Let us reason together - Isaiah 1

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 7th September 2014.

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Let us reason together

Isaiah 1:1-31


Headlines in newspapers and magazines. Designed to grab your attention and tell you more about what you will discover if you continue reading.


The headline (Vs 1)


You will be pleased to know that the book of Isaiah has a headline. It’s a big book. It can seem overwhelming. Fear its like a spiritual maze – if you enter in you may never come out.


But there is a headline. Helps us to get our bearings. Let me show you the headline. Look at vs 1.


What is this book? Vision. What does that mean? Two things.


A message from God.


Also, how the message was received. Words and pictures. Not like the visions in the Noah film. He doesn’t know what they mean. OT prophets who had a vision knew exactly what it meant.


As a result of their experience they didn’t draw a picture. They spoke words. But what you notice is that the words they use often form pictures in your mind.


What was this vision about? Judah and Jerusalem. The region and the capital city. About God’s people then and into the future.


We’re told in vs 1 that Isaiah received this vision during the reigns of these 4 kings. See the dates from your handout. You might think that makes his message time limited. Maybe interesting if you like historical research but what if you just want to get to know God know and live well in the 21st century? Why should we read this?


First, Isaiah did have a message for his generation. That was a big part of the prophet’s job. Applying God’s word to the people alive in their day. Are you sitting comfortably? Disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.


A message for us? Same God. God doesn’t change. Also, how God wants his people to live. There is discontinuity and continuity.


Second, Isaiah also had a message about the future. He may well have lived during the reigns of those kings but he was given insight into a future day when God’s people (Jerusalem) would be ruled by a divine King who would die in their place for sins and would recreate the universe in spectacular glory. We will learn much about what has already done. Also what he has still to do. Let’s discover more about the vision.


The problem (Vs 2-4)


Warning. This section contains disturbing images. There is no sweetner for the medicine.


Look at vs 2. Read vs 2-3


The whole created universe that obeys God is called to hear God’s complaint about his specially chosen people.


Children who have been cared for and have now rebelled. The lesser animals know what to do. But the precious children of God don’t. They don’t know or understand. Why are they ignorant?


Take children at school. Sometimes they are ignorant because of bad teaching. Sometimes it is because of a bad attitude.


What about the people of God in Isaiah’s day? Look at vs 4. They are culpable. They have turned their backs on God and now have no idea how to please the one who gives them everything.


The consequences (Vs 5-15)


Many of us would like to believe that the way we choose to live won’t have any real negative consequences. You may have tried to give some advice to someone and they reply, “No, I’ll be fine.”

A little thought and we know it’s a daft sentiment. Decisions have consequences.


If someone quits their apprenticeship as an electrician they will not get a job fixing electrical circuits. Never does what the boss tells them they will lose their job. If parents do anything for short term quietness they will bring up children who will continue to squawk to get what they want. Decisions have consequences.


This section reveals that there are consequences when God’s people turn their backs on him.


Two are mentioned here for the people in Isaiah’s day.


  • A crushed home land (Vs 5-9)
  • A closed heaven (Vs 10-15)


First, a crushed home land. To understand these verses. The nation of Judah is first pictured as a beaten man.


Who is doing the beaten? Read on and find out. Look at vs 7. Read vs 7-9.


The people of God have turned their backs on God and God has permitted foreigners to come into the land and cause devastation. Not complete devastation – a remnant has been preserved.


This is probably a description of the invasion of Judah by the Assyrian King called Sennacherib in 701 BC. When Hezekiah was king.


The church of Jesus is not a nation. We need to be careful how we apply this teaching. It is better to apply it to the church and not the nation.


However, this nation has for many hundreds of years benefitted from Christian doctrine and Christian ethics. What we need to understand is that Christian doctrine no longer undergirds public decisions. We should not be surprised by the changing ethics. But there will inevitably be negative consequences for the well being of the nation.


What of the church? We should not be surprised if ‘foreign’ teaching to that of Christ is permitted by God to be heard in churches which have forsaken the voice of God in the Scriptures.


Second, a closed heaven. This is the focus of vs 10-15.


Scary words used here. Let me give you a sample.


  • Vs 10. Rulers of Sodom.
  • End of vs 11. I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs.
  • Vs 13. I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
  • Vs 15. I will not listen to your prayers.

Their hearts had turned from God but their hands were still raised in worship.


From the outside looking in, everything would have seemed healthy. Lots of religious ritual. But they were in deep trouble. Massive spiritual consequences.  What was the solution?


The solution (Vs 16-20)


First thing is mentioned in vs 16. Wash your hands and make yourselves clean. How? This theme will come up again and again. God will provide a way of unclean people to be clean again.


Then? Look at how vs 16 continues. Stop doing wrong, learn to do right. Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Caring for the vulnerable.


Easy to misunderstand this as if God was not interested in the corporate worship of the temple. He was. He authorised it. But it would only be meaningful when the heart was in the right place and God’s people lived out his ways in daily life. God wanted the whole package from a people he has cleaned up from sin.


1 lesson for us. A closed heaven. No condemnation. Grieving the Spirit. Have you forsaken the Lord? There will be consequences.

Repent of specific sins. Draw close to Christ. Seek to love him from a devoted heart.


This message was probably heard during the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC. You can hear the earnest plea of the LORD in vs 18. Read vs 18-20.


Could it get any worse? Sadly, yes it could. 587 BC the Babylonians took God’s people into exile. This event is mentioned in the last section of this chapter.


The future (Vs 21-31)


Read vs 21-26. How will God get from the faithless city to the faithful city? 


Two stages


  • Removal (Vs 25)
  • Restoration (Vs 26)


Removal. Out of the land.


Restoration. Jesus. The perfectly wise ruler and saviour.


This will be complete when Jesus returns. At the end when he returns, the people of God will be perfect. The city mentioned in Revelation 21.


The future in these verses stretches way beyond Isaiah’s day. Way beyond Babylon. Way beyond the first coming of Jesus. Until his return again.


Notice how it ends. Read vs 27-31.


The faithless city will be made faithful. But faithless people will not be among the faithful. Eternal disgrace and punishment is promised.


All this means…


  • A Christian. Heart in the right place. Seek to live for Jesus in daily life.


  • Not a Christian. Follow Christ.


  • A backslidden Christian. Let’s pray for their restoration. Those who forsake the LORD will perish.


Let’s pray.

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