I’m starting to read Isaiah 1 again today. Curiously, nearly every time I begin this ancient book, I feel the need to journal through it, share insights and tell the world. So today I’m starting my “Isaiah blog.” I often figure it’s just for me because I’m not sure anyone reads it, but whether someone does or not, I have to get these words out.
I added up the number of years that the kings of Judah reigned when Isaiah saw his vision. (Interestingly, it’s a vision and not visions) Those kings reigned a total of 113 years. I’m assuming that Isaiah’s first prophecies were uttered sometime during the middle of Uzziah’s reign. Otherwise, Isaiah lived a LONG time. But who knows. Jehoiada the priest lived 130 years, so obviously it is possible Isaiah had a longer ministry than we might imagine. It’s also interesting that three of the four kings whose reign Isaiah was prominent in were remembered as kings who “did what was right as their father David” had done. Seldom in Judah’s history was there that many consecutive years where the country followed God faithfully. Is it because of Isaiah’s influence? As long as Isaiah was alive were the people afraid, or at least inspired, so that they worshipped God and were the people He had called them to be?
Interesting enough, despite the king’s efforts to follow God completely, Isaiah’s prophecies are still gloomy and condemning. According to 2 Chronicles, only a little more than 16 of those 113 years found the kings of Israel blatantly defying the Creator of the universe. If that’s true, why is Isaiah so negative? Why does he start out his discourse by saying, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt”? Seriously, that just doesn’t sound like a nation whose heart is turned toward the Lord.
It’s with this in mind that I began to read. As I read today, Isaiah 1:10-15 stood out to me in a huge way. I see the church in this passage. Many people I see in most churches today are all about “being good” and teaching their children to be good. Much like Israel, our sanctuaries are full of people who don’t steal and don’t lie, but are people loaded with guilt. We sacrifice and bring offerings that give God no pleasure. Our celebrations are detestable and a burden to our heavenly Father.
God wants to know, “When was the last time you sought justice or encouraged the oppressed? When did you defend the orphan or the widow?” And even more important, have you allowed HIM to make you as white as snow? As Paul put it, “Are you so foolish? After getting started with the Holy Spirit are you really trying to finish by your own power?” (Galatians 3:2 – yeah – I paraphrased a bit)
It’s time for the people of God to rise up. It’s time for us to be better than ancient Israel. We can’t just continue to go through the motions of Christianity and wonder why God isn’t blessing. verse 19 says, “if you are willing and obedient, you will eat from the best of the land.” (Isaiah 1:19) We want the best, but we live our Christian faith in a level of mediocrity. We can’t have it both ways.
The people of Israel were going through the motions.
They served God when it was easy – Do you pick and choose when people know you are a Christian?
They sacrificed to make them look good – Is your offering a full tithe or more, or is it just enough to make you look good?
They worshipped when it was convenient – Do you attend church only when you can fit it into your schedule?
They created their own righteousness – Are you a good person or have you allowed the blood of Jesus Christ to really make you whole?
We read Israel’s history and wonder how a people who saw the miracles they saw be so unfaithful, but when we wonder about Israel, we truly judge ourselves. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am going to live so that I “eat the best from the land” and as if my own righteousness was filthy rags. I intend to allow the Holy Spirit to finish what Christ has begun in me. I will run so I do not miss out on the prize. How about you?