The Wickedness of Judah

Text: Isaiah 1

The first five chapters of Isaiah introduce the major topics that will be discussed throughout the rest of the book.

  • The wickedness of Judah
  • The future glory of God’s house
  • The judgment of God on the wicked

The Wickedness of Judah - Isaiah 1:2-9

Isaiah calls on heaven and earth to witness against Judah’s sins. Moses used the same phrase when predicting the fall of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:28-29). Thus, Isaiah is indicating that he is recording the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Oxen and donkeys are known as stubborn, willful animals. But they at least recognize who were their masters and know that their food comes from them. But in comparison, Judah is more ignorant than the animals while being just as stubborn and willful. Judah doesn’t recognize that God is her master and God is the source of her bounty.

The nation is weighed down by sin. Generation after generation sins and they have completely abandoned God. Twenty-nine times in Isaiah, God is referred to as “the Holy One of Israel,” emphasizing God’s character and why God is condemning Israel.

Punishment seems futile. Instead of learning when they are corrected, they allow their wounds to fester. This is unlike how punishment ought to work (Hebrews 12:3-11). God is running out of options because of their unwillingness to change.

Stuck between warring nations, their cities are being burned and their fields are being consumed by enemy soldiers. Historically, this likely took place during Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 B.C. In that invasion Sennacherib destroyed 46 cities of Judah and took over 200,000 people captive. Jerusalem was spared for a time, but it is compared to a temporary guardsmen’s shack. These huts were put up only to last for the season.

If it wasn’t for the fact that God intends that a few of them would survive, they would have been wiped out like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Useless Worship - Isaiah 1:10-17

Isaiah refers to Judah as Sodom and Gomorrah, cities God destroyed because of their sexual sins of homosexuality. In the midst of extreme sin, what use are the many sacrifices to God? Sacrifices don’t change a wicked lifestyle (Hebrews 10:1-4). God found the hypocrisy disgusting. “I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly” (Isaiah 1:13).

As a result, God refuses to listen to their prayers because of the sins on their hands.

What God wants, instead of a pretense of obedience shown by sacrifices, is a life dedicated to doing righteousness.

God Is Reasonable - Isaiah 1:18-20

Implied is that the people are reluctant to change. People often get trapped in the mindset that they are too sinful to be forgiven. “It is no use changing. I’ve gone too far. God won’t accept me even if I try to change.”

God’s response is to say that line of thinking is not reasonable. God is able to forgive the worse of sinners if they leave their sins. A similar passage is found later in Isaiah 55:6-9. Just because a man doesn't see how it is possible, it doesn't make it impossible with God.

The situation is actually simple. If Judah submits to God and obey, things will go well for the people. If you Judah rebels, they will perish in warfare. God laid down the rules. The choice was up to the people.

The Sinfulness and Redemption of Jerusalem - Isaiah 1:21-31

Isaiah now focuses on the capital city. It illustrates what is going wrong with the rest of Judah.

Jerusalem was once filled with the righteous, but that is no longer true. She is no longer valuable or desirable. Her people are described as harlots, murders, rebels, and thieves. Everyone is looking for bribes and looking for gain. No one is concerned about the less fortunate.

God declares He will remove His adversaries and in doing so He will purify the remaining in Jerusalem. He is the Lord Yahweh of Hosts. He is the Mighty One of Israel. He has the right and the power to bring about a change. He will restore the city to faithfulness. Those who repent will have a place there, but sinners will be crushed.

They will be embarrassed about what they desired in the past, the sites of idolatrous worship. Instead, they will become tinder to be burned.

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