Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 2 2019 - Isaiah 1:1-28 – A rebellious nation

Today we start one of the major prophetic books of the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah ministered during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (1:1).

These years were marked by growing threats from surrounding nations such as Assyria in the north and Egypt in the south. These empires were competing with one another to gain control over surrounding lands, and especially Israel and the land of Judah where Isaiah was prophesying.

Meanwhile, the people of the land, instead of turning to the Lord in repentance, faith and obedience, continued to live rebellious lives. God says of his people:

I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. (1:2-3)

They have, "forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel" (v.4).

By speaking of God as "the Holy One of Israel", Isaiah is seeking to underline the fact that the Lord God of Israel is a God of burning holiness who expects his people to reflect his own character – to be a holy people. Instead the people are oppressing one another and treading roughshod over the widows and the fatherless (vv.17,23). In particular, their rulers are leading the way in corruption (v.23). No wonder the Lord their God has left the land to be ravaged by foreign raiders (v.7).

Because of his people's unfaithfulness and rebellion; God has no time for their worship. When they bring animals for sacrifice at the temple, in God's eyes (or ears), this is a mere "trampling of my courts" (v.12). It is useless to oppress others and then come piously before God in prayer. God says, "Even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening" (v.15). The behaviour of his people has become like that of Sodom and Gomorrah (vv. 9 and 10), and they deserve the same fate.

But God does not want to leave his people to be destroyed. He has reared and brought them up like children; he loves them. God wants them to turn to him again in repentance and obedience.

‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;
but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’
  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (vv.18-20)

Jerusalem the once "faithful city has become a prostitute" (v.21). God plans to come in judgment against them, but it is to purge away their dross and remove their impurities (v.25). The fire of God's judgment will be a refining fire after which Jerusalem/Zion, "will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City" (v.26).

We too are, by nature and self-inclination, rebels against God. He is holy and we are not. But the wonder of the Christian message is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He is the perfect sacrifice for sin – a sacrifice pleasing to God his Father. Jesus has settled the matter on our behalf and through his shed blood our sins which were scarlet have been washed away and we are made whiter than snow. His Spirit is now at work within us to refine us like gold and to purge away all that cannot live in his holy presence (see 1 Peter 1:7).

Thank you Father for your great love for us, even when we were rebels against you. Thank you Lord Jesus for your shed blood through which our sins are washed away. Holy Spirit, continue your refining work in our lives that we might be holy even as you, our triune God, are holy.

Peter Misselbrook