Summary: This message is part of series paralleling ancient Israel & America. Without consideration Israel had rebelled & deserted the Lord & were unconscious of its consequences. They did not realize the seriousness of their situation before God.
A NATION UNKNOWINGLY IN CRISIS
Isaiah began his book (& ends his book- 66:24) by recounting, very realistically, the response of Judah to Yahweh’s favor and purpose. We will encounter God’s reaction to the human refusal to response to His favor and purpose. The people had forsaken the LORD and as a result were spiritually and morally ill. They had rebelled and deserted the Lord and there were consequences for such an ungrateful attitude and disrespectful actions. Isaiah details Judah’s situation in God’s sight and calls them to return to covenant relation with God.
I. THE TRAGEDY OF REBELLIOUS CHILDREN (1: 2-3).
II. THE RESULT OF DENYING YAHWEH (4-9).
Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the Lord speaks, Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. (3) An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.
No nation in human history had experienced so many acts of kindness as had Israel. God had found the nation in bondage and delivered her from her Egyptian task masters, made a covenant with her, and had given her a land flowing with milk and honey (Amos 2:9-12; Hosea 8:12; 9:10; 11:3). Through these continuous acts of kindness God made a great and exalted nation in which He set His hopes of worship and witness. But despite His benefits, and without the least expression of gratitude, both Israel and Judah had rebelled against Yahweh (1: 2, 4). Heaven and earth were called to witness Yahweh’s indictment (1:2) [recalls the parting injunction of Moses (Dt. 30:19),] to which the emphatic sons or children adds a note of personal intensity.
Verse 2 gets to the heart of the crisis: God’s family had broken with Him. Judah’s rebellion was not simply the rebellion of a nation against a god. It was rebellion against a father. [The Hebrew word rendered rebelled (pa) was used in treaties to speak of a vassal country’s disobedience to the covenant made with it with the protecting nation. Pa also occurs in 66:24, the final verse in the book.]
Their reaction was most unreasonable. In fact, Isaiah said that the domesticated ox and donkey who lacked the capacity to reason, demonstrated a greater sense of acknowledgment (appreciation) than did His children, Israel, upon their God (1: 3). An ox is [unusually] submissive to its owner and dependent upon him for his subsistence. In Bible times a donkey was known for its stupidity. Like the ox and the donkey Israel had a master upon whom she was dependent and to whom she owed obedience, but unlike them they would not recognize and would not serve their rightful sovereign and His kindnesses. Therefore to say Israel was less knowledgeable than these domestic animals was a strong statement of her stupidity. These animals were more aware of their owners and the source of sustenance (manger was a feeding trough for animals) from their owners than were God’s people.
Animals do sometimes seem to have more sense than people. Because of their alertness to natural phenomena, they have at times helped us to avoid disaster. In northeastern China officials were able to warn and evacuate people from high-risk areas hours before a killer earthquake struck. They were alerted to the disaster by cattle that mooed more than usual and chickens that refused to roost. In Japan, 20 small quakes within a few months were accurately forecast because observers note that catfish swarm frantically as if chased by sharks.
From the prophet Isaiah we learn that observing animals can even teach us how to prevent a ruined life. He noted that an ox knows its owner, and a donkey knows where its food comes from. These animals know who takes care of them.
God’s people, however, often aren’t smart enough to remember their Owner. Hundreds of years after Isaiah, the I apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that they were not their own. They had been bought with a price and were to honor God in all they said and did (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Take a lesson from the animals and remember your Owner and Provider. Live wholeheartedly for Him. Live so that others know to whom you belong.
[I am Yours, Lord, yet teach me all that means, All it involves of love and loyalty, Holy service, absolute surrender, And unreserved obedience to Thee. -Anon.]
Israel did not know God or realize that He was her Provider. By being rebellious (1:2b) the nation failed to carry out God’s commands, which proved they did not really understand God. In other words, had Judah stopped to consider her origin and Yahweh’s providence, she would have been forced to a sense of acknowledgment and dependence like that expressed by animals at least. But she refused to acknowledge God’s blessings and right of leadership. By her actions she denied Yahweh purposes. The Lord’s people had broke covenant with Him.