Text: Isaiah 1:1-17
When God’s people go astray, He sends His prophets to frankly and bluntly warn them of their sin and admonish them to repent and return to Him. In the days of Isaiah, God’s people are headed for disaster — exile (separation from His presence), and even death and condemnation to hell.
The LORD does not desire for any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). So, He sends Isaiah to speak to Jerusalem and Judah. He gives Isaiah visions, and words with which to paint a picture of what the Lord has shown him.
And He sends me to the church today, though I am only a pastor and teacher. But by His grace, I am what I am. As I read Isaiah, I see what the Lord showed him, as if the Lord was showing it to me. If I were going to give this a title, I would call it, “How God Sees Rebellious Believers.”
In today’s church, it is rare to hear frank and blunt warnings about sin. It is rare to hear admonishments for Christians to repent and return to the Lord. But as with Isaiah, He is still sending His apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers to warn and admonish (Ephesians 4:11). The ones who do these things are truly His. I am sent by Him because the church is in danger, just as Jerusalem and Judah were, in Isaiah’s day.
NOTE: In this study, “God’s people” refers to both Israel and the church.
Isaiah’s name means “Yahweh (the LORD) Saves.” His father was Amoz, a brother of Amaziah, who was King of Judah before Uzziah. So, Isaiah was of royal lineage.
He prophesied in Judah and Jerusalem for at least 61 years — first, during the reign of King Uzziah, who reigned for 52 years. It is likely that Isaiah began prophesying near the end of his reign.
Then Isaiah prophesied to Jerusalem and Judah for all 16 years of the reign of King Jotham, all 16 years of the reign of King Ahaz, and all 29 years of the reign of King Hezekiah. These alone add up to 61 years!
Isaiah’s frank and blunt words were not received well by most of God’s people. They did not want to hear such things (see Isaiah 30:10).
Ultimately, Jewish history records that the leaders of Israel murdered him by ordering him to be sawn asunder (into pieces). There is a reference to it in Hebrews 11:37. But he still spoke through his scrolls, and he still speaks today, to God’s people!
So, compelled by the very love of God that He has poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), I will begin to paint a picture of God’s rebellious people as God sees them — including the rebellious in the church. I will begin to paint a picture of God Himself, a picture of His character, a picture of His holiness, a picture of His righteousness, a picture of His justice and His judgments, a picture of His mercy, and His love, for He surely loved even me, enough to draw this rebellious one to His Son, and save me and reconcile me and fill me with Himself!
Verse 1 —
The vision (sight, revelation) of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns (days) of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Isaiah is given a vision, and he paints a picture of what God’s people look like, in God’s eyes.
So, as I have said, Isaiah introduces himself as being of royal heritage (though some commentators dispute this), a prophet who had a continual vision, over a long period of time —well over 55 years, as I have already noted!
The vision was given to him by the LORD. Is it Jesus? Is it the Father? Is it the Spirit? Moses tells us —
Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
I AM is hayah, transliterated as yahweh, the eternally existent God. So, “the LORD” means God, who has eternally existed in three persons — the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
Verse 2 —
Listen, O heavens, and hear O earth, for the LORD speaks — we will soon see that His people do not listen to Him, but the heavens and earth will listen and will therefore stand as witnesses of the LORD’s words.
The Lord says, I have sons that I have reared and brought up, sons who I delivered from slavery in Egypt, sons to whom I gave the land of Israel. But they have revolted against Me!
Beloved, do you know that when you refuse to listen to the Lord, you are rebelling against Him? And do you know that you wound yourself when you rebel? I know, because I rebelled for many years, and was not saved until I was 42.
Verse 3 —
An ox knows his owner, the one to whom he belongs. A donkey knows the location of his stall, a place of provision — food, shelter and rest.
But Israel does not know (personal knowledge, a holy, intimate relationship). My own people do not understand (pay attention to Me, consider Me diligently). The nation I made from nothing, those who I chose to be My people, have no relationship with Me, nor do they pay attention to Me, the LORD is saying.
