Isaiah 1: Concerning Judah and Jerusalem

Woe to Netanyahu and those that follow him. Since the day God spoke through Isaiah, evil men that claim God as their father have been warned. Wouldn't our world be a better place if people listened to Isaiah? What follows is a brief commentary by Matthew Henry followed by some questions to get the most out of Isaiah's first sermon.

Isaiah prophesied in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He has been well called the evangelical prophet, on account of his numerous and full prophesies concerning the coming and character, the ministry and preaching, the sufferings and death of the Messiah, and the extent and continuance of his kingdom. Under the veil of the deliverance from Babylon, Isaiah points to a much greater deliverance, which was to be effected by the Messiah; and seldom does he mention the one, without alluding at the same time to the other; nay, he is often so much enraptured with the prospect of the more distant deliverance, as to lose sight of that which was nearer, and to dwell on the Messiah’s person, office, character, and kingdom.

 The corruptions prevailing among the Jews. (1-9)
 Severe censures. (10-15)
 Exhortations to repentance. (16-20)
 The state of Judah is lamented; with gracious promises of the gospel times. (21-31)

The Corruptions Prevailing Among The Jews

Isaiah 1:1-9
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth;
For the Lord speaks,
“Sons I have reared and brought up,
But they have revolted against Me.
3 “An ox knows its owner,
And a donkey its master’s manger,
But Israel does not know,
My people do not understand.”
4 Alas, sinful nation,
People weighed down with iniquity,
Offspring of evildoers,
Sons who act corruptly!
They have abandoned the Lord,
They have despised the Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away from Him.
5 Where will you be stricken again,
As you continue in your rebellion?
The whole head is sick
And the whole heart is faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head
There is nothing sound in it,
Only bruises, welts and raw wounds,
Not pressed out or bandaged,
Nor softened with oil.
7 Your land is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire,
Your fields — strangers are devouring them in your presence;
It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.
8 The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard,
Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.
9 Unless the Lord of hosts
Had left us a few survivors,
We would be like Sodom,
We would be like Gomorrah.

Isaiah signifies, “The salvation of the Lord;” a very suitable name for this prophet, who prophesies so much of Jesus the Saviour, and his salvation. God’s professing people did not know or consider that they owed their lives and comforts to God’s fatherly care and kindness. How many are very careless in the affairs of their souls! Not considering what we do know in religion, does us as much harm, as ignorance of what we should know. The wickedness was universal. Here is a comparison taken from a sick and diseased body. The distemper threatens to be mortal. From the sole of the foot even to the head; from the meanest peasant to the greatest peer, there is no soundness, no good principle, no religion, for that is the health of the soul. Nothing but guilt and corruption; the sad effects of Adam’s fall. This passage declares the total depravity of human nature. While sin remains unrepented, nothing is done toward healing these wounds, and preventing fatal effects. Jerusalem was exposed and unprotected, like the huts or sheds built up to guard ripening fruits. These are still to be seen in the East, where fruits form a large part of the summer food of the people. But the Lord had a small remnant of pious servants at Jerusalem. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed. The evil nature is in every one of us; only Jesus and his sanctifying Spirit can restore us to spiritual health.

Severe Censures

Isaiah 1:10-15
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.
11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies —
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.

Judea was desolate, and their cities burned. This awakened them to bring sacrifices and offerings, as if they would bribe God to remove the punishment, and give them leave to go on in their sin. Many who will readily part with their sacrifices, will not be persuaded to part with their sins. They relied on the mere form as a service deserving a reward. The most costly devotions of wicked people, without thorough reformation of heart and life, cannot be acceptable to God. He not only did not accept them, but he abhorred them. All this shows that sin is very hateful to God. If we allow ourselves in secret sin, or forbidden indulgences; if we reject the salvation of Christ, our very prayers will become abomination.

Exhortations To Repentance

Isaiah 1:16-20
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
19 “If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
20 “But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.”
Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Not only feel sorrow for the sin committed, but break off the practice. We must be doing, not stand idle. We must be doing the good the Lord our God requires. It is plain that the sacrifices of the law could not atone, even for outward national crimes. But, blessed be God, there is a Fountain opened, in which sinners of every age and rank may be cleansed. Though our sins have been as scarlet and crimson, a deep dye, a double dye, first in the wool of original corruption, and afterwards in the many threads of actual transgression; though we have often dipped into sin, by many backslidings; yet pardoning mercy will take out the stain, ( Psalms 51:7 ) . They should have all the happiness and comfort they could desire. Life and death, good and evil, are set before us. O Lord, incline all of us to live to thy glory.

The State Of Judah Is Lamented; With Gracious Promises Of The Gospel Times

Isaiah 1:21-31
21 How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
Your drink diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after rewards.
They do not defend the orphan,
Nor does the widow’s plea come before them.
24 Therefore the Lord God of hosts,
The Mighty One of Israel, declares,
“Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries
And avenge Myself on My foes.
25 “I will also turn My hand against you,
And will smelt away your dross as with lye
And will remove all your alloy.
26 “Then I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning;
After that you will be called the city of righteousness,
A faithful city.”
27 Zion will be redeemed with justice
And her repentant ones with righteousness.
28 But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together,
And those who forsake the Lord will come to an end.
29 Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired,
And you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen.
30 For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away
Or as a garden that has no water.
31 The strong man will become tinder,
His work also a spark.
Thus they shall both burn together
And there will be none to quench them.

