can forgive him.  That is man’s responsibility.

Human beings are always given a choice.  In our day, people don’t like to chose; we like others to make the hard choices for us.  But in the Kingdom of God, it all begins with choice.  God chooses us, and we must chose to follow Him.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

Human beings are always given the choice.  Make sure you’ve made the right one.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd
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