Major Prophets – Isaiah 1

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
    For the Lord has spoken:
“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.”
Woe to the sinful nation,
    a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
    children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
    they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
    and turned their backs on him.
Why should you be beaten anymore?
    Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
    your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
    there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
    and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
    or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
    your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
    right before you,
    laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
Daughter Zion is left
    like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
    like a city under siege.
Unless the Lord Almighty
    had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
    we would have been like Gomorrah.
Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the instruction of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
“The multitude of your sacrifices—
    what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
    of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
    in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
    who has asked this of you,
    this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.
“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.
See how the faithful city
    has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
    righteousness used to dwell in her—
    but now murderers!
Your silver has become dross,
    your choice wine is diluted with water.
Your rulers are rebels,
    partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
    and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
    the widow’s case does not come before them.
Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    the Mighty One of Israel, declares:
“Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes
    and avenge myself on my enemies.
I will turn my hand against you;
    I will thoroughly purge away your dross
    and remove all your impurities.
I will restore your leaders as in days of old,
    your rulers as at the beginning.
Afterward you will be called
    the City of Righteousness,
    the Faithful City.”
Zion will be delivered with justice,
    her penitent ones with righteousness.
But rebels and sinners will both be broken,
    and those who forsake the Lord will perish.
“You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks
    in which you have delighted;
you will be disgraced because of the gardens
    that you have chosen.
You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
    like a garden without water.
The mighty man will become tinder
    and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
    with no one to quench the fire.”

  • Isaiah 1:1-31

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Isaiah 1:2-4 ‘Judah turns their back on God’: “The form that Isaiah employs is that of a court case (a rîb). Yahweh, speaking in the first person, pleads his case against Judah and asks the entire creation to serve as a witness (v.2). Even though Yahweh has acted as a loving parent to his children, they have acted with far less intelligence than dumb animals and have turned their backs on God and forsaken him (vv.2-4).
“Here we first encounter the appellation for God that occurs frequently in Isaiah: ‘the Holy One of Israel.’ Note that it comes in the context of moral wrongdoing (see v.4). This suggests that inherent in the word holy (qodesh), is the idea of moral character. To turn one’s back on and to spurn the Holy One of Israel is, according to the context of this verse, to be sinful, loaded with guilt, evildoers…given to corruption.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 1:4 ‘The Holy One of Israel’: “This is Isaiah’s special title for God, found twenty-five times in this book (1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:1, 20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11, 12, 15; 31:1; 37:23; 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14), but only six times in the rest of the OT (2 Kin. 19:22; Pss. 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Jer. 50:29; 51:5). Isaiah also uses Holy One as a title four times (10:1; 40:25; 43:15; 49:7) and Holy One of Jacob once (29:23). In many contexts, the name contrasts the holiness of God with the sinfulness of Israel.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1:5 ‘Why … stricken again?’: “Already in ruins because of rebellion against God (vv. 7, 8), the nation behaved irrationally by continuing their rebellion.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1:8 ‘daughter of Zion’: “The phrase occurs twenty-eight times in the OT, six of which are in Isaiah (1:8; 10:32; 16:1; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11). It is a personification of Jerusalem, standing here for all of Judah.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1:8-15 ‘Judah turns their back on God’: “The Daughter of Zion (v.8) is another name for Jerusalem. These verses may reflect the situation when Sennacherib laid waste all of Judah except Jerusalem. It was a time of severe hardship. The ultimate indictment of his people is given in the comparison with Sodom and Gomorrah, the infamous cities of Ge 19. Only the grace of God prevented Judah from receiving the same fate.
“Isaiah reveals the hypocrisy of their worship (vv.10-15). The religious leaders have increased their religious activities in direct proportion to their disobedience to God. God would have none of this. He hates their duplicity.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 1:11 ‘I have had enough … I do not delight.’: “Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22, 23. God found all sacrifices meaningless and even abhorrent if the offeror failed in obedience to His laws. Rebellion is equated to the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness to iniquity and idolatry.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1:14 ‘My soul hates.’: “It is impossible to doubt the Lord’s total aversion toward hypocritical religion. Other practices God hates include robbery for burnt offering (61:8), serving other gods (Jer. 44:4), harboring evil against a neighbor and love for a false oath (Zech. 8:16), divorce (Mal. 2:16), and the person who loves violence (Ps. 11:5).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1:16-20 ‘’: “In vv.16-20 the prophet gives a prescription for wholeness. Straightforward and powerful, it focuses on both inner motivation (‘wash and make yourselves clean’) and outer action (‘stop doing wrong, learn to do right’). He then delineates what the right is in v.17. V.18 is a powerful appeal to their reason. The prescription makes sense. If they follow it, they will be made whole. If they do not, if they rebel, they will be destroyed.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 1:18 ‘repent and be cleansed’: “The persons to whom this gracious invitation was addressed were in a terrible condition; they could not well have been in a worse plight. They had provoked God above measure by their many sins. He had severely chastened them, yet they had not repented of their iniquities, which would not be either drawn from them or driven from them. Now the Lord says that something else must be done—such a state of things must not be allowed to last any longer. So in this passage there is an invitation to a conference with God. Most people seem to want a form of religion that does not require them to think. The people described in this chapter were willing to bring their rams, their bulls, their incense, and their oblations—things that could be done without any effect being produced in their hearts and lives. Of all things in the world, true religion demands most serious thought. It has to do with our mind, heart, and spirit. Even under the old law, the command to Israel was, ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength’ (Dt 6:5). It was a matter for the heart and soul even under that old, dim, preparatory dispensation, so how much more is it so under the dispensation of the gospel whose first commandment is ‘believe’- which does not mean a blind shutting of the eyes but the exercise of the most serious thought of which the human mind is capable. It is most gracious on the Lord’s part to invite us to a conference with him. How condescending it is for the Most High to be willing for us to have a discussion with him. He seems to say to us, ‘Come, my friend, you and I are not agreed. Something in your mind keeps you from yielding to my love. I mean you no hurt. Come and keep nothing back from me. Come and tell me all about the matter.’ How graciously the Lord stoops down to us in saying, ‘Come, let us discuss this.’ His voice shakes the earth with storms, the voice of the mighty God, the Creator and Judge of all. He is the one who speaks to us, worms of the dust, utterly insignificant compared with him, and says to us, ‘Come.’ What a great proof this is of God’s love and grace that he invites us to have a discussion with him. This grace means the Lord will remove the offense perfectly; ‘scarlet’ and ‘crimson’ are to become ‘snow’ and ‘wool.’ The Lord meets the difficulty of sin not by denying the sinner’s quill but by removing it. The Lord did this by imputing our sins to Christ. God the Father proceeded to deal with Christ on account of those sins as though he had the actual sinner. So, if Christ was punished for my sins, l can never be punished for them.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 1:18 ‘’: “When Jesus told us to pray for forgiveness of our debts as we forgive our own debtors, he knew who would be the one to pay the debt. As he would hang on the cross he would say, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30) … the debt is paid!
“There are some facts that will never change. One fact is that you are forgiven. If you are in Christ, when he sees you, your sins are covered—he doesn’t see them. He sees you better than you see yourself. And that is a glorious fact of your life.”

