And off we go...from the kings to the prophets who tried to persuade them...First up, Isaiah in Judah.
Eat Well or Be Devoured -Verses 1-20
Verse 1:1 reads to me like he had the same vision for Judah and Jerusalem over the course of the 4 kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Manasseh is not listed.
I wonder if that's what that means. A reoccurring vision.
Verses 2-4 lay out an indictment against the people of Israel. So far, we've read a lot about the sins of the kings and how those sins caused the people to sin; but it's less frequent that we hear the indictment against the people. Ultimately, they are responsible for their own choices.
Another interesting item in verse 2 is God sending His message to be heard by the heavens and earth. That's interesting to me. It sound like Isaiah's message was as much for the spiritual world to hear as the physical. I wonder if that is what that means. We don't read about God speaking to the heavens very often.
We see the metaphor of animals having more loyalty than God's own children.
Verses 5-6 describe the metaphor of a person badly beaten or ill. The Ryrie footnote says it's a man who has been flogged. And then verses 7-9 lay out the real world parallel to the beaten or ill man. 'You are broken down' "You are not doing well or even trying.' 'Look at yourself!'
And then in verse 9-10, he points out that the life they still have, although bloody and bruised, was preserved by God. Otherwise they (and all of us) would go the way of Sodom and Gomorrah- utter destruction.
Sadly, I completely understand this mindset. I've struggled for years with food and have had success in batches; but the food always wins. I know I have been saved by grace; I felt God's hand help me. And then I make choices that ravage my systems. Why would I do that? Why would I harm myself for such a passing reward?
It's largely rebellion- wanting the world to be as I want it as opposed to how it really is. I've been saying for years that I have food issues. And I've even, within the last couple of years, admitted that I have an eating disorder. But honestly? I have God issues.
I don't feel like I'm at odds with God. I pursue Him and He changes me. But it is undeniable that I choose food for a lot of reasons other than "I need fuel for my body." And some of those reasons, to me, and maybe to God, border on idolatry. I need comfort. I need energy. I need warm and yummy feeling of goodness.
But, in reality, I need the fat off of my liver. I need my pancreas to work correctly. I need good bloodwork.
I know this is probably too revealing; and maybe off topic. But I think not.
If you read on verses 10-15 God repudiates their sacrifices. They were doing the things He prescribed; but He spit it back at them because they were doing while acting as Sodom and Gomorrah. They thought their acts would save them. He wants their heart. Sacrifices should come with repentance; not plans for the next sin. He's always going to want our hearts. And you (I) have to remember again when the sun rises the next day; because it doesn't take much for us to lose the thread and go back to doing what makes us happy.
Don't get me wrong. I am closer to God than I ever have been. And He has even blessed me with ministries that I didn't really even know were an option. But it is also undeniable that my body is broken and I'm not doing well, physically. He's a good Father and He's not going to let me sin without consequence. A good Father can play catch and still punish you for cheating on a test. They aren't mutually exclusive.
The Lord still loved Judah. He had already done so much to set them back on track for His plan for them and the world. But the clock is running out. So the Lord sends Isaiah and others with clear, hard words. In verse 15, He gives us the image of Him hiding His eyes from His people when they pray. He says He will not listen. He doesn't want to hear what thy want when they are doing nothing about what He wants- despite all He has done for them.
We see the message He has for them starting in verse 16,
Wash yourself, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from my sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1: 16-17
And then our Good, Good Father goes on to offer hope if we obey this call.
"Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord, "Though your sins are scarlet, they will be white as snow..."
Isaiah 1: 18a
In verses 19-20, He goes on to repeat the promise He's been making since they approached the Promise Land. 'Do well and you'll eat well. Keep sinning, and you'll be devoured.'
Blessings and curses. Based on our choices. He offers us such blessed hope; if only we choose the right way- His way.
And we know...because we get to see the whole story...that they didn't make the right choices. Why?
I wonder if they, like I do, question whether my sin really rises to that of Sodom and Gomorrah. It's just a bag of Skittles, not a rape party... I only burn incense to baal because it hasn't rained and I need to do anything I can for my crops.
The Lord asks us to reason; but instead, we rationalize. Which is not the same thing.
Here's the point.
Until Jesus arrives or until we go home, we are living in a fallen world, surrounded by and led by fallen people. And we were fallen; now redeemed and sealed for salvation.
However, we're not home yet.
And as you read Isaiah, you have to avoid the strong temptation to think that "they" had this coming.
The Bible is the Living Word. And it is meant for you and me. Stop and check for the bruises, wounds, and welts in your own life. Maybe it's not food. Maybe yours is beer, or work, or sex, or gambling, or some hobby or pastime. If you find some, fall to your knees and claim the victory Christ won for you. Then start walking again until the next time you'll need to repent. Wash and repeat.
And finally, check your spiritual life. Look for any sign that some part of it is false and just for show. Are you just mumbling along during praise and worship; are your prayers short and greedy; is your tithe handed over begrudgingly?
He knows your heart and does not want your false worship.
'Do well and you'll eat well. Keep sinning, and you'll be devoured.'
In verses 21-23 He goes on to also lay out His indictment of Jerusalem. He loves Jerusalem. It is His city and the city He uses often to describe our future. And His people were sullying His blessed city. Not only in their sins; but in the sins of omission- not caring for the widows and orphans and such.
"Therefore" Verses 24-31
We get a "therefore" in verse 24. Always a sign that we're coming to the main point that has been building.
God has been building an indictment against the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.
Based on all of the evidence provided, He comes to some conclusions.
First, He'll be relieved of His adversaries and avenged of His foes. The destruction is going to be massive and seismic and complete; and the Lord will be avenged. He has been patient and faithful for many generations; but things aren't going to get better by going any further down this road.
But God doesn't end the vision there. He does not destroy His people and walk away.
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.
Zion will be redeemed with justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness.
He reiterates in verses 28-31 the consequences for those who do not repent, and it is not pretty.
However, it's so important to show that Isaiah was really sent with two separate messages. One of judgement for those whom He knew would not change and one of hope for those who would repent.
He is so faith. So wonderful. So patient and loving. He is a good, good Father.
But He is also righteous and has His limits.
It's so important to hear both messages and pass them along.
It's also essential to notice that He didn't divide people into good and bad; but repentant and unrepentant. We've all fallen short of His glory. We all deserve His wrath. But He's made a way for those who repent. Those who repent (I) need to be very watchful that we don't take pride in ourselves; but our savior.
Be Comforted by Warren Wiersbe Commentary on Isaiah
I like that Wiersbe uses the analogy that prophets are like doctors. They give a diagnosis, then a prescription to address the issue, and then warning if the prescription is ignored.
His translations used the word "rebel", a word that means breaking a contract. Which is exactly what they did. God had a covenant with them that couldn't have been clearer.
Wiersbe makes an excellent comparison between the religious people God was speaking to then and the religious people of America. What is our church budgets priorities? The gospel? Does being a "Christian nation" show in our divorce rates or the entertainment we create? Many of us are "going through the motions", just as they were. God knows our hearts. That is what He cares about. Not our sacrifices.
The MacArthur Bible Commentary
Both MacArthur and Wiersbe describes this passage as a court scene, with all of the language describing Hs case against His people.
I think it's all pretty much been said.
This isn't good versus bad people. We are all sinners. We've all rebelled and we're all guilty.
The question God is asking is, "Will you repent while there is still time?"
Because there is a final time for you to choose and it's not clear when that is. So that makes today the day of salvation. And not just the primary salvation we need to be saved for eternity. For those of us who know our redeemer; we still have trials and tests and choices every day.
How will we respond? Eat or be be devoured.