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Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow
Isaiah 1:1-20

This morning we are beginning a 13 week study of the Book of Isaiah

-Isaiah is a gripping- for the word pictures and imagery that Isaiah uses are "off the charts", powerful, and incredibly relevant book. While written 2700 years ago, the moral topics of Isaiah 1-5 are the exact same moral topics of our day. Nothing has changed.
-My first response to reading/listening to Isaiah 1-5 was "We - Canada and the West- are in big trouble" Our sins are the same sins that God has Isaiah call the Israelites out over.
-While Isaiah 1-5 is unswerving in its denouncement of the sins of Israel- and their remarkable refusal to repent- it is also peppered and seasoned with some amazing promises of God- promises of forgiveness, promises of deliverance- if only they would repent -promises that ultimately find their fulfillment in Christ.
-While reading Isaiah 1-5 -which is kind of an uncomfortable read on some levels- I realized that when reading God's Word we can't just rush by the "bad" news- the words that call out sin and instantly take hold of His words of forgiveness and grace. We have to hear the call to holiness. We have to say to ourselves- What changes do I need to make to be a holy person? The words of Isaiah 1-5 call us to do some soul searching of our own hearts.
-The Book of Isaiah, while covering events of Isaiah's day and time is very much a prophetic book about Jesus- announcing the virgin birth, speaking of the Deity of Christ and His Kingship, prophesying his death, detailing various aspects of His earthly ministry, prophesying His glorious return to judge the world and rescue the saints
-As a point of reference, the book dates to roughly 700 BC.

A little bit of info on Isaiah the man

-Isaiah's name is important- it literally means "God saves" or "Salvation of Yahweh". Such was an important reminder to the folks of his day and to us. Jesus saves. Christ - who Isaiah prophesies- is the only Saviour.
-Isaiah served for about 60 years -over the reigns of 4 different kings of Judah. Serving from 739-686 B.C -his record reminds us that serving is for life.
-Isaiah received visions from the Lord/messages from God that he charged with taking the King and the people (whether they wanted to hear it or not)
-When Isaiah started serving during the days of Uzziah, Judah was at peace. Judah was wealthy and blessed because Uzziah (for the most part sought after God). Over the time of his ministry the Judah lost her peace, safety, and prosperity. The Assryians came and carried away the 10 Northern tribes of Israel and were a big threat to Judah and Jerusalem (the Southern Kingdom), invading 3 times and nearly conquering Jerusalem in 701 B.C . The Assryrians came by the hand of God- as judgment for Judah's sins and for the peoples refusal to repent and turn back to God.
-Isaiah was married to a prophetess. They had a least 2 children- both bearing prophetic names related to Isaiah's visions
-Isaiah was a contemporary of the prophets Hosea and Micah. Isaiah was stationed in Jerusalem though
-Legend has it that King Manasseh (who genuinely turned to God before he died) martyred Isaiah, sawing him in two. Both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud (not Biblical books at all) speak of this.

READ ISAIAH 1

A walk thru of the text, following its structure and flow, noting it's timeless truths

1. Brute animals recognize and obey their masters, Yet Israel has rejected the LORD- their king, their maker, the One from whom every blessing flows v.2-4

Notice the imagery. Notice the point- How stubborn they were. How base was their response to God. What a shock to be compared to an ox and donkey

Out of Egypt God had taken Israel. Thru the wilderness by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night God presenced Himself with them and led them. Into the Promised land he took them, leading them to victory over 7 nations greater and stronger than them. For them He gave King David. Over and over again He delivered them- and yet they didn't want God, they didn't want God's ways, many had decided to worship false God's.

The charge God has Isaiah bring applies to Canada

What is our situation today in Canada? Where is the honor due God's name? Where is the worship He is worthy of? Are not these words of rebuke for today?

How interesting that Jesus was laid in a manger- a manger the shepherds went to after being told the good news of Christ's birth by the angles.


2. God's judgments were being revealed and yet Israel refused to repent v.5-9

Note: The exact timing of Isaiah 1 relates to sometime after Uzziah's death -for Uzziah- during most of his life, sought the LORD

Note the imagery of v.5-6!

Israel pictured as a person beaten from head to toe, covered in sores, wounds, and welts and left untended and un-ministered to. Despite the beating Israel is depicted as being unmoved by the beating. She persists in her rebellion. She will not change.

Such stubbornness, such foolishness is all around us- and it makes no sense.

