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Isaiah 1.10-20 NOTES

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 - EXEGESIS

CONTEXT: It is no accident that the book of Isaiah was placed first among the books of prophecy. It is the longest book of prophecy and the most important. The New Testament frequently quotes or alludes to this book, which includes a number of messianic texts. The lectionary uses more texts from it than any other book in the Bible other than Luke-a remarkable statement given the primacy given to the Gospels by those who follow the lectionary. The book of Isaiah not only tells us of the condition of God's people in Isaiah's time, but also informs us of our condition-of our sin and our need of salvation.


1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

"The vision (hazon) of Isaiah son of Amoz" (v. 1a). Chapter 1 introduces the entire book, and this verse introduces this chapter. It first establishes that this is a vision (hazon). It is not a vision that came to Isaiah from "out of the blue." hazon suggests that this vision is a revelation given by Yahweh. As such, it is not a private vision for Isaiah's edification, but is instead given so that he might edify his people who are on the verge of disaster. As the steward of this God-given vision, Isaiah must warn his people of the looming disaster, which is a consequence of their sins. However, he is also to tell them of the potential for their forgiveness and salvation. The key to their salvation is faith in Yahweh-something that has been missing from their lives.
• Yahweh gives the vision to Isaiah, whose name means "The Lord is salvation" or "The Lord saves." Isaiah's name, therefore, summarizes his message. Whenever people call Isaiah by name, they hear his sermon coming from their own mouths-"The Lord is salvation"-"The Lord saves."
• We know little about Isaiah other than what is revealed in this book. We are told that he is the son of Amoz, but we know little about Amoz. Jewish tradition suggests that he was the brother of Amaziah, the eighth king of Judah and the father of Uzziah, but that is far from certain. Some people have confused Amoz with the prophet Amos, but Amoz and Amos are different names and different people.

"which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem" (v. 1b). This third person reference to Isaiah makes it clear that he is not the author of this verse. This introduction to the book was written by "scribes who copied and saved the book" (Tucker, Preaching, 363).
• There is no indication that Isaiah saw his whole vision at one sitting. Instead, it is a vision given by God that continues to unfold over time.
• Judah was one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and occupies most of the territory between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. At the time that Isaiah writes, the twelve tribes have coalesced into two kingdoms-Israel to the north and Judah to the south. In 721 B.C., during Isaiah's lifetime, Assyria will conquer the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and disperse its people, leaving Judah as the sole remaining covenant people.
• Jerusalem is Judah's capital and only important city. It is the holy city-home of the temple-the place where people offer ritual sacrifices. Given what Isaiah has to say about sacrifices in verses 11-15, it would seem that this vision concerns Judah generally but Jerusalem specifically. This vision puts Jerusalem under a microscope, and what is revealed there is not a pretty sight.

"in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah" (v. 1c). Uzziah (also known as Azariah) reigned from 783-742 B.C., and was generally a good king, although he was afflicted with leprosy because of his failure to remove the high places where people practiced idol worship (2 Kings 15:1-7). Isaiah saw a vision "in the year that King Uzziah died" (6:1), which tells us that Isaiah's ministry began in 742 B.C.
• Jotham, Uzziah's son, became co-regent with Uzziah in the latter years of Uzziah's reign and sole regent at Uzziah's death in 742 B.C. He followed his father's policies, which were, for the most part, good.
Ahaz, Jotham's son, became co-regent with Jotham in 735 B.C. and sole regent in 732 B.C. at his father's death. He was one of the worst kings of Judah, worshiping pagan gods and initiating vassalage to Tiglath-pileser of Assyria.
• The dates of the reign of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, are less certain but appear to have spanned 716 B.C to 687 B.C. While hampered by the vassalage to Assyria established by his father, Hezekiah turned out to be one of Judah's best kings. He sought to free his people from the requirement to worship Assyria's gods, and he also did away with idol worship and re-established temple worship. However, against Isaiah's advice, he allied himself with Egypt, which led to an Assyrian siege of Jerusalem and Hezekiah's capitulation to Assyria. Jerusalem survived another siege because "the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies" (2 Kings 19:35).
• Hezekiah became seriously ill in 701 B.C., but Yahweh instructed Isaiah to give Hezekiah this message: "Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city" (Isaiah 38:5-6).
• We know, then, that Isaiah began his ministry in 742 B.C. ("the year that King Uzziah died") and continued it at least until 701 B.C. (the year that Hezekiah became sick)-probably longer.


