Sunday, April 25, 2010

Isaiah 1:1-20 - The Remedy for Rebellion

Raphael's Isaiah
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Contextual Notes: The prophecy of Isaiah is one of the most beautiful, towering, and significant books of the Old Testament. Its messages of judgment are set against great visions of comfort and hope. Isaiah has been called the Fifth Gospel, for it is the most Messianic and Christological (Christ-centered and Christ-predicting) in the OT.

Isaiah’s prophetic career began the year King Uzziah died (739 B.C.) and lasted until at least the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian general Sennacharib under the reign of King Hezekiah, a tumultuous half-century when Neo-Assyria was bent on taking over the world. The ten northern tribes of Israel would fall to Assyria, and Judah would suffer under the privations of the Assyrian threat, but Jerusalem would somehow survive during this time. Less than 20 years after Isaiah, Jerusalem would fall to a new empire which would replace Assyria, the Babylonians.
Isaiah 1-5 forms a preface to the book and draws attention to the sad state of affairs in Judah and Jerusalem. The nation is sick, and the sickness is threefold: moral (mental), spiritual (1:2ff), and physical (1:5-9). Here in chapter 1, vv. 2-9 give the nation’s diagnosis, vv. 10-23 the prescription for healing, and vv. 24-31 the national prognosis.

Pray and Read:  Isaiah 1:1-20

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 1:1-20 to teach Israel the recklessness, the deceptive religiousness, and the remedy for rebellion.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the foolishness of persisting in sin.

Sermon Points:
  1. The Recklessness of our Rebellion (Isaiah 1:1-9)
  2. The Religiousness of our Rebellion (Isaiah 1:10-15)
  3. The Remedy for our Rebellion (Isaiah 1:16-20)
Exposition:   Note well,


a.   1:1 – little is known of Isaiah, but his striking literary gifts suggest upper class birth and education. His career spanned the reigns of Uzziah/Azariaiah (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chron. 26:1-23), Jotham (2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chron. 27:1-9), Ahaz (2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chron. 28:1-27) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chron. 29:1-32:33).
b.   1:2 – The Lord issues a formal indictment of Judah, calling heaven and earth as witness to his charges against the rebellious nation. The same thing was done when God made his covenant with Israel (Deuteronomy 4:26).
c.   1:4 – Holy One of Israel – a key phrase in the whole book. He does not inflict punishment on his people for his own amusement. He does it to bring us to repentance in order to prevent punishing them for eternity.
d.   1:5-6 – Isaiah pictures Judah as a sick nation
e.   1:8 – The daughter of Zion is a personification of Jerusalem the city. It is associated with the Davidic covenant of kingship ordained by God. The shelter in a vineyard is an image of desolation: the hut of the watchmen who kept away the birds later abandoned in every other season. So Jerusalem is portrayed as vacant and deserted with nothing left to protect.
f.    1:9 – Suddenly God’s indictment is met with a human response. The emphasis is on the total destruction similar to the wicked Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-19:29).

g.   APPLICATION: We are a nation extremely and universally sinful. We are loaded down with every species of iniquity. We are a crowd of evil-doers. All ranks of men and women among us are depraved. Our transgressions are excessive. We don’t just corrupt ourselves, we corrupt others as well. Vile as we are, Christ died for us, and his death avails even for the worst of sinners. If we will just rely simply on the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and plead his merits at the throne of grace, then if heaven and earth testify against us for our eternal condemnation and the Devil himself stands up against us to accuse us before our faces to the Father, the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ will be our divine protector, so that our offended God will be satisfied forever and receive us into his glory with joy.


  1. 1:12 – “Trampling the courts” like a herd of animals. Mindless and muddying. Religion without righteousness and ritual without commitment remain disgusting to God then and today.
  2. 1:15 – Spreading hands in prayer: with arms raised and palms open up (2 Chronicles 6:12). Since they loved sin more than God, God must refuse to heed their prayers. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18). “Your hands” – “As for your hands, with blood they are full.” Full with violence as murderers (1:21); 2 Chron. 24:21; Matt. 23:34-35). This blood blocks intercessor for a nation.
  3. The religious might reply: “How can you complain about us? We do our religious duty. We serve God with zeal. We offer the best kind of sacrifices with great reverence. How dare you judge my heart? We do a lot and give a lot to support you and this church, buddy. Watch your mouth. We’ll be watching you to see where you fail. You might step on our toes, but be assured we will smash your feet.” They wouldn't say it? It has been said to me.
  1. APPLICATION: Religious activity with no heart change is no good. There is a huge disconnect with this in many Christian people. Religious activity can fool some people, but God can see through hypocrisy. What he requires is not religious ritual but a sanctified, holy life, demonstrated in love for one’s neighbor. This love must be shown in our economic and political behavior beyond simply religious behavior.
  1. We are a crowd of self-righteous formalists who are so proud of our own level of spirituality. We imagine ourselves so spiritually mature. We complain if the service does not go like our expectations dictate. Some of us seem to have spent our very lives in showing up to keep a pew warm to hear and critique poor sermons, giving hugely to our church’s building program, or demonstrating our talents at prayer, but ignoring those widows and kids in need.
  1. We leave church so holy and impressed with ourselves and go to eat in a restaurant and get up and leave the waitress (who is a struggling single mom) nothing in gratuity, but we make sure we leave a gospel tract for her to get saved. Then we curse our spouse on the way home for the way they drive. And we watch a filthy movie before we go to bed. Or we might have a few drinks in the warm evening and let things burn a little out of control with the boyfriend or girlfriend, but it was OK because we used “protection.”
  1. Then we get up on Monday morning for a week of ripping the financial rug out from people too poor to pay. We are uncharitable toward those with whom we differ. We smart off in insolence at our supervisors and teachers. We cruise by that porn site again for a few moments. (BTW- Did you know that pornographers have found that their internet volume drops significantly one time a week – Sunday mornings between 10 and 12? Begs the question, so where is that added volume coming from?)
  1. We demand to be first and cut our shopping cart in front, being haughty toward that man with little education and a poor command of English from a Latin American country. Then we deem it the cashier’s fault when she forgets to charge you for everything and you credit the Lord’s blessing for your shoplifting. Hypocrite!
  1. A poor, dirty, ignorant sinner is one thing, but a Bible-believing, Bible-toting, Bible-quoting church-attender who acts like this is a stench to the Lord. More than anything, that person needs to ask the Lord for the grace of repentance. At the end of this service today, there will be an opportunity to come to this altar and take a few minutes of prayer and speak to the Lord about your heart and ask His forgiveness and like the old folks used to say, “Get right with God.”
  1. Matthew 7:22-24: 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
3.   THE REMEDY FOR OUR REBELLION (Isaiah 1:16-20)

