Isaiah is in the midst of grief and it is a catalyst for his work as a prophet to the Israelite kingdom of Judah. A king dies and a ministry is born. It’s roughly 740 BC. Isaiah has direct proximity to the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz (Judah’s 12th ruler, the first person to hear the prophecy regarding the future virgin birth)and Hezekiah (the 13th ruler who is healed of a fatal illness and sees a mighty saving of Jerusalem from the Assyrian armies by a death angel during his rule).
Isaiah is an advocate of social and economic justice. And he boldly somewhat poetically declares judgement and salvation. He clearly and plainly gives the judgements of God and offers metaphors like a pruned vine and in poetic parallelism he reiterates the promises of GOD. Promises made by God himself to solve and bring blessing again not only to Israel but to the world. An example of this parallelism in poetic form is best seen in the Hebrew- ‘He looked for mishpat (justice), but, hinei, mishpach (bloodshed, rapaciousness)‘ Isaiah 5:7
He predicts the virgin birth, the dual nature of Christ, his suffering and resurrection and he does so in with extensive vocabulary. He could most likely teach our English poetry class.
He describes the original revolt in the heavens to the rule of the Messiah in the earth. Isaiah is a poet-prophet. Jesus says that Isaiah saw HIS glory. (John 12:41 Isaiah said these things because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.) Also Chapter 53 is quoted from 85 times in the New Testament. In addition in the book of Isaiah the word ‘salvation’ is mention 26 times. There are 66 chapters and it’s said it’s like a mini bible, with the cannon of scripture concluding with 66 books. And what’s wild the old testament has 39 books and the new testament has 27, similarly the first section of Isaiah is broken in the same format 39 chapters and then 27 chapters.
Read Matthew 3:1-3 and then read Isaiah 40:3-5, read Rev. 21:1-2 and Isaiah 66:22.
Apostle Paul exhorts the younger Titus to “Teach what befits sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1) There are somethings God says we should know! Isaiah begins with gutting the false religion of the day. False religion is bewitching and a strong deception. True religion is altogether different.
True christianity is a ‘religion of the heart’ JOHN WESLEY
Isaiah’s message grabs the baton from the life and work of Hosea, a lovesick God over an unfaithful wife. Adultery and covenants broken clearly describe the condition of the religion of the day. A religion falsely confident… you have me in name only. Yet you are no where near my heart.
Isaiah jumps in with imagery to say what’s on God’s heart.
Isaiah 1:2-3, 8-9
2Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
8Daughter Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
like a city under siege.
The repetition increases the depth of flavor. An ox is relatively smarter they say compared to a donkey. And the difference is one knows the source the master, another slightly dumber knows at least where the food supply shows up. And then he says twice Israel does not know, my people do not understand. And Isaiah isn’t the only one to suggest we don’t know what we should Paul says the same thing. 1 Cor 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is Holy, and you are that temple.
Notice the address, hear me, you heavens and earth, as if the sky above and the ground below are witnesses. The first line the Lord speaks is about children brought up who have rebelled, surely we all even the heavens and the earth has seen it. Who on earth wouldn’t have some real life experience here?
To understand this opening language further let’s look at the message Hosea was running with to discover if it correlates.
Hosea 10 Berean Study Bible
1Israel was a luxuriant vine,
yielding fruit for himself.
The more his fruit increased,
the more he increased the altars.
The better his land produced,
the better he made the sacred pillars.
2Their hearts are devious;
now they must bear their guilt.
The LORD will break down their altars
and demolish their sacred pillars.
3Surely now they will say,
“We have no king,
for we do not revere the LORD.
What can a king do for us?”
4They speak mere words;
with false oaths they make covenants.
So judgment springs up
like poisonous weeds in the furrows of a field.
5The people of Samaria will fear
for the calf of Beth-aven.