  • Max Lucado, Walking with the Savior

Isaiah 1:19-20 ‘willing and obedient … refuse and rebel.’: “The prophet offered his readers the same choice God gave Moses in Deuteronomy 28, i.e., a choice between a blessing and a curse. They may choose repentance and obedience in order to reap the benefits of the land or refuse to do so and become victims of foreign oppressors. eat . . . be devoured. To accentuate the opposite outcomes, the Lord used the same Hebrew word to depict both destinies. On one hand, they may eat the fruit of the land; on the other, they may be eaten by conquering powers.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1:21-28 ‘’: “In vv.21-28 history is presented as a prelude to the future. The prophet, in keeping with biblical tradition, recalls the past in order to shape the future. The city has become a harlot, full of impurities and corruption. But it once was faithful, full of justice and fine silver. Therefore God will restore the city. He will purge the dross and impurities so that it will once again be the faithful city.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 1:25-26 ‘I will … thoroughly purge  … I will restore.’: “God’s judgment of His people has future restoration as its goal. They were subsequently restored from the Babylonian captivity (Jer. 29:10), but this promise has in view a greater and more lasting restoration. It anticipates a complete and permanent restoration, which will make Jerusalem supreme among the nations (Jer. 3:17; Ezek. 5:5; Mic. 4:2; Zech. 8:22; 14:16). The only such purging and restoration in Scripture is that spoken of in conjunction with the yet-future ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’ (Jer. 30:6, 7; i.e., Daniel’s seventieth week, cf. Dan. 9:24-27) followed by the Second Advent of the Messiah (Zech. 14:4).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1:29-31 ‘Judah turns their back on God’: “Vv.29-31 are an addendum. The sacred oaks were objects of worship and therefore of idolatry. Here they have parabolic significance. Judah will become like the object it worships, like an oak now dried up, like tinder that is set on fire and utterly destroyed.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 1:29 ‘terebinth trees … gardens.’: “These were settings where Israel practiced idolatrous worship. It is ironic that the Lord had chosen Israel while some citizens of Jerusalem have chosen the gardens. When God calls them to account for their rebellious choice, they will be ashamed and embarrassed.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 1 ‘Challenge’: “To think God’s thoughts requires much prayer. If you do not pray much, you are not thinking God‘s thoughts. If you do not read your Bible much and often and reverently, you are not thinking God’s thoughts. …
“There also has to be a lot of meditation. We ought to learn to live in our Bibles. Get one with print big enough to read so it does not punish your eyes. Look around until you find a good one, and then learn to love it. Begin with the Gospel of John, then read the Psalms. Isaiah is another great book to help you and lift you. When you feel you want to do it, go on to Romans and Hebrews and some of the deeper theological books. But get into the Bible. Do not just read the little passages you like, but in the course of a year or two see that you read it through. Your thoughts will one day come up before God’s judgment. We are responsible for our premeditative thoughts. They make our mind a temple where God can dwell with pleasure, or they make our mind a stable where Christ is angry, ties a rope, and drives out the cattle. It is all up to us.”

