God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 3:8-15

In my last post, we began our look at God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 beginning in Yesha’yahu 3:1-7. In this post, we continue to look at God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim in Part 2 covering Yesha’yahu 3:8-15.

8 For Yerushalayim is ruined, and Y’hudah has fallen; because their words and deeds defy Adonai, in open provocation of His glory.

Although Y’hudah was experiencing a time of prosperity, the handwriting of decay was on the wall. The Assyrians were already camped at their border. But because the economy was rolling along, many people were not listening to Yesha’yahu warning of destruction.

Sha’ul told us that the signs of the end of our age would be like birth pangs (1 Thessalonians 5:3). In other words, times of travail will be followed by times of peace. It is the wise individual who doesn’t get lulled by times of calm, but rather is constantly aware of the nearness of the Lord’s coming.

9 Their very look witnesses against them! They parade their sin, like S’dom; they don’t even try to hide it – all the worse for them! – they bring evil on themselves.

Yesha’yahu compares Y’hudah to S’dom, the preeminent early example of open, flagrant sin as well as God’s determined judgment (see Genesis 19). Although Yesha’yahu was prophesying the end of their society as they knew it, the people weren’t listening. Instead, they flaunted their sin even as those in S’dom.

10 Say that it will go well with the righteous, that they will enjoy the fruit of their actions; 11 but woe to the wicked, it will go badly with him; for what he has done will be done to him. 12 My people – children, oppress them, and women are ruling over them. My people! Your guides lead you astray and obliterate the paths you should follow.

But not all people will experience the severe judgment of God. The righteous will find reward in a good life, and the wicked will suffer. In both cases, they will get what they deserve. Their guides sound vaguely similar to the Anti-Messiah.

13 Adonai rises to accuse; He stands to judge the peoples. 14 Adonai presents the indictment against the leaders and officers of His people: “It is you who devour the vineyard; in your houses is plunder taken from the poor. 15 What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding down the faces of the poor?” says Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot.” ~ Isaiah 3:8-15 (CJB)

In Acts 7:56, we read of Yeshua standing to welcome Stephen home. Here, however, we see the Lord standing not to welcome but to judge.

Yesha’yahu returned to the legal language with which the book began. The leaders were guilty of destroying the vineyard, the land of Y’hudah, through their exploitation of the poor.

Those in authority had abused their power and authority. As a result, they were about to find themselves under the authority of the invading Assyrians.

In my next post, we will conclude our exploration of God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 3:16-4:1.

Click here for the PDF version.

God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 3:1-6

In my last post, we concluded our look at The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:18-22. In this post, we begin our look at God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim beginning in Yesha’yahu 3:1-6.

1 For see! The Lord, Adonai-Tzva’ot, will remove from Yerushalayim and Y’hudah every kind of support – all reserves of food and water; 2 heroes and warriors, judges and prophets, diviners and leaders, 3 captains of fifty, men of rank and advisers, skillful magicians and expert enchanters.

Since God’s people trust in humans (see Isaiah 2:22) rather than in Him, He will remove from them every kind of security. Not only would there be a lack of food and water, but there would be a dearth of leaders, of mighty men, knowledgeable men, wise men, and skilled men.

Siege warfare was designed to isolate a city and create a blockade that would eventually force a surrender. With the enemy camped around the city, the fields could not be harvested for their food supply. No one could get in to bring in food, so the people in the city had to live on whatever had been stockpiled in the city. If the water source for the city were a well or spring outside the city walls, the siege would be short, for the cisterns would quickly run dry. Yerushalayim had a water supply that could be accessed from inside the city walls. To survive a siege would require capable leadership that could keep morale high and successfully manages food rationing.

4 I will put children in authority; capriciousness will govern them. 5 People will oppress each other – everyone his friend, everyone his neighbor. The young will be insolent toward their elders, the insignificant arrogant toward the respected. 6 A man will take hold of his brother in his father’s house and say, “You have a coat, so rule us! Take charge of this ruin!” 7 But on that day, he will protest, “I don’t have a remedy, I lack food and clothing for my own house; don’t put me in charge of people!”

