“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider’” (Isaiah 1:2-3).
The book of Isaiah is like a miniature Bible. There are 66 chapters in the book. The first 39 chapter (like the 39 books of the Old Testament) are filled with pointing out the sinfulness of man. As a result judgment is coming. But, the final 27 chapters of the book (like the 27 books of the New Testament) declare a message of hope: The Messiah is coming as Savior to save them from their sins.
As the opening verses above indicate, Isaiah begins his vision which he sees concerning Judah and Jerusalem, by pointing out how God had cared for His people, but His people did not care about God (Isaiah 1:1-3). In an effort to correct His people’s sinful behavior, God had rebuked and chastened His people by allowing them to be attacked by the surrounding nations. However, their hearts do not change after receiving such correction. The Lord asks, “Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment” (Isaiah 1:5-6).
During Isaiah’s ministry, God’s people are bent on forsaking God. Yet, they still come to worship God even though their hearts are not really into following God: “‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats’” (Isaiah 1:11). God could not stomach seeing them vainly worship Him from their hardened and rebellious hearts: “Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting” (Isaiah 1:13). God would not accept their worship: “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15).
However, in spite of their hypocritical behavior, in love God still reaches out to His people: “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’” (Isaiah 1:18). He pleads with them to have a change of heart and show true repentance: “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
As I read this first chapter of Isaiah, I am struck with how God’s message to the people of Isaiah’s day is similar to God’s message to us today. We all struggle with sin. We often act hypocritical in our relationship with God. Many times, we say that we love Him, but by our actions we demonstrate we do not. Yet, God still loves us and reaches out to us in love. I appreciate God’s great love for me. I rejoice in the fact that He doesn’t give up on me even though that is often what I deserve. Today, I will consider these things and serve Him, not with a hypocritical heart, but with my whole heart!
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).