The "ER" numbers below reference an Exhaustive Reference which will be made available when completed.
Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah has saved.”(Strong’s H3470) And here in this first chapter we see the stage being set for the entire book. God interrupts the course of history to save his people. But do they need to be rescued? Indeed they do. Even though they continue to offer him worship in his house, God’s people have become overrun with the sin of the land. Their shepherds have not bound up their wounds but have themselves been taken with worldly gain. They all have forgotten or ignored God’s Word which speaks of caring for the orphans and widows and feeding the hungry. They ignore God’s command to be holy for he is holy. God does not delight in the worship of a people laden with iniquity. In fact, it angers him. Obedience is better than sacrifice. It’s better to stop worshipping than to worship with blood-stained hands. Better still is to obey than to worship. But won’t he always join us when two or more gather in his name? (Matthew 18:20) Does God change? Perhaps we should not ignore the context of Matthew 18 as it talks about plucking out eyes if they cause us to sin (v.8-9). Woe to us when we understand sayings in isolation, ignoring the whole of the Bible.
They ignore his warnings intended to bring them back to true worship. Therefore God will send a destroyer against them to bring their land to ruin. They will see it with their own eyes. It will be like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, but instead of leaving early like Lot, they will experience it and see this desolation with their own eyes.
Summary by Section
v.1 ...the vision...concerning Judah and Jerusalem
1. (v.2-4) [ER 3.1.1, 3.2]
God is speaking. I have raised children. A long time is being spoken of here. I raised children but now they are corrupt. They have rebelled against Me. “The ox knows its owner...My people do not consider.” They don’t even really know Me. Farm animals know their master better than My people know Me. Nor do they even consider these things. They are weighed down with much sin. They are backslidden and are provoking Me to anger.
2. (v.5-6) [ER 3.2, 3.3, 5.1]
“Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more.” It’s no use to continue to chastise you. This implies lesser judgments are being doled out. These lesser judgments are not having the desired effect. The people of God are not repenting and turning back to true worship. “But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.” They are not to Me a beautiful bride but a terminal patient, lying in the hospital bed covered in open sores and wounds. “They have not been closed or bound up.” No one has bothered to nurse God’s people back to sound spiritual health. Perhaps the people themselves even refuse sound doctrine when presented with it. (2 Tim. 4:3)
3. (v.7-9) [ER 3.1.1, 3.5, 3.5.1, 3.6]
“Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire.” Final overthrow of one nation in particular which contains a significant portion of God’s true people. The lesser judgments didn’t work. The final judgment has arrived. The entire country is desolate. All cities are burned up. Strangers, the destroying army, devour the land and you can see them with your own eyes. But God’s people are spared their lives. The land is destroyed but these are left standing like a watchtower overlooking the wasted vineyard. Unless the Lord had spared us we would have become utterly destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. In that case Lot and his family were told to leave ahead of time. But these were not. And unless God had supernaturally spared them they too would have died with the rest of the nation.
4. (v.10-15) [ER 3.2]
The focus shifts here from the coming judgment to a warning before the judgment. God is telling the people how they can avoid the coming calamity. God even addresses the rulers here. Note that often times throughout the Bible the leaders of God’s house are referred to as rulers or “princes of the sanctuary.” “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” This is who God is intending here when he says rulers, as the discussion to follow addresses the law, the Word of God, and true worship.
God addresses his people as Sodom and Gomorrah. He considers his people utterly defiled. Why do you continue to come to My house to give me offerings? Of what purpose is it? I no longer delight in your worship. I’m not receiving your worship. To what purpose is it? You worship in vain now because I’m not receiving it. To “tread My courts” speaks of profane worship. It’s a mixture of worship and sin. It’s not pure but defiled. Stop doing it! “I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.” I can’t stand such pollution in My house of worship. In fact, this whole scene is just causing My anger to increase. I’m weary of it all!
Go ahead and pray many prayers and lift your hands in worship, but I’m not paying any attention to it. Your hands are full of blood. Blood in the Bible refers to sin, violence and defilement. In Malachi 2 divorce is described as covering one’s garments with violence.
5. (v.16-20) [ER 3.2]
“Put away the evil of your doings!” I see what you are doing and I am not pleased! God pleads with his people to become clean. Stop doing evil! Learn to do good! Come now, and let us reason together. There’s still a chance you can avoid the complete overthrow of your country. I will make your sins as white as wool. I will completely forgive all your sins but first you must stop doing evil and you must learn to do good. If you are willing and obedient you will eat, or receive, the good. You won’t receive the calamity I’m bringing upon you for all your wickedness and rebellion. But if you don’t heed and you continue to rebel then the sword is surely coming upon you.
6. (v.21-23) [ER 3.1.2, 3.1.5]
“How the faithful city has become a harlot!” Your city, or encampment, or nation (v.7), used to be filled with faithful people. There was a time when many of you were clean and just. But now the lot of you is like a harlot, and you are full of murderers. Your worship towards me is not pure. Your lives are not pure and holy. You’ve become like an impure alloy. Your silver has become like the scum the refiners skim off the top. It’s no longer skimmed off and in fact the whole of it is scum instead of precious. And your wine, that good doctrine, the pure Word of truth, is now watered down; it does not produce the right effect. Your princes (no distinction between civil and religious leaders; princes of the sanctuary Is. 43:28) are corrupt. They no longer lead with honor and help the downtrodden but everyone seeks his own gain.