With the removal of the leaders in whom the people trust comes the installation of youths to replace them. The result will be social chaos and oppression.

Whether regarding the last days of the ten tribes or the last days of our society, children will rule. We see that happening to a degree even now, for, in many countries of the world, it is the students who bring down governments. There was a time when gray hair was highly esteemed. Now, however, it is the opinion of younger generations that seems to be most highly valued in our culture.

In Israelite society, the oldest active male was the head of the household. He typically represented the family in the community and made the decisions for the family. As a result, the senior members of the family usually commanded a high degree of respect and honor.

In such a disorderly society, it did not take much to be a leader among men. In the vignette described in these verses, the people are so unwilling and unfit to lead that a man will be pressed into a leadership role just because he has a coat. But what would be left for him to lead? Only a heap of rubble.

In my next post, we will continue to explore God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 3:7-15.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 2:18-22

[Since this is a fairly short post, I thought I should post it sooner than my usual Sunday/Wednesday schedule.}

In my last post, we continued to look at The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:7-17. In this post, we conclude our look at The Coming Day of the Lord beginning in Yesha’yahu 2:18-22.

18 The idols will be completely abolished. 19 People will enter cracks in the rocks and holes in the ground to escape the terror of Adonai and His glorious majesty when He sets out to convulse the earth. 20 On that day a man will take hold of his idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, and fling them away to the moles and bats! 21 Then they will enter the cracks in the rocks and the crevices in the cliffs to escape the terror of Adonai and His glorious majesty when He sets out to convulse the earth. 22 Stop relying on man, in whose nostrils is a mere breath— after all, he doesn’t count for much, does he?” ~ Isaiah 2:18-22 (CJB)

It is clear to me that although verse 18 has certainly been partially fulfilled, it won’t be completed until the ultimate Day of the Lord at Yeshua’s Second Coming.

People will flee in terror from the coming judgment of God. In the ancient Near East, earthquakes are an indication of the divine involvement in battle. Additionally, the dread of a deity as a divine warrior was often believed to precede a powerful, successful army into battle.

Out of fear, they will throw away their precious idols. Just as men have fled from the glory of the Adonai, the idols will be tossed aside as useless.

Verse 22 states an important and pervasive theme in Yesha’yahu connected to the prophet’s concern that God’s people act with humility. They were not to trust in man but to put their confidence in God.

“Don’t look to man,” God says. “You don’t even know if he’s going to have another breath. Instead, look totally, fully, and only to Me.” [1]

Come Lord, quickly!!

In my next post, I will explore God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 3:1-26.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary.

The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 2:9-17

In my last post, we began to look at The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:6-22. I decided to switch gears for my blog for this series as I will be taking more of a verse-by-verse format. We only covered verses 6-8. In this post, we continue to look at The Coming Day of the Lord beginning in Yesha’yahu 2:9-17.

Why will God judge His people? We learned in Part 1 it was (and still is) because of their idolatry, covetousness, pride, and exploiting of the poor. Instead of holding to the truth of God’s Word, they were full of sorcerers, not unlike many “religious seekers” today. The growth of Eastern religions in the modern Western world is a phenomenon that is both frightening and challenging. Even nonreligious people are practicing Eastern forms of meditation and relaxation, following techniques that are being taught in university classes and business seminars.

9 A person bows down, a man lowers himself — don’t forgive them! 10 Come into the rock, hide in the dust to escape the terror of Adonai and the glory of his majesty.

In the ancient world, a bright or flaming aura surrounding deity is the norm in depicting the glory of his majesty. It is especially evident in the divine warrior motif where the deity unveils his glory as he fights for his people.

