Summary: Isaiah one gives us a warning of the outcome of rebelling against God, but also a promise of his grace to repentant rebels.
We have two new babies in our corps, Moses and Eddy. When a baby is first born will go to anyone, but soon knows who its mummy is, and just wants her! Will start to cry if held by a stranger. Young children find safety and security in their parents and familiar people, want to be with them, afraid if anyone else comes near. Totally dependent on them.
But as children grow up they gradually become more independent, become able to feed themselves, dress themselves, wash themselves and eventually become adults in their own right.
However naughtiness, disobedience and rebellion is a part of childhood for all children. Start disobeying parents, first in small things then gradually increases. Some even end up rejecting their parents completely, and everything they stand for. But even when being disobedient, still recognise parents, hear them shout their name when being naughty. Hope to not get discovered in their naughtiness, or deny it because, deep down, they care about their parents reactions to their behaviour. However we have all known situations were the rebellion against parents has reached such a state that children no longer care about their reactions.
In the passage we have just read God talks as having given birth to his people, just like a mother gives birth to her children. He nourished them and reared them, carefully cared for them, supplied their needs, loved them. He talks of his people’s rebellion, their deliberate disobedience, their deliberate rejection of him, just like a parent with a disobedient child they caused him heartache. But then came the difference. They had gone so far from him that they didn’t know him anymore, they did not recognise his voice.
If anyone has animals will know how quickly they get to know you. Dogs and cats come at your call. My Guinea pig, Raylton, squeaks and comes to side of cage to see me when I come in (probably hoping for a piece of carrot or cucumber!). He does not do the same with strangers. Both children and pets are similar in this! But God’s people had gone so far away that they were not even like dogs, recognising their master’s voice, or Raylton knowing who is likely to be giving him carrots.
What a warning! We can remove ourselves so far from our Father God that we no longer recognise him, we no longer here him speak, in fact we get to the situation were we no longer even care about him, or the heartache that we are causing him. That is a sad and desperate situation to be in. Not able to respond to the God who is the source of our life. Without hope, without Christ, lost and isolated on the sea of life. Not able to, and indeed having no inclination to, seek out our Heavenly Father.
In human families such a sad state of affairs, although it does occur, is thankfully rare. But in our relationship with our Father God it is far from rare. Indeed the teaching of Scripture is that we are all, by nature, in this situation. We are all naturally in a place where we are not able to respond to him or come to him by our own efforts. Ephesians 2:11-12 talks of this (read).
Isaiah then goes on to talk further of the rebellion of God’s people, and their rejection of their creator. In verse ten he even refers to them as Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities famous for their wickedness, which were destroyed in the days of Abraham. We have a people who have gone so far in rebellion and disobedience to their Father God that they are no longer able to recognise him or respond to him in anyway and whose sin is as great as that of Sodom and Gomarrah. A sad picture and a dire situation.
It gets worse. He even calls their worship of him sin, because they are coming and offering him sacrifices, but with rebellious hearts. They were going through all the motions of worship, but they did not really mean it. They were offering sheep and goats, but not themselves, still in disobedience and with a spirit of sin and rebellion. When that happens, worship ceases to be worship, and becomes sin. God was not accepting their worship or listening to their prayers.
This is a horrible, solemn warning, that we can make ourselves, by our rebellious hearts and attitudes, so alienated from God that we are completely cut of from him and our worship of him is worse than useless.
But then, in verses 16-19, comes the promise. Suddenly, in the midst of describing their hopeless state God changes tack. When final condemnation looked like coming, mercy comes instead. Though their sins were scarlet, though they were guilty of blood and of murder, he would purify them. Not just forgive them, but cleanse them, make them clean again, restore the Father-Son relationship that they had deliberately and wantonly broken. Their repentance would bring pardon. It was God making the initiative, the initiative in restoring the relationship had to come from him, as we have seen, the people could not make it. Later on in Isaiah we hear how this was achieved. Isaiah 53:4-6 looks ahead to the death of Christ, who took the blame for our sin and rebellion.