7. (v.24-31) [ER 1.1.1, 8.1.1]
"Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries" and "I will turn My hand against you." We see here a very clear distinction between the enemies of God and those who belong to him. Furthermore we see a big picture view of both their destinies. The enemies of God are destroyed and the people of God will be cleansed through punishment and trial. But is life so black and white? Can someone belong to God yet deserve the reward of an enemy? Those who are left as a tower in a vineyard belong to God yet are deserving of punishment. Perhaps even some of those who perish on that day still end up in heaven. Nevertheless, those who make it through that day will be cleansed from all impurities. Their dross will be thoroughly purged away. Their alloy, their mixture, will be purified. The people of God will be given rulers who lead with honor and obedience to the Father. Lawlessness will be replaced with law. Harlotry will be replaced with faithfulness. Iniquity will be replaced with righteousness. The people of God will be ashamed for lusting after the idols of the land. They will be sorry for choosing to partake of the sin of the land. The strength of the strong will not deliver him in that day. The land will burn and the idols of the land provide the spark; the reason for the coming calamity.
1. My people don’t really know Me. They are weighed down with sin.
2. Despite My warnings they refuse to become clean and righteous.
3. I will completely destroy your land but will spare a remnant.
4. I’m not receiving your polluted worship!
5. Stop doing evil! Learn to do good!
6. Your land once stood for justice but is now polluted.
7. Your land will be overthrown and I will cleanse My people.
End of Age Context
In isolation very little can be gleaned regarding the end-of-age nature of this chapter. But by taking the whole Word into account we can see this is a picture of God’s people at the beginning of Tribulation. To put this chapter into proper context we need only look forward one chapter. Chapter 2 of Isaiah begins speaking of the latter days and the day of the Lord. But is there nothing to be seen here of the end of the age? Is this only speaking of a time long ago or is there application for us today. ”I have raised up children.” Could this be referring to the maturity of the age? Although no overt indication is given for the time of this prophecy, we would do well to mark the themes being discussed.
One such theme is the complete overthrow of the land of God’s people “like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah.” Is this just so much poetry? Or does God truly intend to overthrow the entire country as Sodom and Gomorrah, with fire raining down from the sky? In Joel we read of fire coming down to burn up even the pastures, not just the cities, at the end of the age. Besides a literal fire from a celestial event (Is. 24) we can readily see how modern-day missiles are like fire raining down. Can we conclude this is only speaking of burning balls of fire being catapulted over the city walls of Samaria and Judea thousands of years ago? Or is this a parallel to Amos 4:11 which speaks of an overthrow as Sodom on the day of the Lord? (Amos 5:18)
The likely answer is given just a few short chapters later. In Isaiah 13:19 we read “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” In that chapter, for reasons that will become clear, the end-of-age Babylon (Isaiah 13, 43, 47, Habakkuk 1, 2, Zephaniah 2, Jeremiah 50, 51, Revelation 14, 17, 18, et. al.) is completely destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah.
End of Age Themes
- God’s people overrun with sin, though they continue to worship.
- God ignores the worship of his people.
- God’s people don’t know to do good.
- God’s people are ignorant of his ways.
- God’s shepherds are profane.
- God’s people given warnings, lesser judgments.
- One nation in particular, containing God’s people, is wholly overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah.
- God’s people survive.
- God’s people are cleansed from wickedness and mixture.
Sequence of Events
One might find it curious that Isaiah opens with the complete destruction of the land in which God’s defiled people dwell. This is not by coincidence. In “Quenched Like a Wick” I devote an entire chapter to explain how key passages in the Bible show that the day of the Lord begins in exactly this way.
We should pay attention to who these words are addressed. Verse 1 calls out Judah and Jerusalem. Verse 3 addresses Israel, and Zion is found in verse 27. Chapter two addresses Judah, Jerusalem, and the house of Jacob in the latter days. What are we to think then? Is the Church wholly ignored by the prophets, or do the prophets refer to the Church by a different name? And what do these names mean? The house of Jacob naturally includes all of his sons. All twelve tribes plus Levi. But we know ten of those tribes did not return from Assyrian captivity. (Jeremiah 3:7) What happened to them? Where did they go? But we can see from history that the tribe of Judah (Judah, Benjamin, Levi) have been preserved throughout history as a distinct people and even now some reside in the holy land called Israel. They are the Jews.
But if Isaiah 1 is only referring to Jews, as many believe, would it have not been sufficient to just name Judah? In Jeremiah 13 we see Judah and Jerusalem (v.9) also respectively named the house of Judah and the house of Israel just two verses later (v.11). So we see Jerusalem is referred to as the house of Israel. But the house of Israel did not return from captivity (Jer. 3:7) and God threatened to remake that marred lump of clay into a different vessel entirely. (Jeremiah 18) But did he? We know he gave the house of Israel a certificate of divorce. (Jer. 3:8, Is. 50:1) But the Bible gives no indication that the house of Israel (not to be confused with the house of Judah) was ever re-instated as bride of Christ in her original form. The new wine (Christ of the new covenant) had to be put into new wineskins (the true Christian Church).
Should this really surprise us? In Galatians 6:16 Paul refers to the Church as Israel. And in Romans 9:6-8 he explains that the children of faith, Christian converts, are called Israel. And in Hebrews 12:22 we learn of the Church in reference to “Mount Zion and...the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” So while sometimes the whole house of Jacob is called Israel (Gen. 35:10) at other times we see Judah and Israel distinguished as two separate families of God who will be rejoined in the latter days. (Ezekiel 37) Judah is most always referred to as Judah but Israel is referred to as Zion (God’s nation), Jerusalem (God’s chosen people), Samaria (land belonging to the house of Israel), Ephraim (Joseph’s son, the lead tribe representing the house of Israel) and the Church (so-called in the New Testament), the new wineskin of the new covenant. For a more thorough discussion of this see chapter 10, “What’s In a Name?,” of my book “Quenched Like a Wick.”