11 The proud looks of man will be humiliated; the arrogance of men will be bowed down; and when that day comes, Adonai alone will be exalted. 12 Yes, Adonai-Tzva’ot has a day in store for all who are proud and lofty, for all who are lifted high to be humiliated; 13 for all cedars of the L’vanon that are high and lifted up, for all the oaks of the Bashan; 14 for all the high mountains, for all the hills that are lifted up; 15 for every high tower, for every fortified wall; 16 for every “Tarshish” ship, for every luxurious vessel. 17 The pride of man will be bowed down, the arrogance of men will be humiliated, and when that day comes, Adonai alone will be exalted.

With the words proud looks of man will be humiliated, Yesha’yahu expressed one of the major themes of his book. Through judgment, God cuts down the sinful pretensions of His people.

The prophets of the Tanakh often spoke of a Coming Day of the Lord (Joel 1:15; Amos 2:1,11,31; 5:18,20; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1). This day is the judgment of sinners, which means the redemption of God’s people. However, God’s people in this verse were the object of His anger since they were rebelling against Him. While the Day of the Lord ultimately points to the final judgment, God’s temporal punishments of His people are often understood to be anticipatory fulfillment of the final judgment. L’vanon and Bashan were well known for their fertile lands and their impressive trees. Thus, they are representative of arrogance built on abundance. God’s judgment is against all kinds of pride.

The cedars of the L’vanon and the oaks of the Bashan were valued for their size, beauty, strength, and durability. They would be used in the building projects (such as gates and palaces) that were the sources of pride for nations and in which they would put their trust. The cedars of L’vanon and oaks of Bashan speak of men that are proud of their abilities. Who or what do we put our trust in? For my wife and I, it is the Lord and ADT Security.

The high mountains could speak of government. Walls and towers speak of military might. Walls of this period were solid and could be made of mud brick, fieldstone or ashlar [large square-cut] stone. While towers and walls were features of fortified cities, there were also many garrison fortresses built along trade routes and borders. In Isra’el both the fortresses and towers were rectangular. Since city walls have not been preserved to their original height, it is difficult to say how high they were. A width of fifteen to twenty feet was common and judging from their massive foundations and the length of ladders used for scaling the walls, a height of thirty to forty feet would not be unusual.

Trade using seagoing vessels was already taking place in the first half of the third millennium BCE. Excavations of a sunken merchant ship (off the coast of Turkey) from the period gives a good idea of the variety of items being shipped. Trading ships of the first millennium were single-masted with a crow’s nest and could feature either one or two banks of oars. A typical length would be about fifty feet, though larger ones are known. [1]

It is not idols, but only Yeshua who will ultimately be exalted. When He comes back to this planet, before He rules and reigns in the Temple, there will be a time of chastening and judging. As a result, people will take all that they once worshiped to the dump to be left to the rats because, at last, all idols will be seen to be meaningless.

In my next post, I will finish with this topic for now as we explore The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 2:18-22.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament

The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 2:6-8

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 2:1-5 to learn about The Mountain of the Lord. In this post, we look at The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:6-22. You will notice that I have switched gears for my blog for this series as I will be taking more of a verse-by-verse format.

To the prophets, the Day of the Lord was foreshadowed by events in their day. In the Book of Yesha’yahu, Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom [Isra’el] and invasion of Y’hudah, and the Babylonian captivity of Y’hudah both picture the coming Day of the Lord.

6 For you have abandoned your people the house of Ya‘akov. Now they are filled from the east, full of sorcerers, like the P’lishtim [Philistines]; even the children of foreigners are enough for them!

God had removed His presence from His people because they had imbibed of the superstitions of their neighbors to the East (Edom and Mesopotamia) and the west (Philistia). They practiced divination. Divination was the science of being able to interpret the omens and formulate incantations that would be effective in dispelling the powers that threatened them. The Torah forbade such practices (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

Even as people in Yesha’yahu’s day were fascinated by the Babylonian and Syrian cultures with all their magic and mystery, where are people turning today? To Eastern mysticism and spiritism.[1]

7 Their land is full of silver and gold; They have no end of treasures. Their land is full of horses; They have no end of chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols; everyone worships the work of his hands, what his own fingers have made.

