- Identifying Isaiah
- The Trial of Judah
- Compared to Livestock
- Consequences of Disobedience
- Jerusalem Lost
- False Repentance
- Call to Return to God
- Seeking After Rewards
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
Isaiah 1-6 discuses the coming judgment of Israel, but parallels to modern Christianity can be seen in God's rebuke of Israel. Since Isaiah is such a deep book, I've decided to post by chapter instead of by topic to avoid making the posts too long. This post covers Isaiah 1.
Isaiah 1:1 identifies a prophet named Isaiah as the author of the book. Not much is known about Isaiah, but this verse gives us a few tidbits about his life. Isaiah was the son of Amoz; he prophesies for Israel during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
2 Chronicles 26:22 alludes to Isiah's presence during King Uzziah's reign. 2 Kings 19:20 confirms his reign during King Hezekiah's reign. Given the estimated beginning and end of each ruler's reign, we can estimate that Isaiah wrote the text between 788 BC (when Uzziah took the throne), and 687 BC (when Hezekiah died).
Isaiah's father Amoz isn't mentioned anywhere else in scripture, but there is speculation about who he might have been. Some speculate that he was the godly man spoken of in 2 Chronicles 25:7-10. This seems to give some credibility to the tradition of the Jewish Talmud that when a prophet's father is mention, the father was also a prophet. Other traditions hold that Amoz was the brother of King Amaziah. Although there is no scriptural evidence to back up this idea, a brother of Amaziah being father to Isaiah does fit the timeline since Amaziah reigned just before Uzziah. If Isaiah was truly the nephew of King Amaziah, then he would have been a member of the royal family and a descendant of David. However, the Bible does not give enough information on Isaiah's lineage to substantiate these claims.
The fact that Isaiah lived in Jerusalem means he was likely from the tribe of Judah, Levi, or Benjamin. If you remember from the book of Joshua, when the tribes reached the promised land, they divided the land among themselves and created regions based on tribal lineage. When the kingdom split during the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam, the southern kingdom was called Judah and was established mainly by the tribe of Judah. The tribes of Benjamin and Levi made up a minority within the kingdom. Thus, Isaiah likely belonged to one of these three tribes.
The Trial of Judah
In the beginning of Isaiah, the southern kingdom of Judah is being put on trial before God. As we've seen in the previous books, the nation of Israel had a tendency to stray away from God and dabble in idolatry instead—we struggle with this same problem today.
Compared to Livestock
For many today, Isaiah's parallel between livestock knowing their master and Israel failing to recognize God as their King may not make much sense. Thankfully, I grew up on a farm and I understand this rationale perfectly. We live across the street from were the animals are kept and depending on which pasture they are grazing in, they can see our house from the field. When my dad pulls out of the yard in his farm truck, they recognize the truck and rush to meet him at the gate. When they are way off in the field and he calls to them, they come. They will accept food and petting from someone like me, who is always around, but they really move for my dad, their master. You can see this behavior replicated in household pets. When I call my cat, she will come to me 9 out of 10 times, but when my parents try to get her to come to them, the success rate drops significantly. The animals know who their master is, and they respond to the will of their master.
Israel, and many of us today, are like a wild stallion, refusing to submit to the will of our rider, who in this case is God. Instead of following Him willingly and enjoying that which He gives us, we break out of our pasture and wander off into trouble and danger. God gives us the perfect ways in food and behavior to keep us safe, happy, and healthy, but we choose to do the opposite.
Last year this time, we adopted a 6 month old bull named Charlie. When we brought him home, he was a bit skittish and not so fond of human contact. Now, when my dad goes to see him, he rushes to the fence, his eyes are bright, and he expresses his happiness to see my dad by attempting to play with him the way cows plays with each other. Similarly, when I get home from work each day, my cat is seated by the door waiting for me to come in. Once I'm in the house, I have her full attention for about 10-20 minutes. She follows me wherever I go, as though she can't wait to hear about my day and what I did. Do we behave this way with God? Are we rushing to see Him and gleefully accepting all that He provides us with? We should be.
Consequences of Disobedience
Jesus tells us if our eye causes us to sin, we should pluck it out (Matthew 18:9); Isaiah 1:5-6 shows us why. When you leave sins to fester, they infect the whole body, just as you must remove cancer before it spreads. Because the Israelites left their sin to fester, it spread throughout their body, specifically the head. Once we allow the devil into our minds, we can't think straight, which causes us to drift further and further away from God.