Yet: Nothing has changed- Just think how stubborn we are about some things and how determined some folks seem to be on destroying themselves (whether it be through the pursuit of money, violence, drink, gambling, drugs, forbidden relationships)

Note also the imagery of v.7-9

Because of her sin, Israel was reduced. Her cities burned with fire, her fields pillaged and laid waste by foreigners, daughter Zion left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in cucumber field.
These images of destruction and fragility convey total defeat, complete weakness.

Observe the evidence of the GRACE of the LORD v.9. Save for the mercy of God- the undeserved mercy of God- Israel would have become like Sodom and Gomorrah- a most unflattering comparison. Save for the grace of God Israel would have been wiped off the map.

APPLICATION:

God's judgments. God's discipline is meant to lead people to repentance. One is not to fight against God -for such is futilty. It is a foolish thing to rebel against God, rather the call of God is this: Be reconciled to Him. Seek His face. Repent and live.


3. The depths to which Israel had sunk are conveyed by Isaiah's calling Israel and the religious leaders of Jerusalem "Sodom and Gomorrah" v.10

In terms of Biblical comparisons you can't much lower than being equated to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sodom and Gomorrah are spoken of in Genesis 18-19. God appears to Abraham and tells him that He is going to destroy these two cities for their sins - sins of every kind - yet it is there sexual behavior that is particularly called out in Genesis 19. Abraham pleads for the deliverance of Sodom and Gomorrah. God tells Abraham that if there is 10 righteous people in the city He will spare it- there's not even 10. There's only one righteous person, Lot, Abraham's nephew- who God rescues. After having angels lead Lot out of the city, the LORD reigns down sulphur and fire from Heaven, completely destroying Sodom and Gomorrah.

Do the conditions of Sodom and Gomorrah exist today? Is Isaiah's condemnation only to be regulated to the folks of Isaiah's day?

Are there cities and places known for sexual sin and all manner of vice and perversity? Corinth, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and I hate to say it- Toronto

4. Attendant to this depiction of Jerusalem and her people -as being akin to Sodom and Gomorrah- is a very interesting revelation: THE PEOPLE God was judging were very religious- at least outwardly v.11-15

Strange days indeed! People were going to the Temple on the Sabbath. Sacrifices were being offered to God. Prayers were being made to God. The Feasts of Israel were being kept - yet God hated every part of it.

We are told in v.15b-17 why God hated all their religious acts- supposedly done for Him. On Sabbath they went to the Temple, the rest of the week was "me and my desires time". The rest of the week was filled violence, greed, oppression, injustice, cursing, even the worship of other gods (Isaiah 2:6).

As for empty religion Jesus rebuked the Pharisees as well. In Matthew 23:27-28 he says to them; "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

The point of v.11-15

It's about the heart-- a heart that comes to Christ in faith and repentance, His way- not on our terms. What God desires of us is holiness and faith that gives true expression- not mere lip service to God.


5. THOUGH NO ONE IS WORTHY, NOTE GOD'S GRACIOUS CALL AND HIS AMAZING OFFER OF FORGIVENESS v.16-20

After reading a reading of the charges against Israel and how personally offended God is- particularly as one takes Isaiah 1-5 as a whole- the offer of forgiveness, cleansing, eternal life, a relationship with God, is amazing - and yet it's there and here today too!

This same forgiveness of sins is available today in Christ. In 1 John 1:9 it says; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness"

Note the conditionality of God's offer of forgiveness. Forgiveness and peace with God is something that must be taken hold of by faith and accompanied by a change in thought and behavior.


CONCLUSION

Isaiah is not a comfortable book. It is a book that asks us to examine ourselves, to see where we are at with the LORD.

In light of today's passage, where are things headed here in Canada? We are a nation which advocates gay marriage, a nation bent on eliminating the terms mother and father, a nation with no abortion laws, a nation intent on putting marijuana into the hands of whoever wants it (The Bible is not against its use for medical purposes though), a nation where it seems to be a greater crime to take an animals life than a persons, a nation wherein our children are taught they are evolutionary accidents, a nation that teaches our children all sorts of things about sex at very inappropriate ages, a nation that forces our doctors who have sworn to protect life to prescribe drugs to end ones life, a nation that prioritizes gender re assignment to the detriment of disabled children receiving the treatments they actually need.

Despite the sins around us- sins that are celebrated as "right and good", THERE IS HOPE, there is still time to turn to God before Judgment falls, grace and forgiveness is available. What is required? Repentance, a changing of our ways and our thoughts too. A turning to Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

An important reminder: We are sinners saved by grace. We are to love all people!