- THIS TERM IS THE OPPOSITE OF BETHEL, THE HOUSE OF GOD. BETH-AVEN IS AN EXAMPLE OF POETIC PARALLEMISM, IT SOUNDS SIMILAR BUT IT’S MEANING IS HOUSE OF WICKEDNESS. IT’S LIKE WHEN MY NEIGHBOR AND I WERE TALKING ABOUT MAKING DESSERT AND SHE MADE TIRAMISU WHICH MEANS PICK ME UP, OR CHEER ME UP, BUT IT DIDN’T RISE AND SHE CALLED IT ‘TIRMIGIU’, ‘GUI’ MEANS DOWN IN ITALIAN.
Indeed, its people will mourn
with its idolatrous priests—
those who rejoiced in its glory—
for it has been taken from them into exile.
6Yes, it will be carried to Assyria
as tribute to the great king
Ephraim will be seized with shame;
Israel will be ashamed of its wooden idols.
7Samaria will be carried off with her king
like a twig on the surface of the water.
8The high places of Avene (wickedness) will be destroyed—
it is the sin of Israel;
thorns and thistles will overgrow their altars.
Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!”
and to the hills, “Fall on us!”
LUKE 23:30 WHILE JESUS CARRIES HIS CROSS HE QUOTES THE ABOVE VERSE TO THE WOMEN WHO ARE WEEPING OVER HIM. GOD HAS ONE SEED, ONE CHANCE, ONE CARD TO PLAY. AND IT’S THE SAVING GIFT OF JESUS THE SEED OF ABRAHAM. (Gal. 3:16) HE IS THE ONLY OPTION FOR SALVATION.
11Ephraim is a well-trained heifer that loves to thresh;
but I will place a yoke on her fair neck.
I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow,
and Jacob will break the hard ground.
12Sow for yourselves righteousness
and reap the fruit of loving devotion;
break up your unplowed ground.
For it is time to seek the LORD
until He comes and sends righteousness
upon you like rain.
13You have plowed wickedness and reaped injustice;
you have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your own way
and in the multitude of your mighty men,
14the roar of battle will rise against your people,
so that all your fortresses will be demolished
as Shalman devastated Beth-arbel (Heb. Beyth Arbel’, בֵּית אִרבּאִל, house of God’s court or courts)
The house of GOD, becomes the house of wickeness, becomes the house of God’s court. Hosea declares judgement in poetry. God is about to roll up his sleeves and change everything. What should have worked didn’t. The vineyard isn’t producing. All throughout Isaiah we are given a glimpse of glory of what is to come.
HOSEA 11:1 WHEN ISRAEL WAS A CHILD, I LOVED HIM, AND OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON. QUOTED IN MATTHEW IN 2:15 V.2 BUT THE MORE I CALLED ISRAEL, THE FARTHER THEY DEPARTED FROM ME. V.3 ... IT WAS I WHO TAUGHT EPHRAIM TO WALK TAKING THEM IN MY ARMS, BUT THEY NEVER REALIZED THAT IT WAS I WHO HEALED THEM. V.8 HOW COULD I GIVE YOU UP, O EPHRAIM? HOW COULD I SURRENDER YOU, O ISRAEL? MY HEART IS TURNED WITHIN ME; MY COMPASSION IS STIRRED!
God longs to have a real conversation with us. What is in our heart? We are in HIS. Do we know the one who taught us to walk, who carried us in his arms? Hosea and Isaiah urge us to open the door. They communicate with us today using words and images we can relate to, and they are calling us back to God. God calls to us like a mud soaked football team post game in need of a shower. Hit the lockers, wash your uniform. And Isaiah doesn’t leave himself out of this either, cleansing by fire is coming.
Read Isaiah 4:4-6, and Isaiah 6:5-10.
God can not endure iniquity and in Isaiah he urges Israel to wash, to cleanse, to remove the evil deeds. Flat out he says ‘STOP DOING EVIL’. Our compassionate Father like a surgeon plainly spells out our condition like a diagnosis of cancer. He is direct in telling us to come to him, seek him. He has the cure. It’s not cruelty to tell you us our condition.
Isaiah 1:18 Come now let us reason together though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they will become like wool.
RELFECTION: THIS WEEK LISTEN TO THE CHAPTERS AND NOTE WHAT IMAGERY STANDS OUT TO YOU?