Text: Isaiah 1:18-31

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. Again, when I speak of God’s people, I am speaking of the church, Jewish believers, and Jews that do not yet believe that Jesus is their Messiah.

In the days of Isaiah, God’s people are headed for disaster —  exile (separation from His presence), and even death and condemnation. Oh, but if they will repent as I did, the Lord and I will rejoice and sing (Zephaniah 3:17)!

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, “Choose This Day.”
Verse 18 —

First, the Lord extends a merciful offer. Come, let us reason together (let us be right), says the LORD. Let Me correct what is wrong in you. Your sins are like a scarlet stain, very visible! But you will be white as snow (pure)! Your sins are a red stain, like crimson, very visible. But I will make you like (pure white) wool. He will remove all the sin stains from His people when He purifies them.

Verses 19-20 —

But His people must choose —

— If they consent and obey (if they become willing and obedient), they will eat. What will they eat? The best of the land, provided by Him.

— If they refuse and rebel, they will be eaten. What will eat them? They will be devoured (consumed) by the sword of their enemies.

Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Eat or be eaten. It is a choice each believer must make. If you consent and obey, He will provide you with the best food of the land. If you consent and obey, you will partake of the Bread of Life. Glory to His name, for His great mercy!

But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured (eaten) by your enemy, Satan. Do you see the contrast? Peter warns believers —

1Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

If Judah and Jerusalem continue to refuse and rebel, they will be consumed by their natural enemy, Babylon. Indeed, they did choose to refuse and rebel, and Babylon invaded them and ate them with their swords. The invasion began 76 years after Isaiah was murdered by Jews who refused and rejected the Lord’s warnings that Isaiah faithfully spoke.

Verses 21-23 —

The LORD describes those who refuse and rebel continues. Look at the contrasts and the imagery, in His words to Isaiah 

— Faithful, but now a harlot (prostitute)

— Full of justice and righteousness, but now, full of murderers

— Silver that has become dross (impure)

— Drink (choice wine) no longer full strength, but diluted with water

The LORD continues—

— Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves (as Jesus said when He cleansed the temple in Matthew 21:13, the temple was no longer a house of prayer, but a den of robbers)

— Everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards of a bribe (money, possessions)

— The Lord says, They do not judge the fatherless righteously, nor does the widow’s plea come before them. They provide for no one but themselves. And spiritually speaking, the fatherless are not told about the Father who will gladly receive them, and the widow is not told about the Husband who would gladly receive her!

Verse 24 —

Therefore, because His people have chosen to refuse and rebel, the LORD GOD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel declares something. He is LORD, He is GOD, Israel belongs to Him, the Mighty One. 

How foolish to come against the Mighty One, their LORD, the one true God! But they have chased after false gods that are the works of men’s hands and imaginations. They love the sensuality of the cult worship of false gods (Jeremiah 5:31).

His people have become His adversaries! So He will relieve Himself of them, He will avenge Himself against His people who have become His foes. Indeed, they will go into exile in Babylon.

Verse 25 —

He will turn (stretch out) His hand upon them. He will inflict extreme punishment upon them through King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 

But His exile is an expression of His mercy to His people. By their exile, by their separation from Him, by their punishment, He says, I will smelt away your dross as with lye (which attaches to impurities so they can be skimmed off during smelting), and will remove all your alloy (admixtures). They will no longer worship other gods. He will purify them!

Verse 26 —

After I have exiled you, He says, in that day, I will restore your judges (leaders) as at the first. I will restore your counselors (advisors) as at the beginning. They will be made righteous before Me! 

And all of you who have undergone My purification will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city. You will be right like me, and faithful like Me! And He and I will sing, when He does this in His people!

The LORD gives a prophecy of the coming Purifier, His Son —

Malachi 3:2  “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi (and all believers) and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.”

Verses 27-28 — 

The LORD says, all who consent and obey will be redeemed (bought back), for I am a LORD of justice. I redeem the repentant! What is more, I redeem them with righteousness, for I am the LORD of righteousness, the Righteous Judge (Psalm 7:11, 2Timothy 4:8)! I will buy you back from Babylon.

But it is a different story for those who refuse and rebel! He says, Transgressors (those who commit apostasy, turning away from the LORD) and sinners (those guilty of disobeying Him and refusing to repent) will be destroyed (ruined) together. Those who forsake Him will be consumed (perish).

Verse 29 —

The LORD says, When I judge you who refuse and rebel, you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired. The oaks were “sacred” trees that were part of a fertility cult, where false fertility gods were worshiped via sexual acts.

It is the same in many false religions today. Satan knows the most powerful drive in humans is sexual. So he puts it in the minds of the foolish to create such gods out of their own imaginations.

And the LORD says to those who refuse and rebel, you will be embarrassed (you will blush) at the gardens which you have chosen. Again, these are places of “sacred” springs or wells where fertility cult worship was performed.

Verse 30 —

The LORD says, when I judge you who refuse and rebel, you will be like an oak whose leaves fade away (wilt). I will disgrace you. Because you love those oaks, I will make you wilt. Because you love those “sacred” springs, I will make you a waterless garden, incapable of producing anything.

Verse 31 —

The LORD says, when I judge you who refuse and rebel, your strong men will become like tinder, like the refuse of flax, which is useless and is shaken out. The writer of Hebrews warns the Jewish believers who had been scattered because of persecution —

Hebrews 12:26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.” 27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

The LORD says, When I judge you who refuse and rebel, your strong men will become as a spark, and your work and your strength will burn together. And there will be none to quench them (see Jesus’ words in Mark 9:43-46). 

Eat or be eaten. Consent and obey or refuse and rebel. Turn, beloved! The LORD and I want to rejoice over you with singing!

Lord, may Your people hear the truth of Your words. May they see that You will forgive and restore them, if they consent and obey. But may they also see that You will ensure their destruction and they will perish, if they refuse and rebel. Amen.