Isaiah’s writings express a deep awareness of God’s majesty and holiness. The prophet denounced not only Canaanite idolatry but also the religious worship of his own people that were only external ceremonies which lacked sincerity (1:10–17; 29:13). He preached impending judgment on the idolatrous Judeans, declaring that only a righteous remnant would survive (6:13).
In Isaiah 1:1–15 the prophet describes the wickedness of the southern Jewish Kingdom of Judah in the 8th century B.C. The prophet writes the following.
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: “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.” 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.”
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.”
The oracle of doom and judgment upon Judah is profoundly expressed in Isaiah 1-39. These first 39 chapters warns the Jews about the impending Assyrian invasion of Judah (605 B.C.) while the second section (40-66) encourages the captives returning from the Babylonian captivity (535). The oracle of doom begins in the initial 15 verses of chapter one. A suggested outline is as follows.
I. The Wickedness of Judah. 1:1-31.
A. Its Crimes. 1:1-15.
What were Judah’s crimes against Yahweh in the 8th century B.C.? It should not surprise us that they are similar to the sins of today’s contemporary culture.
The nation’s sin began with a willful, thoughtful and emotional rebellion against the LORD (1:1-2). Why did Judah rebel against God? It was because in spite of His self-revelation through creation and in His Word (Psalm 19), Judah did not know the LORD or have a covenant relationship with Him (1:3). Consequently, Judah became a sinful nation laden with iniquity and immorality. They utterly despised the LORD (1:4).
The LORD’s evaluation of the nation was they were spiritually sick and faint, from head to toe (1:5-6). As a consequence, their land lay in ruins (1:7-8). Yet there was no repentance.
However, there was worship, but it was shallow and hypocritical. It was pretentious or phony. It was insincere (9-15) and the LORD had had enough of it.
I wonder about America’s churches at this moment in history. Might the LORD says the same things about this nation and its supposed religious people? A people who worship the LORD on Sunday, but advocate the mass infanticide of its children as a woman’s right to choose.
LORD, please be gracious to a rebellious people. May your salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone make an impact upon the people of this nation so that they in turn will become holy as you are holy. Amen!
Soli deo Gloria!