Chapters 1-12 speak of judgment upon rebellious Judah, but with many promises of future hope.
v1: Isaiah's ministry was dated during the reigns of four kings. He seems to have been involved in Hezekiah's reforms, and thus had some access to human thrones. Equally, he heard from the throne of God.
v2-3: The Lord God had nourished and brought up Judah, providing all her needs, yet she rebelled. God calls heaven and earth to witness, for these things are important (Deut 4.26); these verses are presented as a prosecution in a Court.
The care of God for His people is illustrated;
- a parent for a child;
- an owner for his ox;
- a master for his donkey.
Judah was effectively ignorant of God, and failed to enjoy the privileges of belonging to God. Thus, the Lord God grieves over "my people."
Judah is addressed as "Israel," for Judah had become as corrupt as the northern kingdom, although Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom.
v4: The charges against Judah;
- a people laden with guilt;
- a brood of evildoers;
- children devoted to corruption; li>
- they have forsaken the Lord;
- they have spurned, or provoked, the Holy One of Israel;
- they have turned their backs on Him.
v5-6: Illustrating v4, with the thoroughness of their condition; the whole head (the will), and the whole heart (the emotions), and from toe to head (the body). Their sores were visible, not hidden either from God, or from other nations.
Judah had fallen back into her sins; "again...more and more" indicate this. She had not learned from previous judgments.
v7-8: Their national defeats and disasters were further symptoms of the spiritual problem. These things had not happened by chance.
v9: In fact, God had been merciful, for the nation was not totally destroyed. Yet they were ignorant of God's mercy. This verse is like an interruption from others ("we"), agreeing that He had been merciful.
The reference to Sodom and Gomorrah indicates the seriousness of their sins. In v10, Judah is actually addressed using these names. In Ezek 16, Sodom is Judah's sister.
v10-15: Religion without reality. Their continued religious form, even though commanded by God, was useless without real devotion, commitment, and obedience. Isaiah refers to sacrifices and feasts, which were key parts of Judah's religious life. These things had been maintained, but without reality; such a complaint was not new; Samuel had said similar, and the Lord Jesus also. These things stand as a warning to all who profess to worship God.
The Lord's response to the people's religious ways is uncompromising; "I have more than enough...I have no pleasure...I cannot bear...I am weary;" and, as a result, their prayers fell on deaf ears; "I will hide my eyes from you...I will not listen."
The hypocrisy of the people was exposed, "your hands are full of blood," even while they offered sacrifices. However, they are not left without hope, since there is a route of repentance.
v16-17: The command to repent, similar to John Baptist's call in Luke 3.10-14. Specific issues had to be addressed. A general regret was insufficient.
v18-20: In the N.T. we read of the Lord's faithfulness to grant forgiveness, 1 John 1.9. And the same is true here. The Lord is willing to forgive and cleanse.
Each one had a responsibility to repent, and their choice affected the outcome; those who were willing and obedient would be blessed, but those who resist and rebel would suffer loss.
v21: The Lord looks back to the faithful city, full of justice and righteousness, but now become the unfaithful harlot, full of murderers.
v22: The silver of purity had become the dross of selfishness. The wine of joy in God mixed with the water of self.
v23: There were specific sins, following the threefold pattern of v4;
- rebellious rulers, companions of thieves; no honesty;
- they loved bribes, and seek riches for themselves; no contentment;
- they neglected the fatherless and widows; no compassion.
v24-25: Purification, removing the bad; judgment upon the rebellious. The Lord had a desire to ensure Judah's true purity. He would not be passive concerning His people.
v26-27: To restore the good, so that righteousness and faithfulness are restored; this was God's stated plan and intention. There may well have been an initial fulfilment during Isaiah's lifetime, for some set their hearts on seeking God, 2 Chr 30.19; there was a later fulfilment during the exile in Babylon; Scripture also points to a later fulfilment of purging, Ezek 20.38.
v28: Isaiah speaks of real retribution, for sinners were broken, and would perish.
v29: Where they had pursued idolatry, at their sacred oaks (terebinth trees) and in their secret gardens, these would be seen to be useless.
v30-31: The rebels would be wood for the fire of judgment, with no one to quench it.