Summary: Something is terribly wrong, viz. the sins of the people.
Isaiah 1:2-9 Asking for Trouble
6/4/00 D. Marion Clark
Tonight’s passage fits in well with the morning passage regarding John the Baptist. Isaiah’s opening words follow the same line of thinking as John’s. Something is terribly wrong, viz. the sins of the people.
2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
Isaiah opens by calling for witnesses. The heavens and the earth, God’s creation, are to act as witnesses to God’s complaint or accusation. The charge turns out to be a domestic complaint. A father is complaining about his rebellious children: I reared children and brought them up.
These are not children born of God, but adopted by him. They were chosen by him among all the other nations. The Exodus is the act by which he, in a sense, officially adopted them and began to rear them as his own. But…but they have rebelled against me.
The problem is rebellion.
They have forsaken the LORD;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Now, it is one thing to rebel; it is another to be foolish. God, through Isaiah, goes on to point out the foolishness of the rebellion.
3 “The ox knows his master,
the donkey his owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
Israel acts as though she has forgotten to whom she belongs. The animal of little sense at least understands that. The ox and the donkey at least understand who feeds them. But Israel acts as though there is no peculiar relationship with God. Though they are the people of the covenant, the people chosen of God and for whom God performed his great act of redemption from Egypt, they now live as any other people.
And who is that they have rebelled against? Their Father who has done so much for them. And wasn’t like God owed them special recognition. He chose them not for anything of themselves as though they deserved his special treatment: 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands (Deuteronomy 7:7-9).
What’s their problem? Their problem is sin – they are loaded with guilt. They are bad kids. The problem is not simply a matter of God’s kids saying they want their freedom; they are bullies; they are corrupt; they take bribes and oppress the weak.
4 Ah, sinful nation,
a people loaded with guilt,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
Though this rebellion is taking place, God, however, is not in a quandary about how to enact appropriate punishment. The heavens and earth are not the judiciary that he is appealing to for justice. They are simply the witnesses to whom he is declaring his judgments. Isaiah speaks for him to Israel about the situation.
5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with oil.
It is one thing to sin, thinking that you are getting the good life or at least getting away with it. Israel is getting away with nothing. She sins; God punishes. She persists and her afflictions grow only worse, so that her whole body is suffering from the beatings she has received.
Isaiah moves from metaphor to real description of Israel’s woes.
7 Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
We are not given the historical context; we don’t know what time period Isaiah is writing in. Evidently he is referring to one of the times that the land has been invaded. The country is in obvious bad shape. She is in a precarious position.
8 The Daughter of Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a field of melons,
like a city under siege.
She is like a flimsy shelter in a vineyard or melon patch. She is not internally sound, and, by the way, she is under attack externally. Her condition is not good. Indeed, if the Lord had not acted on her behalf, she would have been destroyed by now, Isaiah points out.