Disobeying God can cause harm to the physical body. Isaiah mentions wounds, bruises, putrefying sores, all of which can happen when we reject God's wisdom. For instance, if we partake in drug use, it damages the body. When we partake in drunkenness, we are more like to injure ourselves accidentally (especially if we choose to drive while drunk) or engage in risky behaviors. When we have sex outside of a monogamous marriage, as God instructed, we risk diseases such as herpes and HIV. Obviously, we can still fall victim to these physical ailments due to other people's sins, but Isaiah's point is that because the nation as a whole is reveling in sinful behavior, physical ailments are running rampant in their society.
Along with causing harm to the physical body, their sinfulness destroyed the actual nation. Sin makes us weak and separates us from God, our strength. As such, our enemies are able to defeat us with ease.
In Isaiah 1:7-9, Isaiah is warning Judah of the coming captivity, in which they will leave everything behind and only a few will survive. Isaiah states that they will leave the daughter of Zion behind as a besieged city. Zion is another name for Jerusalem, however, the daughter of Zion, usually refers to the people of God in general. The daughter of Zion being left as a cottage and a besieged city is about more than the defeat of Jerusalem; it encompasses the defeat of God's people. God promised to protect Israel as long as they followed Him, so a literal defeat of the nation always indicates a spiritual defeat as well.
Luckily for us, God was resolved to provide salvation to the world and to Israel. As such, He promised that he would not decimate them the way Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. He provides hope through the promise of a remnant, which would return and eventually bring forth the Messiah.
Do you remember as a child when adults would force you to apologize to someone? Most of the time we would go along with it just to get to go out and play or to get the treat that was being withheld, but the apology itself was fake. As kids we glossed over these details, often forgetting issues by the next day, but as an adult, a fake apology is the worst. It's downright insulting. I'd rather you not apologize at all rather than bother me with a non-apology. So, how do you think God feels about false repentance?
In the books of law, God outlined feasts and offerings for Israel to commemorate their relationship with God and repent of their sins. However, they reached a point where they were simply doing this out of tradition. They weren't actually worshipping God or remorseful about their misdeeds. God was disgusted that the people were still slaughtering His precious lambs, oxen, and the like for ritualistic purposes. The whole point of spilling the innocent blood of these animals was to remind the people that death was the fate they deserved for transgressing the law. This moment was meant to be humbling and remind them not to continue this behavior.
This same principle is true for us today with Jesus. Jesus suffered and died—died—to pay for our sins. When we claim false repentance, how do you think he feels? The same disgust God expresses at Israel for offering the blood of animals when they aren't truly repentant, is the same disgust God has when we claim the blood of Jesus falsely. This is something we should remember each time we come before Jesus; repentance is a very serious action and we should respect Jesus enough to be authentic in all our actions.
There are countless verses that talk about God listening to our prayers, but Isaiah 1:15 reminds us that when we fall in to this trap of wasting His time with vanity and false repentance He will stop answering our prayers.
Call to Return to God
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17 KJV
In the plea for Israel to return to God in Isaiah 1:16-20, the Israelites are commanded to learn, seek, relieve, judge, and plead. This is relevant to us today. We should be in a constant cycle of learning about God, and learning to do the right thing according to His will. We must seek His judgment to know His Will and His character. We should relieve the less fortunate around us. Just as Jesus sacrificed Himself for us and carries us through our hardships, we should be doing all that we can for those around us. We should call for justice for the those less fortunate than us as well. (Remember, widows and orphans would have been the poorest and least powerful in Israel's society).
Seeking After Rewards
Prosperity preaching is at all time high from what I've witnessed, so Isaiah 1:21-24 is especially relevant to our generation. People often go to church, tithe, or do good with the expectation that they will receive good in return. However, God doesn't want us doing the right thing to get a reward, He wants us to do right because it is right.
Matthew 6:1-2 touches on this briefly as well; when we lose sight of doing right for the sake of right, we parade our deeds about as though it will bring our reward. God doesn't want this kind of behavior from us. If my neighbor is starving, I should feed them without expecting God to reward me for my generosity. If I give money to God, I should do so without expecting Him to return wealth to me—it's a gift not an investment.
One of the main difficulties the Israelites had was the relationship aspect of being God's chosen people. Like us today, they thought that by structuring their actions, they could reap benefits. However, it isn't our actions God wants to structure, it's our hearts! When our heart is set on God, we will perform the actions He wants us to naturally. We will have a heart for the poor, we will demand justice for the weak, and we will fight for the powerless. It is our faithfulness and our presence in the relationship with God that He then rewards.
Instead of gaining these rewards, Israel brought judgement upon themselves. God vows to do away with all the distractions (which will always feel like the end of the world when we aren't in tune with God) so that He can redeem His people. Sometimes we have to lose all of the material things of this world to have our focus turned back to God.
References and Footnotes
- "Amoz". Bible Hub; visited January 2018
- "Amoz". Wikipedia; visited January 2018
- .William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 935-938. 1995
Other Pages to View