Verse 4 —
Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity (perversity, sin)! The whole nation, all of the people, are filled with perversity.
All of the people willfully disobey the LORD. They carry their sin upon themselves. It is like a heavy burden, a sack over their shoulder that bends them forward under its weight.
Offspring of evildoers . . . they have been rebelling against the LORD for generations. They are sons who act corruptly (destroying and ruining themselves). What corrupt acts have they done?
— They have abandoned (forsaken, left) the LORD
— They have despised the Holy One of Israel (spurning Him and worshiping false gods who are created to please the god of self)
— They have turned away from Him (literally, turned backward)
Verse 5 —
The LORD asks, Where will you be stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion? Those things you worship (even the idol of self) have wounded you, yet you continue to worship them. It is like a drug addict who thinks he cannot stop, even though he knows the drugs are killing him. He wounds himself continually.
[An aside, to give God glory for what He has done in me — I testify that God healed me of drug addiction at age 20, in a moment of time, in the middle of the night. And He would heal His people of such things, and even their idolatry of self, if they would return to Him!]
O believer, the whole head is sick (your rebellion sickens your entire mind), and the whole heart is faint (your rebellion weakens every part of your heart). The whole nation is defenseless against their enemies. The LORD has unleashed their enemies to discipline His people, so they would turn back to Him.
The whole head also refers to the leaders of the church, who love the world and its wisdom and its ways, and lust after such things. Their hearts are diseased, impure, for they are not filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God’s people have made themselves defenseless against Satan!
Verse 6 —
The LORD has given Isaiah a vision of what His people look like, spiritually, even though their natural bodies appear to be whole. It is not a pretty picture, beloved, but it is given so that they may turn back to Him.
From head to toe, there is nothing in His people that is sound. No well-being whatsoever exists inside His people. They are unaware that they are sick, faint, and that they have been severely beaten.
His people are covered with bruises, welts and raw wounds (rotting sores), from being stricken by the things they have worshiped (even the idol of self). They are like those who have been severely beaten.
And none of their wounds have been treated. Gaping wounds have not been pressed together, in order to close them. Their wounds have not been bandaged, to aid in healing after a wound is closed. Their wounds have not been softened with oil (usually olive oil, used to heal).
Verse 7 —
Now, the Lord gives Isaiah a vision of the land in which His people lived then. It is the same for the lands in which His people live today, worldwide.
Because of the sin of His people, even the land He gave them is desolate (devastated). Even their cities are burned with fire. What a picture Isaiah paints of this vision the LORD has shown him! Strangers devour their crops, and they are forced to watch it happen. It is a picture of invasion by their enemies. They are overthrown by strangers from other lands.
Do you know that when you rebel against the Lord, you are invaded by Satan? He tempts, and your lust grabs whatever he dangles in front of you. O believer, He has come to steal eternal life from you, then kill you, and then destroy you by having his servants lead you down the broad path to destruction. He and they masquerade as angels of light. Paul warns the believers at Corinth —
2Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
Verse 8 —
The daughter of Zion, His people, sit like the crude shelters of those who watch over the vineyards and fields. The huts stand deserted, silhouetted against the sky. There is nothing to harvest. Do you see the picture the LORD is painting through Isaiah?
They are a besieged city, under siege, prevented from going beyond their walls to get food and drink, starving, and sure to be conquered because the Lord is using King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon as His servant to mete out His punishment of His people for their rebellion.
Verse 9 —
Unless the LORD of hosts, the captain of the Lord’s armies, had left them a few survivors, they would be like Sodom. They would be like Gomorrah. They would be totally destroyed by fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24).
But the LORD will never totally destroy His people. He will always keep a remnant. So, before Judah was invaded, a few lived because they obeyed the LORD and went into exile in Babylon. And after he had destroyed Jerusalem and Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar left a few Jews to tend to the vineyards and fields.