a.   1:16 – Wash yourselves, clean yourselves: Keil & Deilitzsch: There is a difference between the two synonyms (to wash one's self, to clean one's self), the first refers to the one great act of repentance on the part of a man who is turning to God, the second to the daily repentance of one who has so turned (James 4:8).
b. Israel is not called to “do something.” You do not have to “get right” before God will hear – actually you can’t get right on your own. Simply stop and trust God. The only one who can wash away the blood of violence is Christ.

c.   ILLUSTRATION: Remember Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13)? Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet until Jesus said that until he washed Peter, he would not be saved. Then Peter exclaimed, Then wash my head and hands as well. Jesus answered that they were already clean (i.e., Jesus has already done the work of faith in their hearts), but that they only needed their feet washed (from their daily activity in the world of sin.)

d.   1:17 – Five admonitions relating to the practice of what is good: “Learn to do good, attend to judgment, set the oppressor right, do justice to the orphan, conduct the cause of the widow” (James 1:26-27). The first admonition lays the foundation for the rest. God has rejected all their religious activity because they do not live it out in justice and care for the underprivileged, a constant theme of the 8th century prophets (Hosea 6:6-10; Amos 4:1-5; Micah 3:9ff).
e.   1:18 “Even though your sins were as scarlet, like the snow they shall become white. Even though they are real as crimson, as wool they shall be.”
f.    1:18 – “Come now” – an invitation to discuss the accusation and “reason together” – to submit to God’s dictates. “Even though your sins were as scarlet” -- Scarlet and crimson were red shades made from the crushed body of an worm/insect. Isaiah chose the image not only because of the color (see the parallel with blood in v. 15?) but also because this dye was the hardest fixed dye and would not come out of cloth. Isaiah says God can do the impossible and cleanse sinners, even though the stain of sin is fixed as firmly as crimson in the sinner’s soul. There is a choice. Jerusalem and Judah can be freed from their sins if they choose willing obedience. Otherwise, warfare will continue.
g.   Other examples of red being used to indicate sin and cleansing. Red heifer; scarlet wool tied around bird and scapegoat (Leviticus). Matthew 17:4; Revelation 19:8.
h.   v. 19 – “If you are willing and obedient” – Just as Moses in Deuteronomy 28 placed before Israel life and death, so does Isaiah.

  1. APPLICATION: Here’s the remedy for rebellion. First, Isaiah says you must wash yourselves, that is, you must renounce the sins that you have become accustomed to. Whatever it is, whether anger and passion or discontent and envy, or lewdness and impurity, or laziness and idleness, or covetousness, or conceit and vanity, or skepticism, or infidelity, or unbelieving fears, whatever they may be. So first we must repent, turn away from our sin, renounce it, and walk away from it.
  1. Second, you must receive the grace and hope of the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. Christianity is not about moralism, doing things right. It is about Jesus, the Holy One of Israel who makes you right. He makes you righteous. He and only He will cleanse your crimson, sin-stained soul and make it white as snow.
Would you submit your life to Him today? Would you come and receive eternal life today? Would you come and pray at this altar today and get right with God?

Tokombo Adeyemo, Africa Bible Commentary, 810-1.
J.A. Alexander, Commentary on Isaiah, 19-21, 28-30.
F.F. Bruce, ed., International Bible Commentary, 720.
G. Buchanan Gray, ICC: Isaiah, 1:22-31.
Keil and Deilitzch, Isaiah
Lange, J.P. The Prophet Isaiah, 29-31, 39-44.
Lawrence Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion, 408-12.
Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae, 5:223-234.
Walton, John H., IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament, 584-6.
Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah