January 9, 2014.
Hello fellow readers! If you are following along with the plan that I provided on the first day, you’ll notice that I have changed today’s reading from Isaiah 1-6 to Isaiah 1-5. I did this because I think the first five chapters of Isaiah have a central message and theme whereas the sixth chapter is something different. I believe we will simply change next week’s reading for Friday from Isaiah 7-11 to Isaiah 6-11. Either way, we will be covering six chapters on one of the days. I hope you have been following along, and if you would like to start from the beginning, just click here!
Daily Reading: Isaiah 1-5.
Isaiah is identified in the first chapter as the prophet who spoke the words found in the book. It is recorded that he was a prophet during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Chapter 6 places Isaiah’s commission during the year that King Uzziah died, c. 739 BC. Isaiah is also talked about in II Kings 19-20 and II Chronicles 26, 32. He was a prophet mainly to the southern times of Benjamin and Judah, alongside the prophet Micah. Hosea was a prophet to the Northern 10 tribes before their fall, during Isaiah’s early ministry to Judah and Jerusalem. The book of Isaiah is split into two different sections. Chapters 1-35 are written in the period that Assyria was about to take over the northern tries and chapter 40-66 are written as as Babylon was prophesied to take over the southern tribes. Chapters 36-39 serve as an interlude.
Highlights and Key Concepts.
1. Though God’s holiness will destroy sin, He does not wish for His children to be destroyed: As the book of Isaiah starts out, Judah has gone astray. This prophecy was likely in the days of Ahaz, a King of Judah who did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord (see II Chronicles 28). Ahaz was the son of Jotham, a King who had done what was right in the sight of the Lord and because of his righteousness, the Lord blessed him and made him prosperous. In this time of prosperity it seems that Judah had gotten comfortable (see note on chapter 4) and had fallen away from the Lord. Because of this transgression, they had been separated from God and destined for His wrath. But this was not because the Lord wanted His people destroyed. We can see in this first chapter the love the God had for His people through His lament (see verses 5-6) and His call to reason together (see verses 18-20). We see this over and over again in the Old Testament, where the children of God rebel, and God calls them back to Him. He wants His children to be saved, but He knows that they cannot be saved if they continue in their sins (see Isaiah 6:8-10). Peter comments on this characteristic of God, saying that He does not want any to perish, but that all should come to repentance (see II Peter 3:9). The Lord is a merciful and loving God, but His righteousness will not allow for sin to be in His presence. We are to be holy, for He is holy (see Leviticus 11:44 and I Peter 1:16).
2. The sacrifices of the unrighteous are an abomination to God: Even though the people were still bringing offerings before the Lord, worshipping Him and giving Him honor, He held no delight in their sacrifices, for their heart was not right. They were living lives of evil, but still bringing offerings to the Lord. The Almighty calls their feast days and incense vain and an abomination. It seems that the children of Israel did this quite often, as other prophets call them out for doing evil but still standing before the Lord as righteous. God speaks through Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 7:9-10) to ask a rhetorical question about the people doing evil and assuming their deliverance. Proverbs 21:3 teaches that righteousness and justice is more important than sacrifice. But righteousness and justice were not found in Judah at this time.
3. God always saves a remnant: Another theme we see in the Old Testament is this concept of a remnant of the people being saved. Though the Lord would send His judgment on the children of Israel for their sins, He would not leave them without a remnant that would be saved. The remnant were those Jews during the time of Jesus who would indeed believe in the Christ, proclaiming Him as Lord and savior (see Acts 15:12-20 and Romans 11:1-6). Here, God speaks through Isaiah saying that if He had not left them a remnant, they would have been as Sodom and Gomorra, the wicked nation in Genesis 18-19 that God destroyed completely with fire and brimstone. It would seem God is keen on keeping a remnant, as a parallel is drawn in I Kings 19 when Elijah the prophet thinks that he is the only one left who is working for the Lord. The Almighty assures him that He still has 7,000 knees in Israel that have not bowed to Baal, the false god of the time.
The day of the Lord: This phrase appears in the words of many of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah and Malachi) and is referenced several times in the New Testament. Most often this phrase is considered an “end of times” prophecy, referring to the day when the Lord will return to judge the people of the earth, but a few times it is in reference to the time of Christ. In this chapter it would seem to be referring to the end of time when the Lord will return and restore His creation, purging the evil, ushering in an age of peace and righteousness. Perhaps the most notable New Testament passage that alludes to this is I Thessalonians 5:1-11, where Paul speaks of the second coming of the Lord, when He will destroy all darkness and uplift the light. This is a word of warning to the world, but a word of encouragement and peace to the saved.
1. The leadership had led the people astray: In verses 14 and 15 of this chapter, we see that the Lord goes to the elders and rulers of the people to confront them, saying that it was they who had lead the people astray. This is not the only time in prophecy where responsibility is laid on the spiritual leaders of the people, as Micah and Malachi are two other notable examples when the Lord rebukes the leaders of the people for causing those who listen to their instruction to go astray (see Micah 3:1-3 and Malachi 2:1-9). The one who takes on the role of a spiritual leader in any capacity should bear in mind that he or she has a heightened responsibility for the people that are influenced (see James 3:1). This responsibility should not be taken lightly. In Jeremiah 7-10, we see a situation where the priest where telling the people that everything was good and they were alight with God when in reality they were far from God. Today we need to be mindful of the possibility that the leadership that influences us may not be influencing us for the better, but for the worse. This is why we are to search the scriptures like the Berean Christians to see if what we are being taught is the truth (see Acts 17:10-15).
