Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Message of Isaiah

Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him” (Isaiah 1:4).

Isaiah began his message with some heavy words. He brought God’s indictment against the people. He said that Israel was like a bunch of rebellious sons, like wild animals that could not be tamed. He accused the people of being sinful, loaded with guilt, evildoers, and corrupt.

The people Isaiah addressed saw themselves as loyal Israelites, people bound in covenant with God (as they chose to understand Him), better than other nations. Then Isaiah came along telling them that they were filthy sinners.

What if a preacher today talked like this in a congregation of Christians? “Hellfire and brimstone” preaching has just about disappeared in our day. Yet Isaiah was one of the most educated men of his time. He was a member of the nobility, traveling in the highest circles of Israel. There is some evidence that he was of the royal house, though this inference is contested by some scholars. When Isaiah spoke his fiery words, he was not a crazy preacher standing on a street corner with a sign. His words carried weight. We see from this passage that there is indeed a time and a place for wise, educated preachers to talk straight to their congregations about sin.

Isaiah called them Sodom and Gomorrah (1:10). He told them that God was sick and tired of their religious activities, their sacrifices and festivals, because they were ignoring true social justice (1:11–15). He told them that they needed to start defending the good, seeking justice, reproving the ruthless, defending the orphan, and pleading for the widow. He did not tell them to take the easy way, to set up a political bureaucracy to do these things. Rather, he told them that each of them needed to stand up publicly and be counted on the side of justice for the oppressed.

God’s invitation is issued in 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together.” God told them that if they repent, their sins would be washed away, and they would eat the best of the land. He also told them that if they continued to rebel, it was they who would be eaten—by the sword. Clearly what is reasonable is heartfelt repentance.

What Isaiah delivered was part of the “whole counsel of God,” the rest of the story we often prefer not to hear. There are times when pastors must speak the whole counsel. Do not stifle or intimidate your pastor; give him the freedom to speak all of God’s Word to you.