SPIRITUAL REBELLION BREAKS BOTH THE HEALTH OF THE SINNER AND THE HEART OF THE SOVEREIGN
As we begin our study of the book of Isaiah, we can feel overwhelmed. This is such a huge undertaking. There is so much background material that is relevant to Isaiah’s message – both the political and historical situation within the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel (remember we are now at the point of the Divided Monarchy) as well as the situation externally in terms of the surrounding nations (Syria with its capital in Damascus, Assyria with its capital in Nineveh and Babylon with its famous leader Nebuchadnezzar).
I want to keep our focus on the practical lessons that we can learn from the warnings which Isaiah gave in his day. Our hearts have the same tendency towards spiritual complacency, towards ingratitude, towards idolatry, towards rebellion as the people to whom Isaiah ministered. We so easily try to substitute external religious trappings for the inner requirements of God’s righteousness. We so easily become hypocritical and superficial in our worship and service of the one true God. So at the risk of being accused of giving short shrift to the background information, I am going to dive right into the text and cover some of this ancillary material in the places where it is relevant and helps us to understand the text. You should do some reading in your Bible dictionaries and study Bibles to review some of the associated historical information.
Our concern today is with the sad reality of Spiritual Rebellion. Isaiah begins his book with an indictment of spiritual rebellion as both shocking and hurtful – Shocking when you consider that the one being sinned against is the Sovereign of the Universe, the Covenant God who has loved and nurtured His people and expects to find good fruit from the vine He has planted and so carefully tended; Hurtful in the sense that sin has harmful consequences of judgment that impact the sinner and all those around him – tearing down the very fabric of the overall culture; Hurtful as well in the sense that sin grieves the heart of God who has called us to a life of holiness. Any parent knows the pain of being impacted by children who choose to rebel and go their own way. There is heartbreak involved for however long that behavior persists.
SPIRITUAL REBELLION BREAKS BOTH THE HEALTH OF THE SINNER AND THE HEART OF THE SOVEREIGN
(:1) BACKGROUND TO THE BOOK
A. The Genre
“The vision . . . which he saw”
Supernatural origin of the entire book of prophecy; comes to Isaiah by direct revelation from God – some of it in the form of pictures and images and much of it in the form of content and substance – but all of it from the mind of God so that we can have assurance as to the validity and the importance of Isaiah’s message – this is divinely inspired Scripture
Two major sections to the prophecy – aligned with the 66 books of the bible:
I. Condemnation – chapters 1-39 – emphasizing the failure of the people to keep God’s covenant requirements, thus placing themselves under the promised judgments and discipline set forth in Deuteronomy
II. Consolation or Comfort – chapters 40-66 – the largely Messianic section dealing with restoration and kingdom blessings
Amazing prophecies of future events abound throughout the book
Wiersbe: Sir Winston Churchill was once asked to give the qualifications a person needed in order to succeed in politics, and he replied: “It is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”
Not so with the precise accuracy in the fulfillment of these prophecies
Important issue theologically of whether the prophecies related to kingdom restoration and blessing are to be interpreted literally and applied to the nation of Israel = the dispensational position; or interpreted spiritually and applied to the church which essentially takes over now as the ongoing people of God with no more national program for physical Israel = amillennial position;
When you look at how the prophecies related to the first coming of Christ are literally fulfilled, it makes sense to follow that same pattern for those related to the Second Coming – even though there is this telescoping effect where events are viewed without the intervening span of years – like looking at 2 mountaintops and not seeing the valley in between
B. The Author
“of Isaiah the son of Amoz,”
Meaning of his name = “The Lord is salvation” – the source of salvation
His father = Not a reference to Amos the prophet but tradition says that this Amoz was the brother of Amaziah, the father of Uzziah – royal lineage, access to the kings
Significance in terms of NT quotations – quoted directly in the NT more than 65 times; certainly Christ was of the opinion that Isaiah authored this book – we are not going to get into the modern critical analysis of plural authorship and compilation from a variety of sources; there is ample internal and external evidence to support the authorship of Isaiah
Constable: As a writer, Isaiah is without a peer among the Old Testament prophets. He was a poetic artist who employed a large vocabulary and many literary devices to express his thoughts beautifully and powerfully. Most of his prophecies appear to have been messages that he delivered, so he was probably also a powerful orator. . .According to Jewish tradition Isaiah’s father, Amoz (not the prophet Amos), was the brother of King Amaziah, Uzziah’s father, which would have made Isaiah King Uzziah’s cousin.