2. Pride and comfort gives a false sense of security: The latter part of this chapter depicts a scene of comfort and pride for those in Jerusalem at the time. This is likely shortly after the reign of Jotham which was prosperous for the southern kingdom because of Jotham’s adherence to the Lord. Ahaz, however, who ruled after Jotham, was not faithful to the Lord. The people seem to have gotten comfortable where they were at and were no longer seeking the Lord. They probably didn’t feel as though they needed Him. But the Lord made it clear that their sense of security was a false one, for He was going to destroy their life of ease due to their unrighteousness. Who does this sound like? Have we gotten to a point of ease where we no longer seek the Lord? Do we have a false sense of security? We need not let pride and/or comfort get in the way of our work in the kingdom of the Lord.
The Branch: The Messiah is referred to as the Branch by three different prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah (see Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15 and Zechariah 3:8, 6:12). The Branch is depicted as glorious, coming to wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion and being called holy. He will save the remnant of Israel who is left after the destruction came from Assyria and Babylon. His presence will echo the cloud of smoke and pillar of fire that lead the children of Israel by day and night, respectively, after they left the bondage of Egypt (see Exodus 13:21). This cloud of smoke/pillar of fire was a physical representation of the presence of the Lord just as Jesus was a physical representation of God on earth. He provides shelter for those who are washed in His blood.
1. Man must do his part: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?” Chapter five starts out with a metaphor of God’s building up of Israel, but them turning away from His righteousness. He has set them up as a beautiful vineyard, but the vineyard has produced wild grapes, that is to say a people who are not His own. Though He had done all for the children of Israel, they still had turned away, and for this they would be punished. We see that God has given man a choice in his salvation, a part to play. He had done everything for them so that there was no more that He could have done; now it was simply up to the people to turn from their evil ways in repentance. In the same way today, we have been called by Christ, but it is up to us to make the decision to follow Him.
2. Woe to those who call good evil and evil good: The people of God had drifted so far away from Him that they had distorted righteousness to the point where they called that which was evil good and that which was good evil. The people were wise in their own mind, but not in the wisdom of the Lord. They ran to strong drink and reveled in unrighteousness. There was no true distinction between good and evil, but rather they held a distorted view. The children of God always need to be careful with what they approve of as righteous, for we might even today be calling good evil and evil good.
Summaries, Lessons and Connections.
v. 1-17: After Isaiah is identified as the son of Amoz and the time frame of his prophecy is set, both heaven and earth are called into witness against the children of God who have strayed from their Father. Israel had turned to all kinds of unrighteousness, causing the lament of God (specifically verses 5-6) and incurring His wrath on their unholy nature. There is vivid prophecy of the siege of their cities and their impending captivity, as the Northern tribes would be soon taken into captivity by Assyria with the Southern tribes following some time afterwards by the captivity by Babylon. The country would be laid desolate and the cities burned with fire. Burnt offerings meant nothing to the Lord when the sacrifices were coming from the hands of the unrighteous.
v. 18-20: There is a call for reason from the Lord, a call to repentance that He might wash away the sins of the people, changing them from crimson to as white as snow. If they would be obedient, there would be a great blessing; but if they would not, they would be destroyed.
v. 21-31: The people had turned away and the Lord had given them into the hands of their future captors. But He would not forget about His people, nor leave them unavenged. A remnant would be saved in Zion, when the Lord would come to restore His people. There was a message of hope amid a prophecy of destruction.
v. 1-5: How wonderful will be the restoration of the mountain of the Lord, when evil is purged from the land and the righteous will dwell with the Lord as He teaches them to walk in His ways.
v. 6-22: The great and terrible day of the Lord would come to exact judgment and restore His creation. See note above.
v. 1-17: The Lord was going to cut off Jerusalem from all supply, and thus they would go into a terrible time of need. They would lack even the basic necessities of life. Jerusalem actually went through different times like these, specifically in times of siege and ultimately with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was prophesied about by Jesus in Matthew 21:1-2, Mark 13:1-2 and Luke 21:6. They had brought this upon themselves, however, because they were prideful and walked in their own ways as opposed to the way of the Lord (v. 11, 16-17).
v. 18-(4:1): Though this was a time of prosperity, the people were living in a false sense of security, for the Lord was about to take away all their blessings due to their unrighteousness. There would come a time when the people were crushed on every side, desperate for any glimpse of what they once had. A great day of lament and mourning was on the way, yet the people were blind to it.
v. 2-6: The Branch, the Messiah, would come to restore His people. See note above.
v. 1-7: The Lord had build this people up and done all that there was to do for them, and yet they had rebelled. The children of Israel rebelled time and again throughout the Old Testament, and every time the Lord was right there to take them back. He did not want to see His people perish, but rather wanted them to come to repentance. He had done everything there was to do. Now it was up to the people to return to God, lest they be destroyed in His wrath.
v. 8-25: Judah had been deluded, mixing up good and evil and further turning from the way of the Lord. For this they would be punished because they would not return. They had stubborn hearts and minds and would rather revel in their own pleasure instead of following the Lord. Their pleasure would not last long, however.
v. 26-30: The Lord was raising up an army from far away who would come in a take Israel captive. This was the Assyrian nation who would soon take Israel captive, which should have been a warning to Judah when they saw the Northern ten tribes taken over just as the prophets had said. A time of captivity was coming, but the people were deaf to the words of the prophet.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 1-2.
Do not let your worship be in vain.