I love the book of Isaiah! I have found so much hope there, so many promises. So many times, even before I was as close to God as I should have been, I was able to receive great comfort in these words.
I wonder sometimes if those prophets of old ever had any idea how many people would feel that way about what they wrote? Did they have any idea how far out through history their voices would ring? Well, I have no way of knowing, but I just wanted to share some amazing things from this first chapter…
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Isaiah Doesn’t Mince Words
Right off the bat, after quickly introducing himself, Isaiah gets right into some very hard words for the nation of Israel. But then… that’s just what prophets do. Speaking the Word of God for the multitude is never for the faint of heart.
It doesn’t win popularity contests and sometimes, it even causes you to become secluded and considered “peculiar”. Again, that’s all part of the job description. Ever since the Garden of Eden, God has been speaking to His people. There may have been times when He went silent, but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice those times of drought always preceded something spectacular!
Let’s see how this first chapter goes…
Isaiah Had a Vision and the Words That Followed
We start seriously paying attention at about verse four:
(4) Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward.Isaiah 1:4
It already sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Isaiah doesn’t use the same keywords we have in this day and age, but they’re still there… iniquity… evildoers… corrupters… backward…
These days, Isaiah would have been called a name-caller, much to the offense of those who’d rather come out of the closet than clean it. But let’s read on…
(5) Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. (6) From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.Isaiah 1:5-6
That sounds really bad, doesn’t it? A sick head, a faint heart, no “soundness” (in other words, no health) from the sole of the food all the way up to the head. This shows great lack and an absolute NEED for healing!
He goes on to speak further, even to the nation itself, for what has been done…
(7) Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.Isaiah 1:7
If God’s Hand of mercy is removed from a country, the Bible tells time and time again what can happen. Desolation, burning, devouring, overthrowing by strangers… it’s a bleak picture!
What Does It Mean?
Speaking about the “body” and the sad state of it after forgetting God, that speaks to the personal level. The truth is, we EACH have a responsibility. The Bible says we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling…. “work out”… “our own salvation”… “with fear and trembling” (see Philippians 2:12). That doesn’t sound like the aftermath of a simple sinner’s prayer, does it? But that’s a topic for another day.
Speaking about the “nation” and what happens in the grand scale after forgetting God, that speaks to the corporate body, the culmination of the group. Think of it this way… if you wound your finger and don’t properly care for it, gangrene could set in. If left alone, that gangrene moves on to your hand, then up through the arm to the shoulder, and eventually, the entire body suffers and possibly dies! As members of the same body (and I don’t care WHAT “denomination” you are), your actions will impact those closest to you. Or the action of your neighbors may affect you in like manner.
But There’s HOPE!
Praise God, that where there is judgment, there is also hope! While we are reading from the Old Testament today, we cannot forget that we have Jesus, His Blood, and a great many promises that helped to graft us into the Vine.
Let’s see what kind of hope Isaiah gave Israel here…
(16) Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; (17) Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (18) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:Isaiah 1:16-19
That’s a WHOLE lot of hope, after hearing that first part, right? Why? Because God has ALWAYS offered a way out!
Making Sense of it All
But there is a part that is required of us, too. And, as I’ve said many times before… we are not saved by “works”… that has NEVER been the case. Even in the sacrifices of bulls and goats throughout the Old Testament, it was never the ACT itself that brought deliverance from sin, but rather obedience to the strict laws and commandments of God.
God is RIGHTEOUS and SOVEREIGN. He is JUST. And therefore, He follows the “lay of the land” so to speak, in that we are to DO what He said, not just be hearers. We can’t just AGREE that it’s right to do right.
As citizens of the United States, we are bound by certain laws, but in order to stay on the good side OF that law, we have to ABIDE by the rules. We have to do what we know we’re supposed to do. You wouldn’t drive without a license. You wouldn’t shop without paying. You wouldn’t speed all over town, disrespecting traffic signals.
To be considered an “upstanding citizen” in the US, you have to DO what the law says to DO!
But We’re Not Under the Law!
It’s true, oh so true, that we are NOT under the law, but under grace, praise God (Romans 6:14-15)! Sin cannot have DOMINION over us because of that very fact. But, at the same time, Jesus Himself said He did not come to destroy the law (or the prophets), but to FULFIL them (Matthew 5:17)!
Here’s where it really comes down to brass tacks. There’s no way I can describe, in its entirety, the “why” of what Jesus said there in Matthew chapter 5. Yes, there are some things in the law that are not exactly salvational for this day and age (common sense, here). And there are some parts of the law that were made whole through Jesus. The sacrifice each year by the priest, for instance. Access into the Holy of Holies where only priests had ever been allowed to go before, for another instance.
The truth is, this part takes time and study and guidance from the Holy Ghost to fully understand. Paul spoke, time and again, about not being able to preach certain things because the new Christians to whom he was speaking were still on the “milk” of the word and not the “meat”.
Here a Little, There a Little
The best summarization of that is the Scripture that says, But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… (Isaiah 28:13).
Just like we cannot expect the Kindergartener to pass the ACT, so we cannot expect new Christians to take hold of the meat of the Word… weightier matters of faith and teaching. Those of us who are further along in the faith have a duty to be a light to those coming along behind us.
After all… we’re all still just following the light we see ahead of us in the wisdom and character of the ones further out in the faith than we ourselves! No one – no matter how long they’ve been a Christian – ever stops learning and receiving revelation. The Word is ALIVE and while it never says anything NEW in Word, the revelations for our situations can be monumental!
So, You See…
There IS hope! The first chapter of Isaiah started with sharp words and warnings against the people of Israel. It went on to offer HOPE in the renewed hearts of the people.
And everything hinged on OBEDIENCE to the TRUTH of God’s Word.
Just as it always HAS, and just as it always WILL!
There’s no need to remain entangled in whatever it is that’s holding you back. Whatever justification you’ve been holding on to, can I just tell you it is NOT worth your eternal soul? I know MINE wasn’t!
There’s an old saying, and it escapes me now who said it, that says even the best, most upstanding and moral human is just as likely to wind up in hell as the vilest sinner.
That’s a scary thought.
What It All Boils Down To
It shouldn’t SCARE us, but rather shock us out of the complacency that says, “We’ll see!” The problem is, you WILL see! But it will be too late by that time!
Being a “good person” won’t save you. Paying your tithes “religiously” and showing up every time the church doors are open WON’T SAVE YOU! Only the blood of Jesus and the adherence to the Truth will. Not BY works, but rather that the Holy Ghost on the inside changes everything that appears on the outside.
It’s not hard. Jesus said His yoke is easy… His burden, light.
Did you catch that? There IS a yoke (but not chains), and there IS a burden (but not bondage). We are not without expectations. The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd, and the Shepherd knows His own. There is a garment provided for those who will be allowed into the wedding supper. Those without that garment will find the door shut on them.
And that doesn’t have to be you!
In all your “getting”, the Bible says, GET understanding (Proverbs 4:7). Because with understanding, HOPE becomes an everyday reality! Praise the Name of our Lord!