10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Listen to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah! 11 "What are your many sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fattened cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. 12 When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courtyards? 13 Do not go on bringing your worthless offerings, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the proclamation of an assembly-I cannot endure wrongdoing and the festive assembly. 14 I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of bearing them. 15 So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you offer many prayers, I will not be listening. Your hands are covered with blood.

"Hear the word Yahweh, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the law (to·ra) of our God, you people of Gomorrah!" (v. 10). In verse 9, Yahweh noted that Jerusalem would have suffered the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah if it weren't for Yahweh's grace. Now Yahweh likens Jerusalem's rulers to the rulers of Sodom and Jerusalem's people to the people of Gomorrah. In other words, he is telling them that, far from being the best of the best, they are the worst of the worst.

Genesis 18:1 - 19:29 tell the story of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah and their total destruction by God's judgment.

"Listen to the law (to·ra) of our God" (v. 10b). The noun to·ra means instruction, teaching, or law. "Isaiah is saying that the instruction which God gave Moses did not have chiefly to do with cultic prescription and legalistic righteousness. Rather, God's to·ra has to do with character and attitudes and relationships" (Oswalt, 96).

"What are the multitude of your sacrifices to me?" says Yahweh. "I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed animals. I don't delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of male goats. (v. 11). "One of the most notable and original features of the teaching of the Hebrew prophets is their repeated insistence that the Lord is more concerned with men's behavior in their social relationships than with the formal worship offered to him" (Scott, 170).
• The to·ra law prescribes animal sacrifices as offerings to atone for sin (Leviticus 1; 4-7; 16; 22). Nothing in the book of Isaiah suggests that the people should not have obeyed these laws and made these sacrifices. The problem is not that they have made the sacrifices, but that they have given sacrifices as a substitute for giving Yahweh their hearts and their obedience. It isn't their sacrifices that Yahweh really wants, but their hearts and obedience. Their sacrifices should be an expression of the devotion of their hearts and should result in obedient service. Because these people have not given Yahweh their hearts and obedience, he takes no pleasure in their sacrifices. He is "up to here" with their sacrifices-sick of their sacrifices. Rather than reminding Yahweh of their devotion, their sacrifices remind him of their rebellion.
• A modern-day analogy would be an unfaithful husband who tries to buy his wife's acquiescence with expensive presents. A vulnerable woman might tolerate her husband's misbehavior for a time, but a secure woman would kick the scoundrel out of her house. Expensive presents are no substitute for faithfulness and love.
• Yahweh is not vulnerable. He has no need of sacrifices except as an expression of genuine devotion. The fat and blood bring him no pleasure apart from the devoted heart of the person making the sacrifice. The sacrifices, therefore, have lost their meaning. (See Numbers 29:6; 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Ezra 3:5; Psalm 81:3; Ezekiel 46:6 for similar sentiments).

"When you come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to trample my courts?" (v. 12). The offering of animal sacrifices is a messy business. It requires bringing large animals into the temple, slaughtering and rending them, pouring their blood around the altar, and burning the meat on the altar. One would imagine that Yahweh would prefer a neater, cleaner sort of worship, but he prescribed this method as a way of helping Israelites understand the seriousness of their sins. However, the thing that gives Yahweh pleasure is not the offerings themselves but rather the faithful devotion of the one making the offering. When that faithful devotion is missing, the offering becomes a trampling of Yahweh's courts-a profanation-something that reminds Yahweh of the emptiness of the person's heart.

"Bring no more vain offerings. Incense is an abomination to me;" (v. 13a). Offerings given without faithful devotion give no pleasure to Yahweh and provide no reward for the one making the offering. Without faithful devotion, their offerings become simply a matter of going through the motions. Yahweh regards the offerings as an abomination-an object of disgust.

"new moons, Sabbaths, and convocations: I can't bear with evil assemblies." (v. 13b). The new moon, sabbath, and convocations are times of worship prescribed by Torah law (Leviticus 23). Yahweh desires this worship, but it has no meaning apart from the devotion and faithful obedience of the worshiper. Worship is a holy activity that honors Yahweh's holiness and helps to move the worshiper in the direction of holiness, but "evil assemblies " fail utterly to accomplish these purposes.
• To understand the depth of Yahweh's disgust with empty rituals conducted by unrepentant sinners, imagine how disgusted you would be with a coworker who merely went through the motions so that you had to do his/her work. Imagine your disgust if your child's teacher simply went through the motions and failed to help your child learn. Imagine your disgust if your child were desperately ill and the physician just went through the motions instead of providing competent medical care. It is that kind of disgust that makes these empty rituals unendurable to Yahweh.

