Isaiah 1-2 and Psalm 96
Over the next few weeks or so we’ll read Isaiah, the first of the major prophets, “the vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Isaiah 1:1
Isaiah begins by setting the stage:
Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
The prophetic words are for the ears of Israel, especially the kings who are trying to follow the Lord, but they sound contemporary in many ways. The Creator speaks through Isaiah with harsh words:
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Historically, this is an awful time for God’s chosen people. Around 1,400 BC Moses is sent to deliver God’s people from Egypt. Amos, Jonah and Hosea prophesy to the northern kingdom in an attempt to warn them about the pending exile around 750 BC. Isaiah’s ministry begins around the same time for those in the southern kingdom. Nearly 700 years have past since Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land. Now our ancestors, our forefathers, have been greatly reduced and to a large extent, lost again in the Promised Land with great and wonderful memories of God’s provision.
We read through 700 years of history in a matter of hours and perhaps we shake our heads and point our fingers at their deplorable actions. God speaks through his prophets to warn, to rebuke, to chastise because he loves his people! Again and again, he attempts to bring about reconciliation:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
If we are willing and obedient. A big “if” some days. Certainly not something we like to preach about! I prefer to highlight the positive statements. I keep looking through the Old Testament for the remnant, the few who heard and listened to the warnings. I know there were some, perhaps many, who were unnamed, they simply went about their lives in complete loyalty and devotion. Their sphere of influence small, but committed. I’m grateful for their legacy that seeped into the DNA of the first disciples and apostles.
Deep inside, there we so many just waiting for Jesus to come, for the One who would provide answers to Isaiah’s words, he who would fill in the blanks. Mere humans could not do this!
Stop trusting in mere humans,
who have but a breath in their nostrils.
Why hold them in esteem?
Though many would promote themselves, no mere mortal could provide the solution. When we collectively turn our eyes on Jesus, the solution begins to come in focus. I can’t fully wrap my mind around the concept of fully human and fully divine–I’ll just have to wait until I’m on the other side of eternity–but here is the answer to all questions for those who are willing to listen. May we have childlike innocence with the wisdom of Isaiah, a crazy request perhaps, just my earnest desire for the day.
Open our hearts, Lord. Help us to hear your words through your prophets of old as we live in this crazy world today.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.