Isaiah 1 (ESV)
This is the book of the prophecies of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who ministered from about 740 to 680 b.c. For about 20 years, he spoke to both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. After Israel’s fall to the Assyrians in 722 b.c., Isaiah continued to prophesy to Judah.
This period of Israel’s history is told in 2 Kings 15 through 21 and 2 Chronicles 26 through 33. By this time, Israel had been in the Promised Land for almost 700 years. The first 400 years in Canaan, Israel was ruled by judges, spiritual, military, and political leaders God raised up as the occasion demanded. Then, for about 120 years, three kings reigned over all Israel: Saul, David, and Solomon. But in 917 b.c. Israel had a civil war, and remained divided into two nations, Israel (to the north) and Judah (to the south) up until the time of Isaiah.
Up until the time of Isaiah, the northern nation of Israel had some 18 kings – all of them bad, rebellious against the Lord. The southern nation of Judah had some 11 kings before Isaiah’s ministry, some good and some bad.
In the time of Isaiah, Israel was a little nation often caught in the middle of the wars between three superpowers: Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
As Isaiah’s ministry began, there was a national crisis in the northern nation of Israel. The superpower of Assyria was about to engulf the nation of Israel. During the span of his ministry as a prophet, the southern nation of Judah was faced with repeated threats from the larger surrounding nations.
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.
The prophecy of this chapter probably took place in the time of Ahaz, king of Judah (2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28). Ahaz was an evil king, and in his reign Judah was invaded many times by surrounding nations.
The Wickedness of Judah
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
“Children have I reared and brought up,
but 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 understand.”
The whole universe is summoned to attend a trial with God as the Judge and with Judah and Jerusalem as defendants.
4 Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the Lord,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged.
5 Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil.
7 Your country lies desolate;
your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
foreigners devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left
like a booth in a vineyard,
like a lodge in a cucumber field,
like a besieged city.
During the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah, the nation was attacked and pillaged by Israel, Syria, Edom, the Philistines, and Assyria (2 Chronicles 28). It was written of this period, For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord (2 Chronicles 28:19).
For all this, Judah would not repent. Their sin brought them great trouble, but they still preferred their sin, with all of its trouble, than submitting to the Lord God. In fact, 2 Chronicles 28:22 says, Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord.
9 If the Lord of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden 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 listen;
your hands are full of blood.
These verses are alarming for us, I think. All our good church attendance, our good deeds, our efforts for good Christian causes, our table graces, our prayers, our offerings, our worship — God says he is sick of them! — unless our hearts are truly turned to him. W. E. Vine says, “Mere external religion is ever a cloak to cover iniquity.”
How many times have I said the Lord’s Prayer at the close of a service, while thinking about what I would put on the table at home for lunch? How many times have I done a good deed out of a resentful obligation rather than cheerfully for the Lord’s sake? How many times have I said to someone, “I’ll pray for you!” and then promptly forgotten to do so? How many times do I complain about petty annoyances instead of giving praise to God for His myriad blessings?
Lord, open my eyes to what I am doing and thinking and saying that needs to be transformed into the likeness of your Son, Jesus.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
18 “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 like crimson,
they shall become like 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 eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
So we have a choice. And I ask myself: Which phrase more closely resembles my heart? — “willing and obedient” or “refuse and rebel”? Lord, help me be MORE willing and obedient to You!
The Unfaithful City
21 How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
24 Therefore the Lord declares,
the Lord of hosts,
the Mighty One of Israel:
The Lord of hosts: “Describes Him as the Warrior who has all the angels as mighty soldiers at His disposal in the battle against the wicked. This is God’s battle name and as a rule it signifies little good when He uses it in reference to His people, as is the case here. It usually implies that He considers and deals with His people as His enemies.”
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
and avenge myself on my foes.
25 I will turn my hand against you
and will smelt away your dross as with lye
and remove all your alloy.
1. Something regarded as worthless; rubbish.
2. Foreign matter, dregs, or mineral waste, in particular scum formed on the surface of molten metal.
1. a substance composed of two or more metals, or of a metal or metals with a nonmetal, intimately mixed, as by fusion or electrodeposition.
2. a less costly metal mixed with a more valuable one.
3. admixture, as of good with evil.
4. anything added that serves to reduce quality or purity.
26 And 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 by justice,
and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,
and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks
that you desired;
and you shall blush for the gardens
that you have chosen.
30 For you shall be like an oak
whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.
31 And the strong shall become tinder,
and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
with none to quench them.
“Wash me and I shall be . . .”
Click HERE to hear Jonathan Lee’s “White As the Snow.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.