Verse 10 —
Hear the word of the LORD, cries Isaiah! Hear the word of the LORD, rulers of Sodom, for you have become like Sodom to Him, just as perverse and filled with sin from end to end.
Give ear to the instruction of our God, cries Isaiah! Give ear, rulers of Gomorrah,
for you have become like Gomorrah to Him, just as perverse and filled with sin from end to end.
Verse 11 —
The LORD says, through Isaiah, What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? Unless you offer them to Me with right hearts, they are nothing. Your hearts are filled with sin, you have rejected Me, so I will not accept them.
The LORD established the system of sacrifices for sin, through Moses. They were to be offered by people whose hearts were right in His eyes.
But now, the LORD says, I have had enough! You say one thing and do another. You come with your rams, the fat of your fed cattle, the blood of bulls, lambs and goats. But you are simply going through the motions, doing these things as rote. You rebel against Me, and yet you expect Me to accept your sin offerings? I will not!
When you come to appear before Me in My temple, says the Lord, all I see is the trampling of My courts. Who requires this of you? You fill My temple with animals for sacrifice. Their hooves strike against the pavement. I hear their bleating. But your sacrifices are meaningless, because you are rebelling against Me. Oh, beloved, I pray you would see the consequences of your rebellion!
Jesus rebuked His people again, 700 years later —
Matthew 21:12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers (who cheated the people) and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
Verses 13-14 —
Bring your worthless (meaningless) offerings to Me no longer, says the LORD. The incense you burn is an abomination to Me (it disgusts Me), for as soon as you have offered its fragrance to Me, you turn your back on Me and rebel against Me.
New moon feasts, sabbath services, the assemblies called by your leaders — I cannot endure iniquity. I cannot endure your sin. You do not repent. So, all of your outwardly religious acts are nothingness to Me.
I hate your new moon feasts and your appointed feasts — the ones I appointed for you, the ones that speak of My Son. You have made them a burden to Me because you carry upon yourself a heavy sack, a burden of sin that wearies you, and yet you refuse to repent.
So I am weary of bearing the burden of your empty, meaningless observances. I am weary (disgusted) because you continue to worship the gods of the lands whose root is the god of self.
Verse 15 —
Because you sin and refuse to repent, I will hide My eyes from you when you spread out your hands (in prayer). I will not listen, nor will I answer you. Yes, even though you pray many prayers to Me, I will not listen.
I look at you as you spread your hands in prayer, and they are covered with blood. It is the blood of sacrifices to false gods, even the blood of your firstborn children whom you have sacrificed to false gods.
Verse 16 —
Repent! Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. You will find you cannot make yourselves clean, but I will!
Repent! Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. I do not want to see them any more. You will find that you cannot remove the evil from your heart, but I will!
Cease to do evil. You will find that you cannot stop sinning, but if you wait for My promise (Acts 1:4-5), I will give you a new heart and I will put My Spirit within you (Ezekiel 36:26-27), and you will cease from sinning.
Verse 17 —
Learn to do good. You will find you cannot do it. There is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10ff) — but I will fill you with My Spirit, and He will purify your heart.
Seek justice. You will find you are not just toward others, but I will fill you with my divine nature when I fill you with My Spirit, and you will deal justly.
Reprove the ruthless (violent robbers). You are ruthless, in My eyes, so you cannot reprove them. But I will give you a new heart, and then you will be able to reprove the ruthless and exhort them to repent.
Defend the orphan, plead for the widow. You disregard the orphan and cheat the widow now. How do you cheat them? You do not tell them I am ready and waiting to be their Husband. You do not tell them I am ready and waiting to be their Father.
But when I fill you with My Spirit, you will bring widows and orphans into My kingdom (Deuteronomy 24:19-20). I will be a Husband to widows, and a Father to the fatherless —
Isaiah 54:5 “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts;
and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.”
When will He do these things for you? When you consent and obey! Stay tuned for Session 2!
Father, and Lord Jesus, be glorified through this teaching. May Your church and Your people Israel have ears to hear. Amen.