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 prohibited kings from accumulating precious metals and military assets, i.e., horses and chariots. Assyrian chariots were large, carrying four men and being pulled by four horses which represented the cutting edge of military technology. Vast economic resources were required to import the animals, build the chariots and train the horsemen and charioteers (for an indication of the expense see 1 Kings 10:29).

Idols came in a variety of shapes and sizes in the ancient Near East. They were typically carved of wood and overlaid with hammered-out sheets of silver or gold and then clothed in the finest attire. Human in appearance (except those from Egypt, which combined human and animal characteristics), they had distinctive, even formalized, poses, clothing, and hairstyles. Sha’ul reflected this understanding when he referred to the folly when they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being, or like birds, animals or reptiles! ~ Romans 1:23 (CJB)

As in our culture today, the people of Y’hudah were not only rich, prosperous, and enamored with Eastern thought, but they had idols. Theirs happened to be made of stone and wood, while ours can be flesh and blood or chrome and rubber.

Have you abandoned the God of our fathers and replaced Him with your idols?

In my next post, I will continue to explore The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:9-22.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

The Mountain of the Lord ~ Yesha’yahu 2:1-5

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 1:18-31 to learn about The Unfaithful City. In this post, we look at The Mountain of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:1-5.

1 This is the word that Yesha’yahu the son of Amotz saw concerning Y’hudah and Yerushalayim:

2 In the acharit-hayamim [the end of days] the mountain of Adonai’s house will be established as the most important mountain. It will be regarded more highly than the other hills, and all the Goyim [Gentiles] will stream there. 3 Many peoples will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the house of the God of Ya‘akov! He will teach us about His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of Adonai from Yerushalayim. 4 He will judge between the nations and arbitrate for many peoples. Then they will hammer their swords into plow-blades and their spears into pruning-knives; nations will not raise swords at each other, and they will no longer learn war. 5 Descendants of Ya‘akov, come! Let’s live in the light of Adonai! ~ Isaiah 2:1-5 (CJB)

This is one of my favorite passages because of the promise of God revealed by Yesha’yahu. Yesha’yahu looked ahead to the time when God’s righteous kingdom would be established, and the Temple would become the center for the worldwide worship of the Lord. In Yesha’yahu’s day, the Jews were adopting the false gods of the Goyim, but the day would come when the Goyim would abandon their idols and worship the true God of Israel.

Verses 2-4 are virtually identical to that found in Yesha’yahu’s near contemporary, the prophet Mikhah (Micah 4:1-3).

Topographically, Yerushalayim is elevated above its surroundings, so that one always had to climb up to the city. Additionally, the Temple is located on the highest ground in the city, so one goes up to the Temple from other locations in the city. This passage uses these topographical data to proclaim the future political elevation of the city.

The mountain of the Temple is a reference to Tziyon, where the original Temple was built. Tziyon was where God made His presence known especially among His people. Tziyon was not a physically imposing mountain – indeed, the nearby Mount of Olives was considerably taller – but regarding spiritual importance, Tziyon stood above all the other mountains of the world.

The vision anticipates a day when not only Isra’el but all the nations will stream toward this mountain that represents the presence of God on earth. God had promised Avraham that He would bless the nations through his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). Today, the Kehilah is composed of diverse nationalities, personalities, economic backgrounds, and educational abilities will flow together into the Temple. Lord, help us to continue to be a menagerie, a potpourri of all kinds of different people.

We see that the motivation of going up to the Temple is to learn the way of the Lord. So too, we gather at His Kehilah to learn His ways that we might walk in His paths. The nations seeking the Lord will experience a great transformation. They will not exert their energies and resources to destruction (swords…spears), but rather to productive activities (plow-blades…pruning knives).

Pruning knives are the small knives used to remove leaves and new shoots from the grapevines or thorns from date palms before the harvest. (I still have a couple in my toolbox from my days on my grandfather’s date ranches.)

