The book of Isaiah or to be more precise the prophetic messages of Isaiah was a confrontation by God to the sins of Judah. However, his messages were not limited to Judah alone. They were for Jerusalem as well. By the time of Isaiah, the Kingdom of Israel were divided into the Southern and northern kingdom. The northern kingdom, where Jerusalem was, fell to the pagans first. Followed by the southern Kingdom where Judah was. Thus generally the northern kingdom is generally known as Jerusalem and the southern kingdom is generally known as Judah.
The book of Isaiah opened us to the introduction of the book and the sole purpose of the prophetic ministry of Isaiah. Isaiah’s ministry was to confront Judah’s sins on behalf of Almighty God and at the same time, God’s grace and mercy still abound. His first mission to confront the sins of Judah can be summarized in verse 4, “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity.” Isaiah had to remind the people of Judah that they have sinned against the Lord and the nation was in crisis because of that. It is important to note that we can be in sin and yet we are not conscious about it. They do not comprehend that they have forsaken God, hollowed out their worship, and corrupted their society (ESV Study Bible). Thus, Isaiah had to confront the nation with the Word of God and to remind the nation of Judah of their sins. He had to place them under the judgment of God’s Word.
How deep was the sin of Judah? It was very deep. Isaiah tells us that, “They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.” (1:4) In verse 6, Isaiah said, “from the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it.” This was how deep their sin.
What sin did they commit that caused such a wrath from God? Let me quote from the ESV Study Bible, “These verses (vv. 10-20) highlight the hypocrisy of the people’s worship…it seems that they treated their worship as a way of manipulating God; they also mixed in elements from Canaanite religions.” This is also the sin of our generation. Many today think that worship is a way of reaching to God so that He will grant them their wishes. God is not a fairy granting wishes. He is God…the Creator of the Universe. He is not to be manipulated. Some Christians today believe that by fasting more or making some sacrifices in their lives, God will have to grant them what they ask for. This is a sin. By doing so, we are trying to manipulate the will of God. That’s what the people of Judah was trying to do. God was devalued by them. What a sin?
Thus, their worship was hollow and meaningless to God Yahweh. In verse 15, God declared that, “when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” We need to understand that worship is not a magical process to have our prayers answered. Worship has only one purpose, that is, to glorify God and to enjoy Him. Many pagans in ancient past and today as well, believe that by offering more prayers and more sacrifices their gods will hear them and answer their requests. This is pagan! Our God simply deserves worship because He is God…the only God! Whether you have a prayer request or not, He is to be worshipped and glorified.
The most wonderful thing about Isaiah’s message, summarized in Isaiah 1, is that grace follows behind. God will deal with our sin. He can deal with it with His wrath and anger. He can also deal with it with His grace and mercy, and He always chose grace before wrath. So that does not mean that He will not deal with us by His wrath.
In verse 18, God called the people of Judah to come and reason together with Him. The word reason does not suggests arguing back, but to have us reflect on God’s Word and be spiritually aware and conscious of sin and the need to repent. The Hebrew word for “reason” is “yakach” and it basically means to prove, to show to be right or to correct and to rebuke. (Strong’s H3198)
God had one thing to defend His confrontation against Judah, that is, His grace. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” How amazing is the grace of God! Even when He was devalued by His own people, God once again showed grace to them. What more about us? Can we show grace instead of wrath when devalued by people around us?
Of course, the grace of God comes only when we truly repent of our sins and to realize that we need His saving grace to help us. Thus the awareness of our true state of mind is important in the process of salvation. The book of Isaiah is a book of salvation and grace of the Almighty God. Sometimes it reads like another gospel. Let us embrace the book of Isaiah and see how God deal with His people and eventually bring them to His saving grace!
How have we been worshipping God? Is our worship a true adoration and exaltation of Almighty God. Sometimes unconsciously we slipped ourselves into a cheap worship of God. The voice of prophet Isaiah is still crying out…”Ah, sinful nation….!”