Baxter: Jewish tradition says that he lived into the reign of Manasseh, under whom he suffered a horrible martyrdom for resisting that wicked king’s doings, being placed in the hollowed trunk of a tree, and then “sawn asunder.” It is thought that Hebrews xi. 37 alludes to this. . .
His qualities: Boldness, patriotism, tenderness, broad sympathy, stormy indignation at hypocrisy, with deep spirituality and a profound sense of the Divine majesty
C. The Focus
“concerning Judah and Jerusalem”
Edward J.Young: The first chapter is an introduction to the entire book, containing the basic themes of Isaiah’s ministry, namely, the sinfulness of Judah and Jerusalem (vv. 3-8), the tender appeals of the Lord (vv. 16-19), the certainty of the coming judgment (vv. 24, 25, 29-31), and the blessedness of the salvation to come (vv. 26, 27).
D. The Timeframe – Here is where the historical background and chronology becomes important – Theology is based in history and history is rooted in specific events occurring at specific times – we are not dealing with myths or just nice stories
“during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”
1. Contemporary Kings in Judah = Southern Kingdom – span about 90 years
a. Uzziah – started well but ended with offering incense presumptuously in the Holy Place; judged with leprosy
Thomas Constable: Isaiah received his call to prophetic ministry in the year that King Uzziah died (740 B.C.; ch. 6:1). He responded enthusiastically to this privilege, even though he knew from the outset that his ministry would prove fruitless and discouraging (6:9-13).
b. Jotham – credited with a steadfast loyalty to the Lord; but local sacrifices were still permitted; he was the fourth successive God-approved king of Judah; continued to experience blessing in his reign; but prosperity often leads to religious neglect – Leon Wood
c. Ahaz – the worst of the lot – all sorts of problems
d. Hezekiah – the best of the lot – so more attention seems to be given to these latter two kings
2. Contemporary External Political Landscape
a. In Israel = Northern Kingdom
b. Outside of Israel
You always have to have in view the two major historical events impacting the peace and security of the nation of Israel: northern kingdom conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and southern kingdom taken into captivity at different points to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar; Isaiah is prophecying in the midst of these events – warning the people of what is about to take place because of their sin and rebellion
Van Parunak: Overview: This chapter is set off as a unit by the introductory formulae at 1:1 and 2:1. Internally, there is a division between v. 20 and v. 21.
● “The Lord hath spoken” in 2a is closed off in v. 20, “for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.” . . .
● 2-20 pictures the nation as a whole judged, and only “the daughter Zion,” the city of Jerusalem, escapes. This section anticipates the first 37 chapters, dealing with the Assyrian threat that culminates in the destruction of the northern kingdom and the narrow escape of Jerusalem.
● In 21-31, the “faithful city,” Jerusalem, itself is judged and then restored. It is not the remnant as in 2-20, but rather the object of judgment from which a remnant is preserved. This section anticipates chapters 38-66, describing the Babylonian captivity and subsequent restoration.
Baxter: Against the fierce menace of the Assyrian emperor, Tiglath-Pileser II, effort was made among the nations of Palestine and Syria to form a confederacy under the leadership of Damascus, capital of Syria . . . Ahaz, king of Judah, would not join this confederacy. So Syria and Israel invaded Judah, to coerce Ahaz, and dealt heavy blows (2 Kings xvi.; 2 Chron. xxviii.). Ahaz then humbly craved the aid of the great Assyrian, who marched forth a great army which overthrew Syria and Israel; but Judah thereby became vassal to Assyria. A little later, Tiglath-Pileser’s successor, Shalmaneser IV, determined on the final destruction of Israel. After a three years’ siege Samaria fell (2 Kings xvii. 4-6). Israel was “carried away into Assyria,” and the ten-tribes were distributed through “the cities of the Medes.” Isaiah would then be between fifty and sixty years old.
3. Contemporary Prophets
a. Message of Hosea
Title: MARITAL UNFAITHFULNESS BREAKS THE HEART OF GOD’S LOYAL LOVE
Big Idea: GOD DEMONSTRATES HIS LOYAL LOVE THROUGHOUT THE
REPEATED CYCLES OF UNFAITHFULNESS, DISCIPLINE AND RESTORATION
Key Verse: “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them.” (14:4)
b. Message of Micah
Title: WHO IS A GOD LIKE YAHWEH?