Finally, we see a beautiful invitation in verse 5 to enjoy the light and love of Adonai. But, before that takes place, there will be a time of chastening, as we will see in verse 6.

In my next post, I will explore The Coming Day of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 2:6-22.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Unfaithful City ~ Yesha’yahu 1:18-31

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 1: 10-17 to learn that God Has Had Enough. In this post, we continue in Yesha’yahu 1:18-31 to learn about The Unfaithful City.

“18 ‘Come now,’ says Adonai, ‘let’s talk this over together. Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you will be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.’

21 ‘How the faithful city [Yerushalayim] has become a whore! Once she was filled with justice, righteousness lodged in her; but now murderers! 22 Your silver is no longer pure; your wine is watered down. 23 Your leaders are rebels, friends of thieves. They all love bribes and run after gifts. They give no justice to orphans; the widow’s complaint doesn’t catch their attention.’ 24 ‘Therefore,’ says the Lord, Adonai-Tzva’ot, the Mighty One of Isra’el, ‘I will free myself of my adversaries, I will take vengeance on my enemies. 25 But I will also turn my hand against you! I will cleanse your impurities as with lye and remove all your alloyed base metal. 26 I will restore your judges as at first and your advisers as at the beginning. After that, you will be called the City of Righteousness, Faithful City. 27 Tziyon will be redeemed by justice; and those in her who repent, by righteousness. 28 Rebels and sinners together will be broken, and those who abandon Adonai will be consumed. 29 You will be ashamed of the sacred oaks you desired; you will blush at the gardens you chose; 30 for you will be like an oak whose leaf fades, like a garden without any water. 31 The strong will be like tinder and [the idol’s] maker like a spark; both will burn together, and no one will put them out.’” ~ Isaiah 1:18-31 (CJB)

As we learned in my last post, the people were full of blood and sin, apathy and iniquity – and yet Yeshua might say, “My blood will wash you clean if you’ll just come before Me and admit your need of My work and mercy in your life.”

That’s what we’re to do. “If we acknowledge our sins, then, since He is trustworthy and just, He will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.” ~ 1 John 1:9 (CJB) All He asks from you and me is, to be honest before Him and say, “I know this isn’t right, Father. I need Your mercy. Deal with me. Help me. Change me.”

God’s people were not always corrupt. The formerly faithful city – Yerushalayim – had become corrupt. The worship of false gods, idolatry, is often described as a form of adultery. Dross and watered-down wine are symbols of impurity. The rulers of Y’hudah were corrupt. They sought their financial advantage and neglected the rights and needs of the socially vulnerable (the widow and the orphans).

Many of the worshipers in the Temple participated in these evil practices and thereby encouraged the decay of the nation. The rulers maintained a religious facade to cover up their crimes, and this practice was allowed by them. It seems we may have the same problem now in our denominations these days.

God will not let the guilty escape their punishment. The judgment is not just punitive; it purifies. The people started a faithful city (v. 21), and after their cleansing, they will again be a Faithful City.

The people of God sinned by their idolatry that often took the form of worshiping false gods with foreign rituals. One common form of this false worship involved sacred oaks that were probably connected with the worship of a Canaanite fertility goddess called Asherah, the mother of Ba’al.

What would God do if the people did not repent? He would send a fiery judgment that would purge the dross and burn up those whose rebellion had made them His enemies (vv. 24-31). Yesha’yahu closes this first message with a promise of hope that one day Yerushalayim would become a City of Righteousness, Faithful City.

In my next post, I will explore Yesha’yahu 2:1-5 ~ The Mountain of the Lord.

Click here for the PDF version.

God Has Had Enough ~ Yesha’yahu 1:10-17

In my last post, we examined Yesha’yahu 1:1-9 ~ The Rebellion of God’s People. In this post, we continue in Yesha’yahu 1: 10-17 to learn that God Has Had Enough.

