Wednesday, May 24, 2023

2023.05.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 1

Read Isaiah 1

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose vision is this book (Isaiah 1:1)? Whose son is he? Concerning whom did he see it? During the reigns of what four kings? Whom does he call to witness in Isaiah 1:2a? Who has spoken (verse 2b)? How does He put his case in verse 2c–d? To what does He unfavorably compare Judah in Isaiah 1:3? What four things does he all them in Isaiah 1:4a–d? What two things have they done to Whom (verse 4e–g)? By doing what (verse 4h)? What are they bringing upon themselves (Isaiah 1:5a)? How are they proceeding (verse 5b)? How bad has it gotten (Isaiah 1:5-6)? Whom does the prophet now address in Isaiah 1:7? How severe has been their chastening (Isaiah 1:7-8)? What mercy has the Lord shown them (Isaiah 1:9a–b)? What did this keep from happening (verse 9c–d)? What does he call them in Isaiah 1:10? What does he tell them to do? Who is addressing them now in Isaiah 1:11? What is He rejecting in verse 11? What does He call their public worship in Isaiah 1:12? What does He say about what parts of their religion in Isaiah 1:13-14? How will He respond to their worship (Isaiah 1:15)? What does He tell them to do in Isaiah 1:16a? By doing what, generally (verse 16b–c)? What specific things must they do (Isaiah 1:17)? What is the Lord offering, in connection with this repentance (Isaiah 1:18)? What two outcomes are offered to them (Isaiah 1:19-20)? How do Jerusalem’s past and present compare to one another (Isaiah 1:21-23)? Therefore, what will the Lord do for Himself and His people (Isaiah 1:24-26)? How does He summarize what He is doing in Isaiah 1:27? For whom, specifically, is He doing it? How is He doing it (Isaiah 1:28)? By doing what to them (Isaiah 1:29-31)?

What is the Lord going to do for Israel and why? Isaiah 1 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us the Lord is going to forgive and purify Israel because she has made herself guilty and filthy by sin. 

The time period of Isaiah’s ministry is established in Isaiah 1:1—at least the 32 years of Jotham and Ahaz, but also stretching backward into the reign of Azariah/Uzziah and forward into the reign of Hezekiah at very least to the fifteenth year of his reign (when chapter 38 occurs). So, Isaiah prophesied for around fifty years during which Assyria’s power was reaching its height.

But one of the features of the book of Isaiah is its view of history as supremely, sovereignly ruled by God. Assyria’s rise is primarily due to Israel’s provoking of God. God will answer these provocations by a fiery chastening that burns the filth off of Israel. But, in announcing this, He also prophesies the ultimate solution to sin: atonement by a Redeemer Who Himself is perfectly righteous, Who Himself will be the great and forever King.

As a whole, chapters 1–5 set the context for this. In this opening chapter, the Holy Spirit is presenting us with how God’s people have provoked Him.

As a nationIsaiah 1:2-9. Heaven and earth (Isaiah 1:2a) must heed their Creator, but there is a nation whom He has taken to Himself as His special people. This makes their rebellion unnatural (verse 2c–d), more ignorant than the beasts (Isaiah 1:3). He has stooped down to nourish and rear children (Isaiah 1:2c), but His nation and children have instead become a nation and offspring of wickedness (Isaiah 1:4a–d). So, they have provoked the Holy One Who chose them (verse 4e–h) to punish them severely (Isaiah 1:5-8). The only thing that has kept them from being utterly destroyed is the pleasure of Yahweh to spare a very small remnant (Isaiah 1:9). 

As a churchIsaiah 1:10-20. This section begins not by addressing heaven and earth (Isaiah 1:2) but by addressing Israel themselves (Isaiah 1:10). Devastatingly, He calls them according to their character, “Sodom… Gomorrah.” If those cities had shown up for worship, Israel would have found it revolting, abominable. Little did they understand that this is exactly what their worship was unto the living God. Their worship was unwanted (Isaiah 1:11c), unwelcome (verse 11e), offensive (Isaiah 1:12c), useless (Isaiah 1:13a), abominable (verse 13b), unendurable (verse 13d), hateful (verse 14b), troubling (verse 14c), wearying (verse 14d), rejected (Isaiah 1:15b), and refused (verse 15d). This, despite all of the things that they were doing being Scripture commands. We cannot assume that God likes our worship simply because we do. If we worship in the way that we wish, God calls this hating Him (cf. Exodus 20:4–5). But if we worship as those who have been rejecting His commandments in the rest of life, He still hates our worship!

God commands repentance in the life (Isaiah 1:16-17Isaiah 1:19-20) if we hope for our worship to be acceptable. And He offers to the repentant that He will receive them as if perfectly holy and pleasing and acceptable (Isaiah 1:18). 

Much later in this book, we will learn how that can be (e.g., chapter 53). But for now, we see that even with such a filthy church whose worship is so hateful to Him, the Lord invites them to come and reason with Him. The Lord invites them to engage with Him for His verdict and promises a favorable outcome for those who do. 

As a cultureIsaiah 1:21-31. In Isaiah 1:2-9, the Lord had condemned how their conduct contradicted their identity as belonging to Him. Now, in Isaiah 1:21-23, He condemns how their conduct contradicts the character that their culture was to have. Faithfulness, justice, righteousness, silver, wine, and princes… what a glorious, godly culture this was to be! But alas, prostitution, murder, dross, wateriness, rebellion, greed, and callousness describes them now. 

Are these the people of God? They are saturated with His enemies, and He is going to rid Himself of them (Isaiah 1:24) by putting the people through whatever is necessary to purify them (Isaiah 1:25) and bring them back to what they were supposed to be (Isaiah 1:26). 

Those who will return to Him will continue under the name Zion and be redeemed with justice (Isaiah 1:27). But all others will be destroyed and consumed (Isaiah 1:28) together with the fading, worldly delights they chose over God (Isaiah 1:29-30). They and their work will burn (Isaiah 1:31).

When we read God’s unanswerable assessment of His people, we are not at all surprised that the exile is coming. But God’s ultimate plan (Isaiah 1:18Isaiah 1:27) is a surprise indeed. The greatness of their sin is the backdrop for the greater-ness of His grace, by which the glory of His Servant-Christ will be supremely displayed. 

And, if we understand ourselves rightly from the rest of Scripture, we will see that what was true of Israel as a nation, church, and culture is also true of our own wretched hearts, apart from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us learn to see ourselves and our sin more truly, so that we may see His grace and glory all the more clearly!

What privileges has the Lord given you? What ought you to have been to Him? What have you desired and lived for instead? What thoughts, words, and actions of yours have been most inconsistent with your privileges and callings? How can it be that God would consider you white and clean anyway? How can it be that you would be part of His glorious people in the end?

Sample prayer: Lord, how very much we identify with Isaiah’s description of Judah! You took us to be Your own children, but we often live as if You don’t even exist. We have forsaken You and provoked You to anger. In ourselves, there is nothing good, but only corruption. 

If You Yourself did not spare and redeem, we would be utterly destroyed. Apart from Christ, our best worship is offensive to You, and You would be right to reject our prayers. 

So, we have come to reason with You, to engage with You at Your own urging. Cleanse our scarlet sins, and make us white as snow. Redeem us in Your justice. Be unto us both just and Justifier, through faith in Jesus Christ, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP80 “Hear, O Hear Us” or TPH80B “Great Shepherd Who Leadest Thy People” 

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