Isaiah Part One Dive
FLYING OFF THE HANDLE WITHOUT ALL THE FACTS
I remember when I was young in God, I was forever reading a verse (completely out of context) and flying off the handle with God for being ‘judgemental’ or ‘unforgiving’ or ‘a mean, nasty God that doesn’t love us!’ I can imagine God patiently waiting for the day that I would grow up, read the whole story of the Bible, stop taking bits out of context and accusing Him of things that were simply untrue; all because I reacted without having all the facts. Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they flew off in a fit of rage without letting you finish the story or explain yourself? You want to grab them and say ‘let me finish and you might change your mind about having this hissy fit!’ Imagine how God feels! When you read the Bible verse by verse, you can go to God with one verse and start accusing Him of things that are untrue and He aches for you to truly understand the truth.
When you read Isaiah, especially the first thirty-six chapters, it can seem like God is a very judgemental God that delights in punishing people. Like some egotistical maniac that delights at the destruction of His servants! But is that the God that you know, the God portrayed in the Old Testament? Is that the Jesus of the New?
There are some strong words in this book but as we get to know our Bible, we get to know the fullness of the Father, that He is as it says in Psalm 103:8, ‘The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion’. We have to ensure that we see Him in His fullness, He is slow to anger abounding in love and holy! The calling and message of Isaiah reminds us about God’s holiness. The term is used over fifty times:
Is 5:16 But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts.
Is 6:3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Father God correcting his kids
If you have followed the TYB schedule, you’ll have read where God was faithful to the promise of Abraham, faithful to the promise of the promised land, faithful to establish the Israelites in their own land, faithful in warfare, faithful in giving them deliverers, ‘judges’ to help them, faithful when they asked for a king (knowing it wasn’t going to turn out well), faithful when the kings turned against Him. But God wants a people that represent Him well, He wants them to be the display of His glory and His holiness, just check out Isaiah 49:3 ‘You are my Servant, Israel, in whom I will show My glory’. They are created in His image to display His righteousness: His justice, His mercy, His perfection. But, as we saw in the Snapshot video, they were definitely not doing that.
So let’s check out what the Lord’s people did to get this slow to anger, abounding in love, holy God so upset that He would use other nations to send them into exile as Isaiah is prophesying.
They are rebellious children 1:1-3
They are corrupt 1:4
They are doing evil deeds 1:16
They love bribes and are thieves 1:23
They don’t defend the fatherless or the widow 1:23
They are full of superstitions from the East 2:6
They practice divination like the Philistines 1:6
They are arrogant 2:17
The women are haughty 3:16
They have no regard for the deeds of the LORD 5:12
No respect for the work that God does 5:12
They lack understanding 5:13
They are calling evil good and good evil 5:20
They are wise in their own eyes 5:21
They have rejected the law of the LORD 5:24
They rejected the Word of God 5:24
And that’s only the first five chapters. Highlight their sins as you go, they are numerous. Read the sins of the different nations found in Chapters 10-34.
Now, you have to remember when it comes to Judah and Israel, this is God’s people, His nation, His representatives on earth! They are doing these things. He is upset with them because, as we read the Old Testament account found in 1 & 2 Kings or 1 & 2 Chronicles, He has warned them over and over again the result of their continued sin and disobedience.
As I was studying the Book of Romans, I read this and immediately thought of Isaiah:
‘There are always those who have difficulty coping with the notion that a loving God might also be a wrathful God. Cranfield responds to this concern or complaint helpfully:
“That Paul would attribute to God a capricious, irrational rage is more than improbable. But a consideration of what Dodd calls “the highest human ideals of personality” might well lead us to question whether God could be the good and loving God, if he did not react to our evil with wrath. For indignation against wickedness is surely an essential element of human goodness in a world in which moral evil is always present. A man who knows, for example, about the injustice and cruelty of apartheid, and is not angry at such wickedness cannot be a thoroughly good man; for his lack of wrath means a failure to care for his fellow man, a failure to love”.
In other words, when we think of God’s wrath we should not think of some irrational passion on the part of God, but rather of his righteous and wholly justified indignation against sinful belief and sinful behaviour’.
– Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Witherington
Within the verses of Isaiah, you’ll see God is upset at His people. History tells us that Isaiah prophesied and was killed for his message because the people still didn’t believe what he was saying. They were happy in their sin, God was supposed to look the other way and pour grace over them, but they were mistreating people, they were corrupt, arrogant and in rebellion, and Father God needed to step in with judgement, with a ruling that says ‘you have chosen the path and there are consequences to your actions’.
He calls them to seek justice again, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow (Chapter 1:17). He wants them to act like His children again, so He sends them into a time out for their bad behaviour – exile! But don’t you love God, even in His judgment, He still gives them a hope, a coming Messiah that will turn everything around.
Is 1:18 Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Check out next week’s Dive for more details on finding Jesus in Isaiah.
THERE IS HOPE
From the beginning you hear an element of ‘the remnant’ that will be saved. God is not a God of total destruction, He is a God that always has a Noah, the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established (Chapter 2), the Branch of the Lord (Chapter 4) Jesus that brings salvation (Chapter 11), comfort (Chapters 40-66) the hope of new heavens and new earth (Chapter 65). There is always hope no matter what mess the people find themselves in.
The word ‘remnant’ declares the glimmer of hope, that even though the people have got themselves into a mess, and God is about to send them into a ‘time out’ for 70 years, God will restore them, He will turn this around for His glory.
Is 10:21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God.
Is 11:11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria – we know that this happened in Ezra and Nehemiah.
Is 46:3-4 Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
You can check out the other verses that mention ‘remnant’ in Chapters 10:20, 10:21, 10:22, 11;1, 11;16, 17:3, 28:5, 37:4, 37:31, 37:32, and 46:3.
So, no matter where you find yourself today, whatever side of the Book of Isaiah you may relate to, there is hope. Maybe you will read Isaiah and find yourself in a similar mess to the Israelites: in rebellion, caught in things that you can’t get yourself out of. Don’t worry, our God is the God who saves, He always provides a ladder no matter how long your house has been burning. He will rescue you! Or maybe you’re at the end of your ‘time out’ and God is restoring you. Rejoice! God is the God of hope! You are going to love our Part Three Dive, ‘Arise Shine’ – this is your moment to arise and be all God has called you to be!
Have a great time reading the first chapters of Isaiah!