ISAIAH—PROPHET OF PROSE WITH PURPOSE

“For Isaiah, words are watercolors and melodies and chisels to make truth and beauty and goodness.  Or, as the case may be, hammers and swords and scalpels to unmake sin and guilt and rebellion.  Isaiah does not merely convey information.  He creates visions, delivers revelation, arouses belief.  He is a poet in the most fundamental sense—a maker, making God present and that presence urgent.  Isaiah is the supreme poet-prophet to come out of the Hebrew people.” –Eugene Peterson, Introduction to Isaiah—The Message

Isaiah is a large presence in the lives of people who live by faith in God, who submit themselves to being shaped by the Word of God and are on the lookout for the holy.  THE HOLY.  The Chosen, the children of God, are lost without Him.  We are lost without God.  Do we seek who is holy?

“The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word “holy” changes in our understanding.  If “holy” was ever a pious, pastel-tinted word in our vocabularies, the Isaiah-preaching quickly turns it into something blazing.  Holiness is the most attractive quality, the most intense experience we ever get of sheer life—authentic, firsthand living, not life looked at and enjoyed from a distance.”  (Peterson)

“We find ourselves in on the operations of God himself, not talking about them or reading about them.  Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it.  “Holy, Holy, Holy” is not needlepoint.  It is the banner of a revolution, THE revolution.”  (Peterson)

“The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being a people of God on this planet Earth. The impressive art of Isaiah involves taking the stuff of our ordinary and often disappointing human experience and showing us how tit is the very stuff that God uses to create and save and give hope.  As this vast panorama opens up before us, it turns out that nothing is unusable by God.  He uses everything and everybody as material for his work, which is the remaking of the mess we have made of our lives.”  (Peterson)

The major theme of Isaiah is clearly God’s work of salvation.  (The name Isaiah means “God Saves”!)  The prominent themes repeated and developed though out this vast symphonic work of God’s truth are judgement, comfort, and hope.  All three elements are present on nearly every page, but each also gives distinction to the three “movements “of the book that so powerfully enact salvation.

Outline:

Chapters 1-39:  Message of Judgement

Chapters 40-55:  Message of Comfort

Chapters 56-66:  Message of Hope

This chapter describes a courtroom scene. God convenes the court and states the charges. He presents His case and pronounces the nation guilty, but He gives the accused opportunity to repent and be forgiven (vv. 16–31). Be sure to notice His strong and negative description of His sinful people.

Isaiah 1, The Message

Messages of Judgment

Quit Your Worship Charades

The vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw regarding Judah and Jerusalem during the times of the kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.

2-4 Heaven and earth, you’re the jury.
    Listen to God’s case:
“I had children and raised them well,
    and they turned on me.
The ox knows who’s boss,
    the mule knows the hand that feeds him,
But not Israel.
    My people don’t know up from down.
Shame! Misguided God-dropouts,
    staggering under their guilt-baggage,
Villainous gang,
    band of vandals—
My people have walked out on me, their God,
    turned their backs on The Holy of Israel,
    walked off and never looked back.

5-9 “Why bother even trying to do anything with you
    when you just keep to your bullheaded ways?
You keep beating your heads against brick walls.
    Everything within you protests against you.
From the bottom of your feet to the top of your head,
    nothing’s working right.
Wounds and bruises and running sores—
    untended, unwashed, unbandaged.
Your country is laid waste,
    your cities burned down.
Your land is destroyed by outsiders while you watch,
    reduced to rubble by barbarians.
Daughter Zion is deserted—
    like a tumbledown shack on a dead-end street,
Like a tarpaper shanty on the wrong side of the tracks,
    like a sinking ship abandoned by the rats.
If God-of-the-Angel-Armies hadn’t left us a few survivors,
    we’d be as desolate as Sodom, doomed just like Gomorrah
.

10 “Listen to my Message,
    you Sodom-schooled leaders.
Receive God’s revelation,
    you Gomorrah-schooled people.

11-12 “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?”
    God’s asking.
“Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices,
    rams and plump grain-fed calves?
Don’t you think I’ve had my fill
    of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats?
When you come before me,
    whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—
    all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?

