Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Isaiah 1: 1-4

Isaiah 1
Rebellion of God’s People
 1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.  2 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.”
 4 Alas, sinful nation,
People weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers,
Sons who act corruptly!
They have abandoned the LORD,
They have despised the Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away from Him.

Isaiah opens his prophecy, which he received from God, saying that it came through a vision (1:1). As we learned last week in our introduction and is also found here in this verse, Isaiah's service to God came during the rule of four kings of Judah. Let's look a little more closely at each, as described in Scripture, recognizing that we'll delve into more of their stories as Isaiah continues:

Uzziah (also known as Azariah)--"He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem.... He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Only...the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death." (II Kings 15: 2-5, excerpts) "Hence his fame [as a successful leader in war battles] spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong. But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God...." (II Chronicles 26: 15 and 16)

Jotham, son of Uzziah--"He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem.... He did what was right in the sight of the LORD.... Only...the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places." (II Kings 15: 33-35, excerpts) "...However he did not enter the temple of the LORD.... So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God." (II Chronicles 27:2 & 6)

Ahaz, son of Jotham--"Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire...." (II Kings 16: 2-3) It was under King Ahaz that an alliance between Judah and Assyria was made. We could take an entire blog's day on the troubles with Ahaz!

Hezekiah, son of Ahaz--"He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem....He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. (II Kings 18: 2, 5 and 6) Hezekiah, with encouragement from Isaiah along the way, made incredible reforms in a show of returning to the Lord. The end of his life would come with trouble, however, but what he tried to do in his leadership--submitting Judah to the Word of the Lord and following in obedience--is most noteworthy.

Verse 2 of Chapter 1 begins a speech by God, and all in Heaven above and Earth below are beckoned to hear. "Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me." God uses 'sons' to exemplify the relationship He has with His people. The original 12 tribes of Israel, the offspring of Abraham and his descendants, were God's "chosen people," like sons to Him.

"For I have chosen him [Abraham], so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
--Genesis 18:19

But God's chosen are now "sons who act corruptly!" (Isaiah 1:4) How corrupt are they? "A seed of evildoers," says verse 4 in the King James Version, implying that it is not just one set of sons, but generations. Continuing in the KJV, "They are gone away backward." Not just a casting aside for a time, but a rebellion against the Word of God, as Judah and Jerusalem turned to idols as their lord. 'Rebellion' at its Latin roots means "renewing a war." ( In the covenant under Abraham, God's people were in a peaceful relationship. They had been chosen by God, and He sought their obedience to Him and His Word in return. The wayward behavior of Judah was as if they had turned to make war on God.

How corrupt are they? That God would refer to His people in the face of domestic animals who understood their place in the good order of things. In verse 3, God says that oxen and donkeys recognize and obey their masters, but, "My people do not understand." And, in their lack of understanding, the people rebel. 

Here's an observation on Isaiah, the writer. He presents to us a term for God that he will use with frequency in his book--"the Holy One of Israel." The "set apart" nature of God is something that was not respected nor honored by the people. Yet, Isaiah uses this term, integrating God with Israel, to make a point of understanding and of remembrance of Who He is in relationship. Not that Isaiah's words would be heeded, mind you.

“...It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored,’....”
--Leviticus 10:3

"God has had enough".... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 1: 5-9

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).