April 8, 2011

The Coming Judgment: Isaiah 1:1-31

1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.


2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: " I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me; 3 The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master's crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider." 4 Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward.


5 Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment. 7 Your country is desolate, Your cities are burned with fire; Strangers devour your land in your presence; And it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8 So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, As a hut in a garden of cucumbers, As a besieged city. 9 Unless the Lord of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, We would have become like Sodom, We would have been made like Gomorrah.


10 Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: 11 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the Lord. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. 12 "When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.


16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.


18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword"; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. 21 How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; Righteousness lodged in it, But now murderers. 22 Your silver has become dross, Your wine mixed with water. 23 Your princes are rebellious, And companions of thieves; Everyone loves bribes, And follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.


24 Therefore the Lord says, The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, "Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries, And take vengeance on My enemies. 25 I will turn My hand against you, And thoroughly purge away your dross, And take away all your alloy.


26 I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city." 27 Zion shall be redeemed with justice, And her penitents with righteousness. 28 The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed. 29 For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees Which you have desired; And you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens Which you have chosen. 30 For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, And as a garden that has no water. 31 The strong shall be as tinder, And the work of it as a spark; Both will burn together, And no one shall quench them.


Introduction


The first verse of the book of Isaiah is a heading in which Isaiah calls what he is about to write a “vision” about Judah and Jerusalem, a vision that he received during the reigns of four kings in Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This gives us a sound basis in history on which to date the prophecies of Isaiah to 739-689 B.C.


The remainder of chapter 1 is an introduction to the rest of the prophecy and refers mainly to what is to follow in the first 12 chapters, in which the prophecy concerns mainly Judah and Jerusalem.


Chapter 1 is in the form of a formal indictment or arraignment in a Judean court, in which the Lord lists the charges He has against His people for rebellion, corruption, and hypocritical worship. This would have been a very important and very sobering format with which to address the people of Judah. It is as though a modern prosecuting attorney points his finger at you and says, “You have been indicted for your crime!”


But you will notice, too, something unusual for the legal indictment format. God also calls His sinful people to repentance. Those who are willing to repent and return to justice and compassion will be forgiven. Those who continue to rebel will be judged. How the Lord will carry out His judgment will be revealed later in the book.


Isaiah calls what he is about to write a “vision . . . which he saw”

Prophets were originally called “seers” (1 Sam 9:9: “Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: ‘Come, let us go to the seer’; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.”) The prophet’s messages from God were the result of visions or direct revelations. The "vision of Isaiah...which he saw" refers to the “sight” or “word” inspired from God; i.e., a prophecy.


The first 12 chapters deal specifically with Judah and Jerusalem, the southern kingdom. Later, the prophecy deals with other nations, Yahweh as the only source of deliverance for all of mankind, hope for the people of God, and salvation through the coming Messiah. For an outline of the entire book of Isaiah, see the end of this article.


Judah’s sinful condition (1:2-15)


In history, Bible scholars have called Isaiah 1 “the great arraignment” of the Bible. In it, the Lord lists accusations against Israel in the presence of heaven and earth; that is, all that exists—the entire creation—is the jury which will hear the accusations against the people God had chosen for His own.


To summarize the indictment, God points out that He has cared for His children, but His children have rebelled; they are unlike the ox who knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib. That is, they no longer even recognize their Lord. The people of Judah were sinful and corrupt and had turned away from God (1:4): laden with iniquity, a brook of evildoers, corrupters, had forsaken the Lord and provoked Him to anger, and they had “turned away backward” (that is, they turned their backs on their God, a gesture of profound and complete contempt).


“Why should you be stricken again?” the Lord asks, “You will revolt more and more.”(verse 5). God had already dealt with them because of their rebellion many times in the past—causing them to wander 40 years in the desert, causing foreign powers to invade the land of His people, allowing the kingdom to be divided, etc., as a way of disciplining and to cause them to turn back to Him. Yet none of that had worked. The people were at a point now that they were spiritually empty.


Verses 5 and 6 describe their condition like a sickness, from head to foot, wounds, bruises that have not been treated. He has let them suffer and brought judgments, but still they persist in keeping their backs to Him. It is not that they don’t know about Him or somehow in ignorance do not follow Him, but they willfully and knowingly have turned away from him. Verses 7 and 8 continue the list of His past discipline: desolation, cities destroyed, a land “overthrown by strangers,” isolated from all that is good (“a booth in a vineyard, a hut in a garden . . . as a besieged city”; that is, separated and alone).


Only because a small remnant remains faithful has the Lord not destroyed the nation (verse 9).


The result of their rejection of Him is empty worship: that is, insincere and meaningless worship, sacrifices, and observance of holy days—all of which are futile (verse 13). And now, instead of more discipline, God is ready to turn His back on them: “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood” (verse 15).


God calls His people to repent


Yet, in the midst of His anger, He again calls them to repent: “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword’; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”


Notice that God does not call His people to do the impossible. He simply wants His people to love Him, honor and worship Him, and to act righteously—do good, not evil; practice justice, not injustice; hold each other accountable; take care of the helpless. Instead of being stained with scarlet and crimson (the stain of sin), they will be white as snow, soft and clean like wool (i.e., forgiven, free of guilt).


In verses 19 and 20, God reminds them that His covenant with the nation was blessing if they obey Him and judgment if they do not. Sadly, we know that they continued in their rebellion, and the nation was destroyed, as God promised if they did not repent, by the Babylonians 130 years later.


The sinful condition of the people of Jerusalem


In verses 21-31, Isaiah turns to the sinful condition of the people of Jerusalem : “How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; Righteousness lodged in it, But now murderers. Your silver has become dross, Your wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebellious, And companions of thieves; Everyone loves bribes, And follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, Nor does the cause of the widow come before them. Therefore the Lord says, The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, ‘Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries, And take vengeance on My enemies. I will turn My hand against you, And thoroughly purge away your dross, And take away all your alloy. I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.’ Zion shall be redeemed with justice, And her penitents with righteousness. The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees Which you have desired; And you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens Which you have chosen. For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, And as a garden that has no water. The strong shall be as tinder, And the work of it as a spark; Both will burn together, And no one shall quench them.


He describes the people of Jerusalem as a harlot—once the “bride” of God Himself, but now have turned away as completely and spitefully as a faithful bride who chooses to become a harlot . . . a city once full of justice and righteousness, but now full of murderers (“murderers”: denotes the worst of sins) . . . a city that is impure or polluted (verse 22)—“your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water” (i.e., polluted by sin; dross consists of the impurities that come to the surface when gold or silver is melted) . . . rebellious leaders who are “companions of thieves” who take bribes and seek rewards; they do not defend the helpless (verse 23). He promises to rid the city of those leaders who are His adversaries, “purge away your dross” (25), restore righteous leadership; and then Jerusalem will be called the “city of righteousness, the faithful city” (26; this is a prophecy to be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom when Jesus returns to rule).


In verses 27-31, God briefly describes the judgment He will bring: through His justice will come redemption; those who repent will be restored to Him, but those who continue in rebellion will be judged. Instead of seeking Him, they have sought pleasures and material advantage of temporary value. When they endure judgment, they will see this and be embarrassed because of their poor choice. The advantages they seek will fade and wither (“as a garden that has no water, v. 30). Verse 31 is a reference to the final judgment. Both the rebel and his works will perish.


Outline of the book of Isaiah


Part 1: Book of Judgment (chapters 1-39)


Messages of Judgment and Promise of Restoration (1-6)

Introduction of the Indictment: Charges against Judah (1)

Future Discipline and Glory of Judah and Jerusalem (2-4)

Future blessings for Jerusalem (2:1-5)

Discipline of Judah (2:6 -- 4:1)

The Restoration of Zion (Jerusalem) (4:2-6)

Judgment and Exile (5)

Isaiah's Commission (6)

The Aramean and Israelite Threat against Judah (7-12)

Ahaz Warned Not to Fear (7)

Isaiah's Son and David's Son (8:1 -- 9:7)

Judgment of Israel (9:8 -- 10:4)

The Assyrian Empire and the Davidic Kingdom (10:5 -- 12:6)

The destruction of Assyria (10:5-34)

The kingdom of David (11)

Songs of joy for deliverance (12)

Judgment Against the Nations (13-23)

Assyria and Its Ruler (13:1 -- 14:27)

Philistia (14:28-32)

Moab (15-16)

Aram and Israel (17)

Cush (18)

Egypt and Cush (19-20)

Babylon (21:1-10)

Dumah (Edom) (21:11-12)

Arabia (21:13-17)

Valley of Vision (Jerusalem) (22)

Tyre (23)

Judgment and Promise (24-27)

Universal Judgments (24)

Deliverance and Blessing (25)

Praise for the Lord's Sovereign Care (26)

Israel's Enemies Punished and Israel's Remnant Restored (27)

Six Woes: (28-33)

Ephraim (Samaria) -- and to Judah (28)

David's City, Jerusalem (29:1-14)

Those Who Rely on Foreign Alliances (29:15-24)

The Obstinate Nation (30)

Those Who Rely on Egypt (31-32)

Woe to Assyria -- but Blessing for God's People (33)

More Prophecies of Judgment and Promise (34-35)

The Destruction of the Nations (34)

The Future Blessings of Zion (35)

Transition from the Assyrian Threat to the Babylonian Exile (36-39)

Jerusalem Preserved (36-37)

The siege of Jerusalem (36)

Jerusalem saved (37)

The Lord's Extension of Hezekiah's Life (38)

The Babylonian Exile Predicted (39)


Part 2: The Book of Comfort (40-66)


The Deliverance and Restoration of Israel (40-48)

The Coming of the Victorious God (40:1-26)

Unfailing Strength for the Weary Exiles (40:27-31)

The Lord of History (41:1 -- 42:9)

Praise and Exhortation (42:10-25)

The Regathering of Israel (43:1 -- 44:5)

The Only God (44:6 -- 45:25)

The Lord's Superiority (46)

The Fall of Babylon (47)

Exhortations (48)

Israel's Restoration (49-57)

The Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13)

The Repopulation of Zion (49:14-26)

Israel's Sin and the Servant's Obedience (50)

The Remnant Comforted (51:1 -- 52:12)

The Sufferings and Glories of the Lord's Righteous Servant (52:13 -- 53:12)

The Future Glory of Zion (54)

Call to Salvation (55:1 -- 56:8)

Condemnation of the Wicked in Israel (56:9 -- 57:21)

Everlasting Deliverance and Everlasting Judgment (58-66)

False and True Worship (58)

Confession and Redemption (59)

Zion's Peace and Prosperity (60)

The Lord's Favor (61)

Zion's Glory (62:1 -- 63:6)

Prayer for Divine Deliverance (63:7 -- 64:12)

The Lord's Answer: Mercy and Judgment (65)

Judgment for False Worshipers and Blessing for True Worshipers (66)

2 comments:

Roger Curry said...

And so, a question: When one part of scripture speaks to you, do you see any problem with directing your focus there and identifying it as some "key" teaching? I ask this because the "Let us reason together" strikes me as a rather underused and undervalued method, the genuine adoption of which would make our culture a whole lot better.
Bro. R.

Rev. Joel Curry said...

I agree. Remember that the Bible contains objective truth, so every part of scripture is a key teaching.