Do You Rebel?

Explore the Bible Series

March 5, 2006

 

Background Passage: Isaiah 1:1-4:6

Lesson Passage: Isaiah 1:2-5; 11-20

 

Introduction to the Prophecy of Isaiah:

 

Author: The opening verse of this prophecy identifies Isaiah, son of Amoz, as the author of this book.  The prophet’s name means “Jehovah Saves.”  Rabbinic tradition indicates that Isaiah lived a very long time, perhaps ninety years, and he preached during the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. The Bible reveals that Isaiah was married and fathered two sons. 

 

Historic Setting: Isaiah ministered to Judah from about 739 to 681 B.C. 

King Uzziah:  Uzziah (also known as Azariah) was the son of King Amaziah, and he ascended to the throne of Judah when men of Jerusalem assassinated Amaziah at Lachish (See II Kings 15:1-7 and II Chronicles 25:25-28). The young king was only sixteen when these conspirators murdered his father, but he demonstrated great wisdom and godliness during his lengthy public life (reigned for fifty-two years). Generally, Uzziah walked with the Lord.  Unfortunately, he did not remove the high places (sites of pagan worship), and he died of leprosy after he intruded into the Temple to burn incense (See II Chronicles 26:16-23).

Jotham: This man ruled Judah during the years of his father’s illness and assumed the throne, in his own right, at age twenty-five.  He governed wisely in Jerusalem for sixteen years (See II Chronicles 27:1-9).

Ahaz: Jotham’s son did not follow in his father’s path.  His sixteen-year rule of Judah marked a dismal return to idolatry; indeed, the king himself commissioned the worship of the Baals, sacrificed to the pagan gods, defaced the Temple, and offered his children as burnt sacrifices.  His miserable leadership of Judah is described in Ii Kings 16:1-20 and II Chronicles 28:1-4.

Hezekiah: Thankfully, Hezekiah, during a twenty-nine year reign, broke the sinful patterns of his father Ahaz. He cleansed and restored the Temple from the abominations of Ahaz, and he tore down the high places of pagan devotion.  Despite sad moments of weakness, Hezekiah served God faithfully throughout a long and prosperous reign.

 

Purpose: Isaiah addressed a prosperous and confident nation.  Judah experienced a kind of “Indian Summer” of generally good leadership and political security.  The nation prospered economically during the eighth-century, but the people fell into extended periods of spiritual and moral compromise and complacency. God sent occasional warnings to his people, but they refused to read the signs of the times very well.  Above all, the citizens of Judah failed to recognize the danger posed by the resurgence of the Egyptians and the meteoric rise of the Assyrians.  Isaiah confronted Judah’s spiritual indifference.

 

General Organization of the Prophecy:

The Book of Isaiah divides clearly into two major sections.  Chapters 1-39 address the spiritual malaise of Isaiah’s contemporaries.  Glorious promises of mercy punctuate thirty-nine chapters of scathing rebukes of the people’s moral torpor.  In contrast, Chapters 40-66 take a prophetic posture and describe conditions that will exist many years after Judah feel to Babylon and, of course, after the death of Isaiah.  The accuracy of these prophecies has persuaded many scholars that Isaiah could not have written this section of the book.  However, New Testament figures, including the Lord Jesus, clearly regarded these chapters as the work of Isaiah. Those who want a more thorough treatment of these issues regarding authorship should see E.J. Young’s An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Finally, we should note that the last twenty-nine chapters contain the most glorious Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.

 

 

Outline of the Lesson Passage:

 

I.                    General Indictments Against Judah (1:1-31)

A.     Introduction of Isaiah (1:1)

B.     Jehovah’s summons to a court of law (vv. 2-3)

1.      The jury summoned (vv. 2a):  God called upon the heavens and the earth to hear his prosecution of Judah.

2.      The indictment read (vv2b-3): The Prosecutor compared Judah to defiant children.  God had blessed and nourished them; yet, they rebelled against their loving Father.  Even the ox and the donkey have greater insight than the children of Judah.

C.     The all-pervading sin of Judah (vv. 4-6): Isaiah compared Judah’s spiritual condition to an illness that pervades the entire body, “from the sole of the foot even to the head.” In particular, this illness has affected the head and the heart of the people.  Furthermore, no one has come to Judah’s aid.  Her wounds have gone unattended.