Neither holy cities nor royal ones are faithful to their trust, if religion does not dwell in them. Dross may shine like silver, and the wine that is mixed with water may still have the colour of wine. Those have a great deal to answer for, who do not help the oppressed, but oppress them. Men may do much by outward restraints; but only God works effectually by the influences of his Spirit, as a Spirit of Judgment. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery. The redemption of the spiritual Zion, by the righteousness and death of Christ, and by his powerful grace, most fully accord with what is here meant. Utter ruin is threatened. The Jews should become as a tree when blasted by heat; as a garden without water, which in those hot countries would soon be burned up. Thus shall they be that trust in idols, or in an arm of flesh. Even the strong man shall be as tow; not only soon broken, and pulled to pieces, but easily catching fire. When the sinner has made himself as tow and stubble, and God makes himself as a consuming fire, what can prevent the utter ruin of the sinner?

https://treeheritage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/tree-in-drought-conditions.jpeg
As seen at treeheritage.co.uk
The state of Israel in 2023. Don’s strike a match!

Questions & Notes

These questions are from The NIV Serendipity Bible.

A.What is the purpose of God calling heaven and earth to witness His complaint against his covenant people?
B.God compares the people of Judah with Sodom and Gomorrah. What is the point of the comparison?
C.Given their religious rituals (Isaiah 1:11-15), how does the secular image of adultery (Isaiah 1:21) fit their spiritual state?
D.Likewise, how do “scarlet” and “red” fit?
E.What is the condition upon which their forgiveness rests?

REFLECT

F.Was there a time in your life when religion was meaningless?
G.What snapped you out of that?
H.Does it tend to be that way now? Why?
I.Karl Marx said that religion is “the opiate of the masses” to numb them to the evils going on around them. In what sense is Isaiah saying something similar?
J.What should be the result of worshiping God?
K.Some define spirituality in personal moral terms, while others see it as a matter of working for social justice. Which better reflects your background? Your present church affiliation? How are both these concerns interrelated in this chapter?
L.How is your church seeking justice and encouraging the oppressed in your community?
M.What situations ought it to address? What risks would that entail?

My Answers

A. This reminds us that God is the God of all mankind and not just Israel. The universe is the courtroom, not the state of Judah or the city of Jerusalem or the country of Israel.

B. The comparison with Sodom and Gomorrah reveals how God classifies these people and their town, city, and state. Morally, they are on the bottom.

C. They made a covenant with God like in marriage and broke it to unite with another. Because of their unfaithfulness, God owes them a divorce.

D. These colors tie our thoughts back to blood mentioned in Is 1:15. The life of another is on their hands – blood guiltiness.

E. God spells out 8 things they can do in Is 1:16-20.

F. Yes, when I saw hypocrisy in the church and its unwillingness to engage in questions I raised, I left God and the church.

G. When the death of my cousin forced me to consider what the meaning of life was. I had no answer better than anyone else’s. The Bible though answered this question and others like it.

H. Sometimes God has to hit me with a stick. Sometimes I think He finds me bruised and battered with no other place to strike. I can be stubborn. I hate that about myself. I pray that things would not get to that from time to time. But God knows my frail state. It is a mystery to me why He chooses to lead me in loving-kindness still.

I. Isaiah is saying the same thing when he basically says that God is calling His people to cancel church in Isaiah 1:13-14. “Bring your worthless offerings no longer.” Well, what are we to do then? How crafty and conniving sin can be. It can get a whole nation of people to act in this way. It is frightening. Professing to be wise they are fools in charge of nuclear weapons.

J. The worship of God should be a sanctifying experience. It should involve reverence (Job 28:28). It should involve truth (John 4:22-24). It should involve the practice (Romans 12:1-2).

K. Because of past studies of this book, I see spirituality involving all aspects of my being. My soul resides in my body that is connected to my family that is connected to my race that is connected to my nation and land. When God pulled back the curtain He gave Isaiah a vision from His perspective that focused on a city and a state and not individuals. God was judging the people by looking at the condition of their institutions – specifically, their city and their state. Looking at those said it all. I tremble to know that God is looking at me by looking at my city and my state!  

20 Messy Kids Caught in the Act - Gallery | eBaum's World
As seen at ebaumsworld.com

L. Our church for the most part uses God’s measuring stick to judge things. It offers a variety of ministries to help people in numerous ways.

M. Like most churches in the US who have succumbed to being non-profit organizations, they have disentangled themselves from speaking to government. This has proven to be fatal for its existence. The Church needs to be the pillar and support of the truth to all of God’s creation whether that be person, family, or state. This will certainly lead to persecution in America and possibly a drastic change in the form of government that was made for a moral people. We don’t have a moral people any longer. Nor do we have a nation as defined by God.