Big Idea: DESPITE PERVASIVE COVENANT DISLOYALTY WHICH BRINGS NECESSARY JUDGMENT, YAHWEH STANDS ALONE AS A GOD OF FORGIVENESS AND LOYAL LOVE WHO WILL YET DELIVER HIS PEOPLE AND PROVIDE THE SHEPHERD-KING TO REIGN IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE
Key Verse: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? ” (7:18)
I. (:2-4) INDICTMENT OF REBELLION – SHOCKING AND HURTFUL
(:2a) The Cosmic Call to Attention
“Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks,”
Young: Cf. Deut. 32:1 – same type of majestic call to attention; Delitzsch with respect to the song of Moses: The song deals with the greatness of God and His choosing Israel to be His people, Israel’s faithlessness and rebellion, and God’s sovereignty over Israel and all nations. Thus, in summary fashion, it contains the theme of Old Testament prophecy generally.
Calls upon heaven and earth not just as listeners but as witnesses to all that has transpired in Israel’s history and the events that are not being prophesied for the future; courtroom setting for this indictment that is delivered
The Creator of the heavens and the earth is the only one with the authority to govern them and command our attention.
The Lord has spoken to us in 66 books – have we been listening and obeying?
How gracious is the Lord to speak to such rebels and not to just be silent
Cf. reaction when E.F. Hutton speaks ….
Like a courtroom scene where the verdict is about to be delivered … what is the Lord going to do about all of the wickedness that has been so pervasive?
“the Lord” = the covenant name for the God of His elect people; names of God will be important throughout this book
A. (:2b-3) Rebellion is Shocking Because it is So Unnatural – Dumber Than an Ass
“Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”
Heart of a grieving parent = starts with this reference to the Fatherhood of God over His people; remember we are commanded not to Grieve the Holy Spirit
Sin of Ingratitude is especially disturbing – Rom. 1:21 – “they did not honor Him as God or give Him thanks”
A lot of sacrifice and hopes are poured into nurturing sons
Cf. passages describing Israel as a choice vine planted by the Lord and carefully tended; but when He looked for it to produce rich fruit there was nothing
Not very flattering to be compared unfavorably to an ox or a donkey – those of us created in the image of God; no animal is pictured as more dull and plodding than the ox; yet even the dumb ox knows who feeds him and takes care of him each day
Lack of spiritual knowledge and understanding so that they are characterized as the fool is described in the book of Proverbs
No fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom
No love for the Lord which would be reflected in obedience
“revolted” – used for nation seceding from a kingdom like the splitting of the northern and southern kingdoms
Young: Does not engage in conscious reflection either upon its own true interests or upon its immense obligations.
B. (:4a) Rebellion is Hurtful Because it Yields Destructive Consequences –
Guilty Nation in Bondage to Sin and
Corrupt Culture Reproducing its Evil
Two groups of two nouns: nation and people / offspring and sons
All 4 of these nouns are used elsewhere in the OT to speak of Israel’s place of privilege and blessing in God’s economy – the reversal because of perversion and corruption and rebellion just intensifies the guilt and shame
1. Guilty Nation in Bondage to Sin
“Alas, sinful nation,
People weighed down with iniquity,”
Young: “Alas” – (21 times in the book) includes the thought of pain pity, wonder and deep abhorrence at the unbelievable ingratitude of the nation.
Van Parunak: 1 Kings 13:30 = first instance; young prophet respected age more than word of the Lord; funeral lament over young prophet begins with this “Alas” – cry of mourning at funeral; Isaiah here finds himself at a funeral;
Intended to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” – Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:9
God designed us for freedom, not bondage
Matt. 11:16-30 foreshadowing here of the rejection of the Messiah by those He came to save – comparison to the guilt of Sodom and Gomorrah
Heb. 12:1 exhorted to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us”
Sin is a weight, an obstruction
2. Corrupt Culture Reproducing its Evil
“Offspring of evildoers,
Sons who act corruptly!”
God had chosen them to be the seed of Abraham
The fruit is like the tree; either offspring of Satan or children of God – membership in one of these families; that is why we all need to be born again
John 8:39-47 Jesus exposes the unbelieving Jews who prided themselves of being the seed of Abraham as actually being of their father the devil – quite a shocking charge
C. (:4b) Rebellion is Shocking and Hurtful Because it is Directed Against the Sovereign of the Universe – 3 Powerful Verbs used here
1. Abandoning the Lord instead of Embracing
“They have abandoned the LORD,”
To leave, loose – comprehensive term for apostasy; forsaken the Lord
1 Kings 9:9 “Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the Lord has brought all this adversity on them.”
Prov. 9:6 “Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.”
Hos. 4:10 “they have stopped giving heed to the Lord”
2. Despising the Holy One of Israel instead of Respecting and Honoring
“They have despised the Holy One of Israel,”
[Or: “provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger”]
To spurn, to scorn, to mock – holding a contemptuous view of God
Num. 16:30 “But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord.”
