Summary: I believe God is offering much the same call to decision He offered to Israel: Repentance or Retribution.
REPENTANCE OR RETRIBUTION
Text: Isa.1: 16-20
Intro: As one reads the first chapter of the book of Isaiah he will not find God’s people in a very promising situation. The Northern Kingdom, called, Israel, had undergone a long succession of ungodly kings, which had led her to destruction and ruin. God had judged them for their idolatry and alliances with pagan powers.
The Southern Kingdom, called, Judah, could not boast of having done much better. They too had slipped in and out of idolatry, and alliances with pagan countries, such as Assyria and Egypt. It was due to this sad state of affairs that Isaiah the prophet was called upon by God to prophesy against the sins of His people.
The first chapter of Isaiah is actually a call to decision. It is somewhat reminiscent of Joshua’s challenge many years before, when he said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…” (Joshua 24: 15a). It also bears a striking similarity to Elijah’s searching question on Mt. Carmel, where he said, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kings 18: 21).
Though the call to decision in Isaiah chapter one is not stated quite as concisely as the ones just mentioned, it is still very clear to those who read carefully. God was saying to the nation of Israel, “Repentance or retribution: it’s your choice.” God’s patience had run out. Now it was time to make a decision. Their decision would determine whether they would suffer or soar as a nation.
Theme: God’s call to decision was necessitated by:
I. JUDAH’S CONDITION
A. Judah Was Debased.
1. Judah had shown ingratitude for God’s care and provision.
Isa.1: 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.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”
2. Judah had shown irreverence toward God, in spite of His kindness toward them.
Isa.1: 3 “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”
NOTE:  In verse two, one can imagine the broken heart of God as He refers to the people of Judah as His children whom He had nurtured and loved only to have them rebel against Him. The word “rebelled” means, “to revolt, or break away from just authority” (James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D., Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible: MacDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia; #6586 of the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, pg. 97).
 God shows how debased Judah had become by comparing them to dumb animals (v. 3). Even the ox and donkey showed more natural respect and obedience for their masters than did Judah for her God.
B. Judah Was Defiled.
Isa.1: 4a “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters…”
NOTE:  The word “sinful” basically means to, “miss the mark” (Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: published by Mood Press, Chicago, Illinois; pg. 609).
 God also said that Judah was “laden with iniquity.” The word “iniquity” makes reference to “a perversion or twisting aside” (Ibid, pg. 609).
 The word “evildoers” implies not merely those that do evil, but those “…who commit harmful, injurious sin…” (Ibid, pg. 609).
 The term “corrupters” speaks of those who defiled or destroyed that which was wholesome.
C. Judah Was Defiant.
Isa.1: 4b “…they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
5a Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more…”
NOTE:  The picture here is that of a stubborn, arrogant child, who refuses to do what is right. The people of Judah had abandoned (“forsaken”) God, by defiantly alienating and separating (“gone away backward”) themselves from Him. This of course had “provoked” God to anger.
 The first part of verse five indicates that previous judgment had not produced a change of heart. The picture gleaned from verses five and six is that of a vicious assault. But their calloused defiance simply grew worse. This is much like a delinquent young man that we once worked with at a place called, Redemption Ranch. Freddy Tackett had had so many spankings that they no longer did him any good. You could hit him as hard as you wanted to, but he wouldn’t even flinch.
 We need to remember something at this point. This sort of stubborn defiance is a serious matter to God. God’s Word tells us, “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” (Prov.29: 1—NASB). God is loving and kind. But there comes a time when God’s patience with man’s stubborn and arrogant rebellion runs out.