God spoke to and through the prophet Isaiah about 700 years before Jesus came and so over 2700 years ago. Yet those words spoken millennia ago still resonate powerfully today. Ultimately, it is a message of hope as Isaiah points to Jesus but he had many tough things to say too. The question today as back then is whether or not we will listen.
Read Isaiah 1:1-20
God addresses his words through Isaiah not immediately and directly to the people of Israel but about them to the heavens and the earth (v1). This is because he is about to bring a complaint or charge against the people. They have proved deaf to his voice and so, as in a courtroom, god in effect calls on creation as the double witness to what he has to say.
God’s complaint is of stubborn rebellion. Even oxen and donkeys, sometimes represented as similarly stubborn and stiff necked know and obey their owner but Israel pays no attention to God. Israel is presented as evil, a rebel but also sick. This sickness has started with the head where rot spreads from. The leaders have turned from God but there is a heart sickness too. This speaks of selfish wills and a lack of love for God (v3-5).
The sickness spreads to the land. The prophet speaks of desolation, perhaps partly describing some of the things he will see in his own day as the norther kingdom falls to Assyria but also looking ahead to see the future state of the whole land. Israel is affected in everyway by sin, just as we talk about Total Depravity to describe the way in which sin affects every aspect of our lives. It is only god’s mercy that spares them from a worse judgement (v6-10).
Israel’s attempts to negotiate with God, to use worship and sacrifices to buy him off prove ineffective. God isn’t interested in sacrifices, he is looking for something different, clean or pure hearts, wills that obey God, people who love him. So God offers a new invitation, to reason with him but this is a negotiation with a difference because it is one sided. They have nothing to offer and so, instead they must received what God offers. They come with their sin stained lives and God offers to clean them up. Clothes bloodstained through murderous actions can be washed white like snow and wool. However, even in the face of grace, the people remain stubborn and unrepentant (v11-20).
Meditate on verse 2:
“The Lord has spoken.”
- What is God saying to us as his church right now? What is he saying to you?
- If creation were to act as a witness, what would it say about us? What would it say about you?
Meditate on verse 18
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
Lord God, we are sorry that we have so often failed to listen to your voice. Help us to hear you when you speak. Thank you for your love, mercy and forgiveness. Thank you that you have washed away my sin.