Introduction: These first thirty-nine chapters are filled with judgment upon immoral and idolatrous men. Judah and all the surrounding nations had sinned. The final twenty-seven chapters declare a message of hope. The Messiah is coming as a Savior and a Sovereign King.
Isaiah’s prophetic ministry, spanning the reigns of four kings of Judah, covers at least forty years. Isaiah’s long ministry ranged from about 740 to 680 B.C. He began his ministry near the end of Uzziah’s reign (790-739 B.C.) and continued through the reigns of Jotham. Isaiah lived during a time of military threat to Judah, and warned its kings against trusting in alliances with other countries rather than the power of Yahweh. He was sawed in two during the reign of Manasseh (see Hebrews 11:37).
The Judgment of Judah
Verse 1 – The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
The kingdoms had been divided – Israel in the north and Judah in the south. They both had grown wicked and had started trusting in military aid from pagan nations rather than from God. Isaiah came primarily for Judah, but his message was for both. His message begins with warnings.
Verse 2 – Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!” I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me;
Verse 3 – The ox knows its owner and the donkey’s its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not consider (understand).”
In other words: The farm animals know who feeds them, why don’t you Israel?
Verse 4 – Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupter’s! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.
The Jews had broken their moral and spiritual covenant with God. God was warning them through Isaiah, that judgment and punishment was coming. This shows God’s mercy. He always gives a warning to them first.
There also will be warnings in our lives when we need to take another direction. Don’t be like Israel and not listen.
Verse 5 – Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.
Verse 6 – From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment.
Just like a disease that will spread throughout the entire body when not treated, sin had spread from the kings on down through all the people.
Verse 7 – Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
Judah was attacked many times during Isaiah’s lifetime, but this destruction, most likely pointed to the invasion by the Babylonians and the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. as well. When the foreigners or strangers invade, they wipe out everything, showing no mercy or compassion.
Verse 8 – So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a hut in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
Verse 9 – Unless the Lord of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom we would have been made like Gomorrah.
God completely destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their continued wickedness (Genesis 19:1-25). But here, God would save those , a remnant, who were faithful to Him.
Verse 10 – Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: (This was the worst comparison that Isaiah could have given them. It showed how evil and wicked they had become.)
Verse 11 – “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats.”
Sacrifices were to be the outward sign of the inward faith in God. The priests were just going through the motions and the people were still living anyway they chose. The same thing happens today; people have more faith in their rituals than in for their living to worship a loving God. We have to check ourselves and make sure we are not just “going through the motions!”
Verse 12 – “When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand to trample My courts?
Verse 13 – Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
“New Moons”, and “Sabbaths” refer to the monthly offerings (Numbers 28:11-14), and weekly and special annual Sabbaths on the Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 16:31, 23-34, 39). Gifts and sacrifices mean nothing, when they come from an unrepentant heart.
Verse 14 – Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
Verse 15 – When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
They were going before God with a hypocritical spirit. They did as they pleased, but yet still went through the motions of worshiping. I call this “Playing church!”
Verse 16 – “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doing from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,
Verse 17 – Learn to do good; seek justice. Reprove the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
They needed to turn from their wicked ways – repent. An inward transformation needed to take place.
Verse 18 – “Come now, and let us reason together.” Says the Lord, ” Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Before you came to Christ, your sin is like a stain that “You couldn’t remove on your own.” When you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, He washes that stain of sin with His blood, forgiveness and grace. He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness.
Verse 19 – If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;
Verse 20 – But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
God presented the people with two options: Repent and obey or rebel and be destroyed. A remarkable transformation will take place when we chose life.
Verse 21 – How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murders.
Verse 22 – Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water.
Verse 23 – Your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; everyone loves bribes, and follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, nor does the cause of the widow come before them.
“The faithful city” refers to Jerusalem, representing all of Judah. God compares the actions of his people to a harlot. The people had turned from worshiping God to idols.
The rulers had become as dross, the useless run-off when silver is purified. Their worship was mixed with their idolatry and had become diluted. And as for the princes and the royalty, they took gifts and bribes, but didn’t take care for the people. Jesus described the people of His day as adulterous, even though they were religiously strict. You can perform all the religious acts in the world, but if your heart never changes towards God it’s useless.
Verse 24 – Therefore the Lord says, the Lord of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, “Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries, and take vengeance on My enemies.
Verse 25 – I will turn My hand against you, and thoroughly purge away your dross, and take away all your alloy (alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements, especially to give greater strength or resistance to corrosion).
God promised to purge His people the way that metal is purged in a smelting pot. Judgment was coming to all of Israel and the guilty would not escape punishment.
Verse 26 – I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you should be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
Verse 27 – Zion shall be redeemed with justice; and her penitents (converts) with righteousness.
Verse 28 – The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
Verse 29 – For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees (sites of pagan worship) which you have desired; and you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens which you have chosen.
These gardens were groves of oak trees, sacred trees, that were connected with worship of Canaanite fertility goddess called Asherah, the mother of Baal.
Verse 30 – For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, and as a garden that has no water.
Verse 31 – The strong shall be as tinder, and the work of it as a spark; both will burn together, and no one shall quench them.
Judah had become very prideful and resistant to God, just like a strong oak that was never watered and when a spark touched it, it burst into flames.