D.     The consequences of Judah’s sin (vv. 7-9):  God chastened his children, but they refused to discern his displeasure. Though the land has become a moral and spiritual wasteland, the people refused to heed God’s warnings.

E.      God’s displeasure with the worship of Judah (vv. 10-15): The Jews continued the outward observance of the worship of Jehovah, but God testified that he no longer delighted in this perfunctory worship.  Their sacrifices, burning of incense, and adherence to the Jewish calendar only trouble God.  He pledged to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to their empty observances.

F.      A call to repentance (vv. 16-20): These troubling circumstances, however, did not preclude a restoration of the spiritual vitality of Judah.  God called the people to repentance, cleansing, and reform.  The Jews, by God’s gracious invitation, had to listen to the Lord’s reason (v. 18).  Jehovah offered cleansing from the stain and defilement of their sins and a restoration of goodwill and blessing (vv. 18-20).

G.     A mournful description of Jerusalem (vv. 21-31)

1.      Jerusalem like a harlot (vv. 21-23)

2.      God will take vengeance on his enemies (vv. 24-26)

3.      A plead to redeem the penitent and judge those who strongly (firmly) remain in their pattern of sin (vv. 27-31)

 

 

II.                 The Problem with Judah: What She Is as Opposed to What She Will Be (2:1-4:6): The contrast between the end of Chapter One and the beginning of Chapter Two is striking.  The dismal circumstances described in the opening chapter of Isaiah will give way to a glorious period of blessing that will see the nations of the earth looking to Jerusalem as the “mountain of the Lord.”

A.     A future period of blessing (2:1-4): John Oswalt, in his excellent commentary on Isaiah, observes that this passage does not refer to a future millennial kingdom; rather, he draws on other Old Testament texts to conclude that this wonderful period of peace will occur “in time” and not at the end of time (He cites Genesis 49:1; Number 24:14; Deuteronomy 31:29; and Jeremiah 23:20).  Oswalt takes a Messianic approach to these verses and concludes that the prophecies recorded here will find fulfillment in the redemptive work of Christ.

B.     A plea to walk in the light of the Lord (2:5-22)

1.      The land was filled with great prosperity and idolatry (vv. 5-9).  The Jews had compromised their moral integrity by allowing the influence of godless men to draw them into covetousness and the worship of false gods.  As long as the people persisted in their disobedience, they had no prospect of forgiveness (See v. 9b).

2.      Hide from the terror of the Lord (vv. 10-22): The day of the Lord will bring the haughty man low.  He will find his security compromised and all of his defenses will prove useless against the judgment of the Lord. All of man’s military prowess and vain idols will do no good against the retributive work of Jehovah.

C.     God will remove the leadership of Judah (3:1-12)

1.      The leaders whom God will remove: the military leaders, the judge, the prophet, the diviner, the elder, the eminent men, the counselor, the skilled artisan, the enchanter, and the princes (vv.1-5).  Children will rule over the nation.

2.      Family members will turn away from each other (vv. 6-12).  Circumstances will grow so dire that brothers will refuse to help one another, even in nakedness and hunger.  Women will rule over households of rebellious children.

3.      God will bring the haughty oppressor to destruction (vv. 13-26):  Jehovah pleaded with the wealthy and powerful to turn from their luxurious and oppressive lives.  They rich had amassed their fortunes by the oppression of the poor (vv. 14-15).  The spoiled women, with their opulent affluence, will be deprived of the trappings of their wealth (vv. 17 and 24-26).

 

                       D. God’s promise of future good for the remnant of his people (4:1-6)

1.      a continuation of the plan of God to judge the women of Judah (v. 1).  In the day of the Lord’s judgment, so many men will die that women will desperately seek husbands to remove their reproach.  They will live as shameful vagabonds.

2.      the Lord will renew Judah (vv. 2-6): Again, Isaiah did not indicate the precise date of this renewal; nevertheless, he anticipated a day when God would make Jerusalem beautiful and holy (vv. 2-3).  When God cleanses the city, he will dwell with his people as he did in the wilderness, by cloud and pillar of fire (vv. 4-5). Jehovah will tabernacle with his people (v. 6).

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does contemporary American culture parallel ancient Judah?  What effect does affluence have on a culture?  How can Christians avoid the pitfalls of a prosperous society?
  2. These chapters describe dismal circumstances in Judah; however, Isaiah peppered these chapters with promises of revival and restoration.  How can the Lord’s people, in our day, seek genuine revival?  What kind of blessings did the Lord promise?