1 Sam. 2:17 worthless sons of Eli described as those who “despised the offering of the Lord” – stealing from God
Ps. 74:18 “a foolish people has spurned Your name”
Ps. 107:11 “Because they had rebelled against the words of God and spurned the counsel of the Most High”
Prov. 1:30 “ They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof.”
Is. 5:24 “For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel”
“Holy One of Israel” – 26 times in the book; this Holy One was the one Isaiah saw in his famous vision of chap. 6
Archer: the transcendent God, who is wholly separate from the frailty and finiteness of Creation (His majesty-holiness), and wholly separate from the sinfulness and defilement of man (His purity-holiness).
3. Turning Away instead of Drawing Near
“They have turned away from Him.”
Turn away from, make yourself a stranger to, alienate yourself; estranged backwards
II. (:5-9) INFECTION OF REBELLION – ALL ENCOMPASSING EXCEPT FOR A DIVINELY PRESERVED REMNANT
(:5a) The Futility of Persisting in Rebellion
“Where will you be stricken again, As you continue in your rebellion?”
Van Parunak: The adverb can have the meaning “where” as well as “why” (2 Chr 32:10; Job 38:6), and here this gives an excellent sense. He is about to describe how completely the body has been beaten. He introduces this description by saying, “Where can you still be beaten, that you continue in your revolt? Is there still some square centimeter of healthy flesh to which you are trying to attract my rod?” The rest of vv. 5-6 then answer this question in the negative.
Young: to what purpose will ye further be stricken? Your continued state of apostasy and rebellion simply brings additional chastisements; why then are ye so foolish as to continue therein? If you would repent the punishment would cease.
Grogan: Their continuance in sin, like all rebellion against God, was utterly irrational.
A. (:5b-6) Rebellion is Hurtful and Untreatable
1. Three Descriptions of Pervasiveness of Perverseness
“The whole head is sick,”
“And the whole heart is faint.”
“From the sole of the foot even to the head There is nothing sound in it,”
2. Three Images of Infection (Deut. 28:35) cf. picture of Christ in Isa. 52-53
“and raw wounds,”
3. Three Denials of Treatment
“Not pressed out”
“Nor softened with oil.”
Vine: The remedies are mentioned in almost the opposite order to that of the evils (thus forming a sort of chiasm, or reverse order, for the purpose of vividness or emphasis).
Young: the festering pus has been allowed to remain in the wounds and has not been pressed out to cleanse the wound and to free it of impurities
B. (:7-8) Rebellion is Shocking in its Devastation and Vulnerability
1. Three Descriptions of Devastation
“Your land is desolate,”
“Your cities are burned with fire,”
“Your fields– strangers are devouring them in your presence; It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.”
“overthrown of strangers” – either subjective genitive = overthrown by strangers or objective genitive = overthrown of strangers – comparison to destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Young: Judah had refused to serve God, the Owner; she now must serve unjust and usurping strangers who have no right to the land
Fitch: At least three invasions of the sacred soil of Judah took place during the lifetime of Isaiah. One of them was by the combined forces of Israel and Syria about 734 B.C., and the others by the forces of the Assyrians, the first under Sargon in 712 B.C. and the other under Sennacherib in 701 B.C. The Syrian attack is referred to in chapter vii, and the others in chapters xxii and xxvi.
2. Three Images of Vulnerability and Solitary Isolation
“And the daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard,”
“Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field,”
“like a besieged city.”
Martin: Those were temporary structures built to shade from the sun persons who guarded the crops against thieves and animals. Such huts were usually “alone” and easily attacked.
Constable: Isaiah moved from describing Israel as a sick and injured body to a desolate, conquered land (vv. 7-9; cf. Lev. 26; Deut. 28—29). The description “daughter of Zion” (v. 8) emphasizes that God feels about His wayward people as a father feels about his daughter. He loves her, has committed himself to protecting her, and takes pains to guard her from all evil and danger. Many Israelite families lived in villages but built little shelters in their fields and camped there during the harvest season. After the harvest these little shacks looked pitiful, abandoned, useless, and deteriorating.
C. (:9) Divine Heart of Compassion Preserves a Small Remnant
“Unless the LORD of hosts had left us a few survivors, We would be like Sodom, We would be like Gomorrah.”
First insight into the grace and compassion of God
Ultimate picture of divine wrath and judgment
“Lord of hosts” – all powerful God
Fitch: The divine promise that reaches down from the ages past is of the continuity of the chosen race and of the One who would come forth from the midst of the people of Israel. The emphasis is upon the sovereignty of the purpose of God.
Why persist in Rebellion?? It makes no sense; thank the Lord for His grace in preserving a remnant