  • A. W. Tozer, Rut, Rot, or Revival


My Thoughts

It looks as if I am taking a slow start into Isaiah, and maybe I am.  I have looked through the first chapters a few times and I waffled over having one chapter or two chapters this first week, but I may have a few chapters next week.

Note that of the kings listed in Isaiah 1:1, only Ahaz was a bad king, but the king can only set the example for the people. The people did as they pleased within their limitations. They were probably worshipping false gods throughout this time.

The Lord compares Judah to a mule and finds that the mule is smarter.  At least it knows where its home is.

As Rev. MacArthur points out, the Lord hates the offerings that they make at the temple.  Why?  Their heart is not in it.  They do it out of superstition instead of earnest belief.  They are into the religiosity without the relationship with their God.  And God knows that many of them have their mind elsewhere.  And whatever their mind is focused on is their god.

Does God turn a deaf ear to us today?  Is our worship routine, boring, dull?  And if it is, then is that due to our own minds being like that mule that cannot find his way home?  Oh, excuse me, the mule knows his way home, but we seem to not know.

We should seek justice and be a champion for the oppressed, but at times, are we the oppressors?

Then sandwiched near the middle is the way out.  Jesus will die on the cross for our sins. We could never wash the scarlet or crimson stains from our robes, but Jesus will make them as white as snow.

Then the metaphor of Jerusalem as a prostitute is given, used elsewhere in the prophecies.

But then dross of silver is mentioned.  For those that do not know, dross is the impurities in the refining process.  You melt the silver and the dross floats on top.  You can skim it off or decant it, but it is made primarily of oxides of the silver.  The silver has essentially been consumed by fire.  In a molten steel furnace, they call the impurities slag, but most other metals refer to it as dross.  Thus, the Lord is saying that He will have Judah consumed in fire, but then later in verse 22, He says that the dross will be removed for some, those who are penitent.  If they repent and return to God, to true worship rather than the fake religiosity that they perform, He will refine them, but as the last verse in Isaiah 1 states, for some they will be placed in the fire and the fire will never go out.  Going back to the refining of silver.  If you ever see molten metal of any kind being refined, it is literally a lake of fire.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“Isaiah 1: 1. Was there a time in your life when religion was meaningless? What snapped you out of that? Does it tend to be that way now? Why?
“2. ls mere sincerity what counts with God (see Ro 2:17-24,28-29)? What more would make your worship ‘meaningful’?
“3. If your response to God were compared with that of a dog or cat, are you: (a) Loyal Lassie? (b) Untamed pit-bull terrier? (c) Dumb mutt? (d) Tom Cat? (e) Garfield, the comic strip cat (f) Morris, the charming cat of TV ads (g) Other: ? Why?
“4. 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? What should be the result of worshiping God?
“5. 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?
“6. How is your church seeking justice and encouraging the oppressed in your community? What situations ought it to address? What risks would that entail?
“7.Someone has said, ‘Justice is finding out what belongs to whom and returning it to them.’ Another, ’Justice is the act of instituting love for those people you don’t know.’ How do you respond to these statements? How would you define justice?
“8. Why is Isaiah so hard-hitting in his message? How do you know when to use shock treatment as he does, or a gentle word without skirting the main issue, as does Jesus with the Samaritan woman (see Jn 4)?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for this chapter.

Question 3 is rather dated.  Most people may remember Garfield, but Morris has not been on television for a couple of his “lives.”  You might think of the grumpy cat on the internet or any prominent cat in cartoons, comic strips or television.

Note: These questions cover both literal and allegorical interpretations.  And some of the answers may be tough to say out loud in a small group unless you trust each other completely.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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