The Prophet Series: Isaiah part 1
The Prophet Series: Isaiah, part 1.
The length of the Book of Isaiah makes any “summary” challenging. One can easily forget what he has learned from one section to the next. So, although I will begin by chapter, we will progress in a few blogs to look at the book in sections so that we can have a grasp of the entire message that God spoke through this great prophet. We shall also attempt to bring out some of the detail, which is so very important as it applies to all people in all generations. As with any great message, if you or I are to understand it, we must make it our own and read and study it again and again. No summary will ever give us the deep things of God.
Chapter 1: Ritual is not knowing and worshipping God.
Beginning his ministry around 740 BC, just before the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, which he prophesied was coming; Isaiah immediately opens with a condemnation from the Lord to His people for the simple yet profoundly astounding reason that they don’t know Him.
Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth;
For the Lord speaks,
"Sons I have reared and brought up,
But they have revolted against Me.
"An ox knows its owner,
And a donkey its master's manger,
But Israel does not know,
My people do not understand."
The people prided themselves on their religious observances of the legal ritual, figuring that was all that God required, when God required that they know Him, worship Him, and enjoy His blessings. This requirement is clear in the Law of Moses as well as the history of His people in Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Samuel, and Kings. Yet we see the capacity of man to ignore so great a lesson, grab on to a small portion of the lesson that depends fully upon the greater part ignored to have any meaning at all, and call the small portion, now without meaning, the great part. I like the difficulty and convolution of that sentence. It’s poor writing. It’s also poor thinking to imagine that a ritual is the heart of God’s Law.
Isaiah immediately predicts their destruction as if the sores were too deep and too old to be healed.
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.
However, it will not be the end of them. All the prophets do this. All of them speak of a blessed hope and a remnant who believe in that hope. The prophets are all looking forward to the coming of the One who would make all things right, and they knew that they were not alone; that there was a remnant in Israel who believed and so one day would enter into His blessed kingdom.
Unless the Lord of hosts
Had left us a few survivors,
We would be like Sodom,
We would be like Gomorrah.
Paul quotes this in his passage of encouragement to both Jew and Gentile in Rom 9-11.
And just as Isaiah foretold,
"Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity,
We would have become as Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah."
God would not entirely cast off His people.
Might all our hearts be challenged as believers who can know Him so much more than even Isaiah could dream; being in Him, possessing the full revelation of His mind, and being elected to be conformed to His image that we should know Him to our utmost ability, and that as a remnant ourselves, lights of the world, that we may show Him to all who are around us through our lives and words.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.
In 1:10-20 Israel is accused of attempting to propitiate God with ritual sacrifices while their hearts are far from God and His Law. Anyone could perform those rituals, but not everyone could perform them with a humble and contrite heart (PSA 51:17), knowing what they meant concerning their own guilt and God’s redemption to remove it.
The people of the world cannot draw near to God with ritual. Christ promised a kingdom to those who would believe upon Him and in that kingdom were people with changed hearts. If everyone in the world had those hearts there would be no more war and no need of governments or courts.
One wonders, did the apostles imagine that the whole world would believe and change and even do so in their lifetime? After all, three-thousand were converted in Jerusalem at Pentecost, how about a million in a year’s time? But this would not be. Many would reject the gospel and choose as the example of a destroyed Israel warned them not to. Many continue to do so and lives fall, families fall, and human kingdoms fall. Every man must bow to God’s gospel in faith and be renewed by the blood of Christ and embrace his new heart and life in Christ Jesus. All such men are broken in their old way of the flesh and alive and free in the Holy Spirit.
God says to the people that He desires to wash them and make them clean. All they have to do is to come to Him and learn in faith, and then they will see - there is only one life, and rebellion is not it.
"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.”
Where faith is present, the understanding of sin against God is understood, and thank God, it is forgiven completely. “It is to the self-judged, therefore, that the glorious Word comes in power.” [Ironside]
Chapter 2: The unbelieving will miss something spectacular - Zion’s future glory.
Whereas chapter one was a condemnation upon the ritual followers, chapter two rails against the pride of man.
The prideful, the unbelieving, will fail to see the Lord’s established kingdom on earth. ISA 2:2-4 is almost identical with MIC 4:1-3: the Lord will establish His people, of every remnant from the line of Abraham, in His house on the mountain of Jerusalem and there will be perfect peace (swords into plowshares).
This will not happen in this dispensation. The King offered Himself in meekness and humility, offering His blood for saving, and He was rejected by the world. The rejected King sits at the right hand of God until He is to return at His Second Coming (after the Rapture and Tribulation), not in meekness, but with sword. He will not ask to be accepted then. He will destroy the unbelieving in judgment and powerfully bring the saved into His kingdom which will be forced upon the earth.
Over almost thirty years of Christianity, I have heard a few people who are unbelieving claim that they would only believe if Jesus were to appear to them visibly in some miraculous form. That is exactly what they don’t want. Anyone who acknowledges the historical Christ without faith in Him as Savior, when they see Him, will be judged by Him. As C.S. Lewis puts it, ““God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else - something it never entered your head to conceive - comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.”
In 2:6-22, Isaiah makes clear that all the riches and power, accompanied by pride, will do nothing to assuage the coming judgment. The dreaded Day of the Lord is certain. Faith in Him is the only hope.
For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty,
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
The Day of the Lord is shown in contrast to the day of man, which God is permitting to run its course and in which, man hopes in vain, to succeed and find life. A new generation is born and they begin the same vain search for meaning in the old ways, fully believing that they’re new.
Judgment comes like a hammer, or in Isaiah’s typology, like a sudden storm.
This particular subsection ends in chapter 5 with the parable of the vineyard. I skip ahead to this in the spirit of thanksgiving that we celebrated yesterday.
Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
And He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it,
And hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
"What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?”
What more could He have done for Israel? Multiply that by a great factor for the elect of the church. I cannot imagine what that factor is, but it is great. My prayers have gone out/up several times today for those who are currently going through trial in our congregation. Let us all remember that we will see the glorious mountain of the house of the Lord, and our trials will be over.