"My soul hates your New Moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to me. I am weary of bearing them." (v. 14). The worship that should give Yahweh pleasure becomes a burden when conducted without faithful devotion. It is worse than no worship at all (see Revelation 3:15-16), because it is an abomination to
Yahweh (v. 13a).

"When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood" (v. 15). The stretching out of hands is an attitude of prayer. God not only refuses to honor the offerings of people who are merely going through the motions. He also refuses to listen to the prayers of those whose hands are full of blood-i.e., who are guilty of violence. Some scholars have suggested that the reference to blood in this verse has to do with the blood of offerings, but most scholars agree that it has to do with blood-guilt incurred by deeds of violence.


16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor, Obtain justice for the orphan, Plead for the widow's case.

"Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil" (v. 16). Verses 10-15 have spelled out the problem. Now verses 16-17 spell out the solution. The fact that Yahweh, who is completely disgusted with these people and their empty rituals would consider a remedy is a tribute to his love and grace.
• The first step in effecting a remedy is to wash to "make yourself clean." It is interesting that Yahweh, who is disgusted with their rituals, would prescribe a cleansing ritual as the first step toward correcting the problem. However, to hear Yahweh's rebuke (vv. 10-15) and to submit to a cleansing ritual would force these people to acknowledge their sins and their need for cleansing. That acknowledgement is really the first step in effecting a cleansing. Only when they realize that they are in the wrong will they be willing to take the steps to right the wrong.
• The washing ritual (and the underlying repentance) can remove the evil from before Yahweh's eyes, but that will mean little if the people continue in their evil ways. They must "cease to do evil"-pursue a righteous path-aspire to true holiness.

"Learn to do well" (v. 17a). An educational process is required. They mistakenly thought themselves to be doing good things already. They considered sacrificial rituals to be all that was required. They thought that the death of their sacrificial animals cleansed them from sin and exempted them from spiritual death. They had no clue that anything more, such as a faithful heart, was required. They failed to understand the importance of service to the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow. They must, at least figuratively and perhaps literally, go back to spiritual elementary school and re-learn the lessons that should have been crystal clear to them from childhood.

"Seek justice. Relieve the oppressed. Judge the fatherless. Plead for the widow" (v. 17b). Yahweh spells out in four different ways what it means "to do good." The first is to "seek justice." God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4), so it behooves his people to be just. This applies both to rulers and to the community at large (see
verse 10, which addresses "you rulers of Sodom" and "you people of Gomorrah"):
• Rulers have an obligation to render impartial justice (Job 34:17-19) and to guard the rights of the poor and needy (Psalm 82:3; Jeremiah 5:28).
• But ordinary people are also obligated to seek justice (Micah 6:8). Concern for the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, and other vulnerable people is at the forefront of Yahweh's (and Christ's) call for justice (Ezekiel 18:5-9; Matthew 25:31-46). Rulers can effect justice on a broad scale by passing just laws and enforcing them justly, but all people have the power to act justly on a personal level and to push for justice in their community and nation. With God's help, even ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results in the pursuit of justice.


18 "Come now, and let us debate your case," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They shall become as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You will eat the best of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

"Come now, and let us reason together," (v. 18a). "Come" is an imperative, but "Come now" softens it, making it an invitation. It is an invitation to discuss the charges that Yahweh has made against Jerusalem, the possibility of cleansing (v. 18c), and the choices that lie before the people (vv. 19-20).

"says Yahweh" (v. 18b). "Yahweh is the only truly personal name of God in Israel's faith.... The name consists of four consonants, YHWH (known as the tetragrammaton).... The English form 'Jehovah' arose by a Latinized combination of the four consonants (YHWH) with the vowel points that the Masoretes used to show that they meant the reader to say 'Adonai'...when reading the tetragrammaton.... In Ex. 3:14f. God declares that His name is 'ehyeh 'aser 'ehyeh. The verb 'ehyeh is... obviously linked to the tetragrammaton, as v. 14f. make plain. Of the two possible sense for it, 'I am who/what I am' and 'I will be who/what I will be,' the latter is preferable" (Bromily, Vol. 2, 506-507).
• In the NRSV and many English translations, YHWH is often translated "the Lord"-in part because the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Old Testament uses the Greek word kyrios (Lord) to translate the Hebrew YHWH into Greek-and in part because post-exilic Jews, considering YHWH too holy to say aloud, substituted Adonai (Lord) for YHWH in public readings of the scriptures (Myers, 1074).
• The fact that the invitation to discuss comes from Yahweh gives it immeasurable weight. To decline Yahweh's invitation would be to miss the possibility of forgiveness (v. 18c) and prosperity (v. 19) that Yahweh is offering.