10 Hear what Adonai says, you rulers of S’dom! Listen to God’s Torah, you people of ‘Amora! 11 ‘Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?’ asks Adonai. ‘I’m fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals! I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats! 12 Yes, you come to appear in my presence; but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? 13 Stop bringing worthless grain offerings! They are like disgusting incense to me! Rosh-Hodesh [New Moon festival], Shabbat, calling convocations – I can’t stand evil together with your assemblies! 14 Everything in me hates your Rosh-Hodesh and your festivals; they are a burden to me – I’m tired of putting up with them! 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood. 16 Wash yourselves clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing evil, 17 learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.’” ~ Isaiah 1:10-17 (CJB)

In these verses, God expressed His revulsion at the religious practices of His people. The disgusting thing about His rebellious people is that they were also a religious people (Isaiah 1:10-15). They attended the Temple services and brought a multitude of sacrifices to the Lord. However, their hearts were far from God, and their worship was hypocritical. In other words, they were too heavenly minded and no earthly good.

Sacrifices alone can never please God. God wants our inward obedience (1 Samuel 15:22), a broken heart (Psalm 51:17), and a godly walk (Micah 6:8).

Though God will not punish the people with total annihilation as He did the cities of S’dom and ‘Amora, it is not as if they did not deserve that fate. Their rulers were like the inhabitants of those depraved cities who denied hospitality to strangers and engaged in perverse sexual acts.

God had commanded His people to offer sacrifices in Leviticus 1-7, but the sacrifices of His people were reprehensible to Him. They were not offered with pure motives of sincere repentance. Rather, they were offered with hands covered with blood.

The Temple was considered a sacred space that was protected by closely monitored, restricted access. Admission to the general public was granted only when a sacrifice needed to be offered and then only to the outer court. Entrance to sacred space for anything but holy purpose would be sacrilegious trespassing. Recall the account of Yeshua cleansing the Temple of the merchants and the money-changers in Matthew 21:12-13.

In the ancient world, incense was valued as an accompaniment to sacrifice. Its sweet scent effectively masked any of the unpleasant odors resulting from the performance of the rituals. It was expensive and commanded in Leviticus 2:1.

Keyed to the use of a lunar calendar, ancient Israel marked the first day of the month with Rosh-Hodesh. It is “new moon” phase festival day every twenty-nine or thirty days. As on the Sabbath, all work was to cease (see Numbers 10:10), and there were sacrifices to be made. What had been designed as a means to praise and honor God, however, was not bringing any pleasure to him.

Why wouldn’t God hear the prayers of His people? Because their sacrifices, times of worship, and even prayers were not acceptable because their hands were covered with blood. That is, they sinned and did not repent but still participated in worship. God did not tolerate such hypocritical behavior.

Sometimes we wonder why our prayers aren’t answered. We go to church regularly. We lift our hands in praise. We tithe. But God says all of that is irrelevant if we’re harboring sin in our life. If we’re compromising, if we’re trying to be righteous through our efforts or energy, if we’re failing to realize our need to come before God in brokenness, God won’t answer our prayers – not because He’s mad at us or because He doesn’t like us anymore, but because He’s saying, “There’s something wrong in your relationship with Me. If I continue to answer your prayers, you will persist in those things, and they’ll destroy you. So you’re not going to sense My presence. You’re not going to have answers to your prayers so that you might seek Me.” [1]

This passage gives a prescription for change – repent. Transformation involves a cessation of evil activities as well as the requirement of good deeds. The good deeds are defined as social justice, particularly resisting oppressors and promoting the interests of the vulnerable (the orphans and the widows).

“The religious observance that God the Father considers pure and faultless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being contaminated by the world.” ~ James 1:27 (CJB)

In my next post, I will explore Yesha’yahu 1:18-31 ~ The Unfaithful City.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

The Rebellion of God’s People ~ Yesha’yahu 1:1-9

In my last post, we concluded the background material on the book of Yesha’yahu. In this post, we start to dig into the actual scripture.