13-17 “Quit your worship charades.
    I can’t stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—
    meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
    You’ve worn me out!
I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
    while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance,
    I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
    I’ll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing
    people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
    Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
    so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
    Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
    Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
    Go to bat for the defenseless.

Let’s Argue This Out

18-20 “Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.”
    This is God’s Message:
“If your sins are blood-red,
    they’ll be snow-white.
If they’re red like crimson,
    they’ll be like wool.
If you’ll willingly obey,
    you’ll feast like kings.
But if you’re willful and stubborn,
    you’ll die like dogs.”
That’s right. God says so.

Those Who Walk Out on God

21-23 Oh! Can you believe it? The chaste city
    has become a whore!
She was once all justice,
    everyone living as good neighbors,
And now they’re all
    at one another’s throats.
Your coins are all counterfeits.
    Your wine is watered down.
Your leaders are turncoats
    who keep company with crooks.
They sell themselves to the highest bidder
    and grab anything not nailed down.
They never stand up for the homeless,
    never stick up for the defenseless.

24-31 This Decree, therefore, of the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    the Strong One of Israel:
“This is it! I’ll get my oppressors off my back.
    I’ll get back at my enemies.
I’ll give you the back of my hand,
    purge the junk from your life, clean you up.
I’ll set honest judges and wise counselors among you
    just like it was back in the beginning.
Then you’ll be renamed
    City-That-Treats-People-Right, the True-Blue City.”
God’s right ways will put Zion right again.
    God’s right actions will restore her prodigals.
But it’s curtains for rebels and God-traitors,
    a dead end for those who walk out on God.
“Your dalliances in those oak grove shrines
    will leave you looking mighty foolish,
All that fooling around in god and goddess gardens
    that you thought was the latest thing
.
You’ll end up like an oak tree
    with all its leaves falling off,
Like an unwatered garden,
    withered and brown.
The Strong Man’ will turn out to be dead bark and twigs,
    and his ‘work,’ the spark that starts the fire
That exposes man and work both
    as nothing but cinders and smoke.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Repent of self.  Allow God to remove from our lives what does not belong.

Tragically, Isaiah has witnessed many of the worshipers in the temple participating in evil practices, therefore encouraging the decay of the nation. The rulers maintained a religious façade to cover up their crimes, and the people let them do it. 

Do we do this when we hold up worship leaders as rock stars of our day?  Worship God in Spirit and in Truth—not for show, Isaiah proclaims.  I am reminded of a song that touched my heart as one who helped lead others in worship.  This was written a couple of decades ago by Matt Redman.  Redman expresses what Isaiah is talking about as he explains what God wants in our worship to Him…

The Heart of Worship

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come

Longin’ just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve?

Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart, yeah

I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship
‘Cause it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
‘Cause it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus, yeah
All about You

I’ll bring You more than a song

Lord,

It is truly all about you when we worship you.  The main thing you want from us is to repent to you as we worship.  Mere performance is worse than not worshiping at all.  I pray to never make a mockery of You by my half-hearted worship of you.  I’m yours.  All of me seeking all of you in my life. Thank you for prophet Isaiah who still touches hearts of your people today.

And Lord, you are teaching that love is worship 24/7 and is all about you working in us, loving others beyond human forms of love.  Help me today to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly with you as another prophet, Micah wrote, telling us that is what you really require of us.  Help me to love like you love me.  Without conditions.

In Jesus Name, Amen

About randscallawayffm

Randy and Susan co founded Finding Focus Ministries in 2006. Their goal as former full time pastors, is to serve and provide spiritual encouragement and focus to those on the "front lines" of ministry. Extensive experience being on both sides of ministry, paid and volunteer, on the mission fields of other countries as well as the United States, helps them bring a different perspective to those who need it most. Need a lift? Call us 260 229 2276.
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1 Response to ISAIAH—PROPHET OF PROSE WITH PURPOSE

  1. I love the hidden treasures in the book of Isaiah. I recently bought a commentary to get me deeper into it.

    Like

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