The book of Isaiah is named after the prophet Isaiah, the author of this book, who prophesied from 739–681 B.C. under the reign of several different kings. The nation of Judah (and the city of Jerusalem) had begun going through the religious motions and offering up meaningless sacrifices instead of humbly following and serving God as they had been instructed to do. That left Isaiah, as a mouthpiece for God amongst the people, to do two things throughout these 66 chapters: warn them of impending judgment and point them to a future hope.
Isaiah (along with Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel) is considered to be one of the major prophet books in the Old Testament. Why is this book so important? Of all of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, Isaiah gives the most full picture of the Messiah that was going to come and reconcile the world back to God. Isaiah points to the future birth, ministry, death, and return of the Messiah throughout these pages. Even in the midst of chaos and brokenness around them, Isaiah pointed them towards a future hope.
As we read through the book of Isaiah for the rest of this year, let’s think about our own lives and the ways we have wandered and strayed from who God has called us to be and what He has called us to do. So often, like Judah, we can find ourselves going through the routines and rituals of what it means to be a Christian, all while missing the importance of the posture of our heart as we live out the Christian life. On top of that, look for connections to the hope that we have in Jesus. Our need for a savior is no different than Isaiah’s original audience. Isaiah (behind Psalms and Deuteronomy) is one of Jesus’s most quoted books during his earthly ministry, so as we read these ancient words, look to draw connections to the New Testament.
Each day, ask God to reveal His truth to you as we journey through Isaiah together.
Read Isaiah 1
1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz sawduring the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
A Rebellious Nation
2 Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
4 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.
5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
6 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.
7 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.
8 Daughter Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
like a city under siege.
9 Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the instruction of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “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.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 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.
15 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!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
18 “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.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
21 See how the faithful city
has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her—
but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 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.
24 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.
25 I will turn my hand against you;
I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove all your impurities.
26 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.”
27 Zion will be delivered with justice,
her penitent ones with righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken,
and those who forsake the Lord will perish.
29 “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.
30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
like a garden without water.
31 The mighty man will become tinder
and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
with no one to quench the fire.”
“You are not who you are supposed to be” is the opening call in the book of Isaiah. Here, the prophet Isaiah shares the vision regarding the people of God that he has received from Heaven. While Israel was reared by their Heavenly Father, they have since rebelled from Him. They have become thieves, materialistic, murderers, and downright unjust. However, in spite of all of these things they have continued to have their festivals and sacrifices to God. It’s like they are saying, “We want to live as if God doesn’t exist but still have God in our corner”. In response to their festivals and offerings God says, “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.” (v. 14-15). God is tired of watching this two-faced game take place. He knows that their hearts are not with Him. So are the people of God too far gone to be redeemed?
The chapter shifts in verse 17, “’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.’” What a relief! God is willing to forgive Israel of all of their unrighteous living. But this verse is followed with an important qualifier in verse 18, “If you are willing and obedient”.
The problems of God’s people in Isaiah’s day are similar to God’s people today. It’s easy to live for the world, but still want God on our side. He will not be played by our fickle ways. He is looking for men and women with hearts that are fully devoted to Him. No matter what you have done, God is ready, willing, and eager to forgive. But He will only forgive if you are coming to Him for His’ own sake. If He is just a pawn in your game to get more for yourself, Isaiah 1 is a sober reminder that He will not be listening.
- What was most surprising to you about this passage?
- What similarities do you see in God’s people in Isaiah’s day compared to today? Do you think God would have a similar message?
- Where do you need to repent from where you have rebelled from God’s path?
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