“This is the vision of Yesha’yahu, the son of Amotz, which he saw concerning Y’hudah and Yerushalayim during the days of ‘Uziyahu, Yotam, Achaz and Y’chizkiyahu, kings of Y’hudah:

2 ‘Hear, heaven! Listen, earth! For Adonai is speaking. I raised and brought up children, but they rebelled against me. 3 An ox knows its owner and a donkey its master’s stall, but Isra’el does not know, my people do not reflect. 4 Oh, sinful nation, a people weighed down by iniquity, descendants of evildoers, immoral children! They have abandoned Adonai, spurned the Holy One of Isra’el, turned their backs on him! 5 Where should I strike you next, as you persist in rebelling? The whole head is sick, the whole heart diseased. 6 From the sole of the foot to the head there is nothing healthy, only wounds, bruises and festering sores that haven’t been dressed or bandaged or softened up with oil. 7 Your land is desolate; your cities are burned to the ground; foreigners devour your land in your presence; it’s as desolate as if overwhelmed by floods. 8 The daughter of Tziyon is left like a shack in a vineyard, like a shed in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. 9 If Adonai-Tzva’ot had not left us a tiny, tiny remnant, we would have become like S’dom; we would have resembled ‘Amora.” ~ Yesha’yahu 1:1-9 (CJB)

This chapter describes a courtroom scene. God convenes the court and states the charges forcefully. He presents His case and pronounces the nation guilty. The call goes out to the heavens and the earth to hear the charges against God’s people. In Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:19 the heavens and earth are invoked as witnesses to the covenant. It is appropriate here that they are called on to hear the indictment detailing the violation of that covenant.

How did God describe His sinful people? They were rebellious children (vv. 2-4) who did not have as much devotion to God as animals do to their masters! Rebelled carries with it the idea of breaking a contract. At Sinai, Isra’el had entered into a solemn covenant with Adonai (Exodus 19-20), but they had broken the covenant by their unbelief and idolatry. They did not appreciate what God had done for them and were taking their blessings for granted. They had forsaken the Lord, gone backward, and grown corrupt; therefore, they were guilty and deserved judgment.

From the human point of view, the nation was prospering; but from God’s point of view, the nation was like a wretched victim who had been beaten from head to foot and left to die (vv. 5-6). The wounds had become infected, the whole body diseased, and nobody was doing anything to help. In spite of the optimism of Y’hudah’s leaders, the nation was morally and spiritually corrupt, and judgment was inevitable.

In verses 7-9, God pictures Y’hudah as a ravaged battlefield, a desert that had once been a garden. In using this image, Yesha’yahu may have been looking ahead to the invasion of Sancheriv, when Y’hudah was devastated by the Ashur army, and only Yerushalayim was spared (chaps. 36-37). The people would not let God manage the land according to His law, so God turned Y’hudah over to foreigners and permitted His people to suffer.

The devastation of the land was a natural consequence of the invasion. Invading armies often lacked an adequate supply line and therefore expected to live off the land they were invading. What they didn’t use for their purposes they destroyed. Not only were the crops burned, but the trampling of the land often crippled the agricultural cycle for several seasons afterward.

Tziyon is the name for the mountain on which Yerushalayim is situated and represents that special location from which the Lord conquers and reigns. It is therefore also associated with the Davidic covenant and kingship ordained by God. The daughter of Tziyon would then be the city itself. It reminds the reader of the intimate relationship God enjoyed with the people He must judge. A shelter in a vineyard or a shack in a cucumber field were both fragile. Without upkeep they would crumble, providing an illuminating analogy for the desolation of Jerusalem.

In the S’dom and Amora account in Genesis 19 these cities are not destroyed by invading armies, but that is not the nature of the comparison here. The totality of the destruction as God’s judgment is the emphasis of the text. A just God would be expected to bring comparable judgment for comparable crimes. God had been gracious. He did not completely destroy His people. Rather, a remnant would survive the judgment; restoration would follow the cleansing of judgment.

In my next post, I will explore Yesha’yahu 1:10-17 ~ God Has Had Enough.

Click here for PDF version.