For the past several months, I've noticed the book of Isaiah referenced quite often in my pastor's sermons, as well as in my own individual Bible studies. I've only read certain passages of Isaiah, so I decided to read it in its entirety to get a full grasp on the prophesies contained in this important book of the Bible. Today, I am going to share my takeaways from Isaiah 1-2.
Right away in Isaiah 1:1, we get the historical setting of the book – who wrote it, when it was written, and where it took place.
WHO: Isaiah son of Amoz, a prophet
WHEN: During the reigns of four kings – Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah – which dates this book to 783 BC-686 BC
WHERE: These kings were kings of Judah, which leads us to safely assume Isaiah lived in Judah
Isaiah Chapter 1
We see God’s wrath, which is not a characteristic of God, rather it is a reaction to sin.
No sin = no wrath.
God’s chosen people, the Israelites, whom He saved from slavery in Egypt, gave them the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, continue to sin and live in rebellion to the laws the Lord gave to them in the time of Moses.
Even in the midst of all of their sin, they continue to worship. We may think this is a good thing, but God can see through to their hearts.
Refer back to Leviticus 1-7, in which God lays out all of the laws concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices, and later in Leviticus 23 & 25, when God provides laws for honoring the Sabbath as well as festivals such as Jubilee.
All of these things that were meant to be done with a pure heart, after repentance of sin, had become perverted by the Israelites. Instead of being something done to honor God, it was done as a means of checking a box, a legalistic practice rather than a holy one.
I’d like to call your attention to verse 5, in which God mentions the state of the head and the heart:
This particular verse resonated with me. The head and the heart are mentioned throughout the Bible, including a powerful piece of Scripture in the book of James:
We may believe in God with our mind, but if we don’t love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37), it’s simply a thought, not a condition of the heart.
When God says through Isaiah that Israel’s “head is hurt and heart is sick”, He is speaking to the condition of their faith. They say they believe in God, but their heart is not following after God, and their sin is a product of their failing heart condition.
However, we are given hope in this very same verse. By using the words “hurt” and “sick”, rather than “dead”, God shows up that these conditions of the head and the heart may only be temporary, and can be resolved through the redemptive grace of God, who can restore all those in sin.
The first 15 verses of Isaiah 1 point out Israel’s sin, while verses 16-31 describe the path to redemption or destruction.
God gives Israel a choice: repent and “your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) Or continue to rebel and “you will be devoured by the sword.” (Isaiah 1:20)
For those who choose to repent, God promises complete and total redemption.
Pay attention to the phrasing there:
- “burn away completely“
- “remove all your impurities”
These are terms of completion, leaving nothing, making us like new.
Also note these phrases:
- “remove your impurities”
- “restore your judges”
For those who repent, God will redeem, not punish. He will restore them, making Jerusalem again the “Righteous City”. (Isaiah 1:26)
However, for those who do not repent, God will not withhold punishment. In fact, we see another term of completion in verse 28:
God makes it very clear that there will be a choice, but for those who choose sin over repentance, there is no coming back – there is death.
Finally, as Chapter 1 comes to a close, we see that all of this punishment is not because God is a mean God. It is because of our own actions that we experience death, eternal separation from Christ.
The sinner (the strong one) and the sin (his work) will both be destroyed. The flames mentioned here may be an allusion to hell.
Isaiah Chapter 2
The second chapter of Isaiah is a prophecy for the entire world, not just Israel, as was the focus of Chapter 1. This is a picture of God’s final judgment on earth – the apocalypse, the Second Coming, whatever you prefer to call it.
The temple will be restored and people from all over the world will come to receive instruction from God about His ways. (Isaiah 2:3)
We are told that, for those who follow God in this time, there will be peace and prosperity.
Yet again, pay close attention to the phrasing here:
“…never again train for war.”
This is a phrase of finality, or completion. There will never be war on earth again after God’s final judgment on earth.
At this point, God has turned His back on the Israelites who have not repented of their sin. They are practicing forbidden practices of divination and fortune-telling, as well as accumulating riches of silver, gold, and horses.
Levitical law prohibits the practice of divination and fortune-telling, specifically. (see Leviticus 19:6) While God commanded kings not to accumulate wealth when they were given the Promised Land.
The overarching sin is pride. When we become full of pride, we see no need for God. But on the day of the Lord, everything that is great and “lofty” will be humbled, and only the Lord will be exalted. (Isaiah 2:12-17)
Isaiah’s prophecy continues by saying that people will hide in caves, holes in the ground, and crevices in cliffs, “away from the terror of the Lord and from His majestic splendor.” (Isaiah 2:19-21)
Imagine: the same people who, prior to God’s arrival, were arrogant, flaunting their riches, elevating themselves to a status they felt was higher than God, are now cowering in the dirt, terrified of both God’s terror and splendor.
Remember back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world? When they realized they were naked, and heard God walking through the garden, they hid from Him. But God sees our sin – we cannot hide from Him.
Of all the riches they acquired, nothing can compare to the “majestic splendor” of God.
We also see that these people threw “their silver and gold idols, which they made to worship, to the moles and bats.” (Isaiah 2:20)
I see two things happening here:
- The things that are perceived as valuable to man is worth nothing in comparison to God.
- People think throwing away their idols removes the sin from their lives, when in reality, it is only through the blood of Jesus that sin can be washed away.
As Chapter 2 wraps up, Isaiah gives a final warning: Do not put our trust in man, but put our confidence only in God.