"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (v. 18c). Scarlet, red, and crimson symbolize sin. The whiteness of snow and wool symbolize purity. This is Yahweh's promise that although they are thoroughly stained with sin now, they shall receive cleansing and forgiveness. The implication is that they must first devote their hearts to Yahweh and change their actions so that they accord with the requirements of verse 17, and Yahweh will then cleanse and forgive them. The next two verses make it clear that verse 18c is not an unconditional offer.

"If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land" (v. 19). Yahweh outlines their two options in words so stark that everyone can understand what is at stake. He is giving them a choice between blessing (v. 19) and curse (v. 20)-between life (v. 19) and death (v. 20). If they "are willing and obedient," they will enjoy prosperity.

"but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword;" (v. 20a). But if they continue in their present rebellious course, they will die.

"for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken" (v. 20b). This phrase seals the promise of verses 19 and 20. It is like the signature on a legal document that lends the authority of the signer to what has been said.

Isa. 1:10-20 - COMMENTARY


This lesson will cover verses 10-20 of the first chapter in the book of Isaiah. It is within these verses that we read of God's accusation of Judah's spiritual adultery. Judah, really all of God's people through today, are called to live in holiness in comparison to the world and worship in relation to God. The Lord was indicting His people, during Isaiah's day, of attempting to do one (worship) apart from the other (holiness). Yahweh was calling upon His people to repent, return to Him, and to fulfill their end of the covenant. Central to this lesson is the idea that we must fulfill what God's old covenant people failed to-we must live in holiness to the world and worship God, in such a way, that brings the nations to the Lord in a state of repentance. Repentance, in the sense that Isaiah pictures, will also be briefly examined and applied to us, today.

Isaiah 1:10-20

Verse 10 - A Call to Attention

This oracle is bookended with the reason for God's people to take notice, "Hear the word of the Lord," (v. 10a) and, "for the mouth of the Lord has spoken," (v. 20c). Isaiah was not speaking for himself or from his own mind; he was speaking on behalf of God. Therefore, God's people were called to take close notice. Contrary to oracles of the past, God wasn't just calling the leadership of His people to account. Rather, reference to "rulers" and "people" (v. 10) make it clear that things had digressed to the point that everyone was now culpable; for, it was not only the leadership who were to honor the covenant, it was also the people.[1] In other words, no one could claim that they were merely following in the direction that the priests or king were taking them. They were to know the Lord well enough to know His character. This extends to all of God's people, throughout all of time. All of us, today, have access to the Word; we are to know our Lord's character enough to know what He desires. On the day of your judgment, you will not be able to stand before Him and claim ignorance.

Verse 10 also tells us what God saw in His people; they had become like "Sodom" and "Gomorrah". One of the purposes of the covenant between God and His people was to identify who they were and whom they were to reflect into the world.[2] Earlier in their history, they were told, "For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44a). This was what God's people are to be and whom they are to reflect in the world, throughout all of time. God's people of the old covenant were to be holy and reflect the character of their Lord; furthermore, God's people, today, are to be a holy people and reflect His character. However, God's reference to these two ancient cities of sin points to the idea that the people of Judah had not just accepted the presence of sin in their lives and in their community. It also illuminates the idea that it was paraded as a lifestyle.[3]

Verses 11-15 - Corrupted Worship

Verses 11-15 speak to what happens to our worship whenever we allow our lifestyle to become wrapped up in sin. The Lord tells His people, "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? (sic) I have had enough... (sic) Bring no more vain offerings. (sic) I will hide my eyes from you... (sic) I will not listen." (vv. 11a, 13a, 15b). Even though God's people were rife with a permissive attitude and practice of sin, their cultic worship of God was unchanged. They continued to practice the ceremony that they believed was required of them. However, their worship was now perverted and polluted with sin.[4] These multitudinous sacrifices required the killing of a fattened calf without spot or physical deformity. They were selected from birth for their purpose and set aside; they were special, highly prized, and expensive in the eyes of the people.[5] However, a sacrifice or gift of great cost and measure is not what the Lord desires; not even of us, today. He is interested in something much deeper than cost. He looks to the foundation, to first (or, primary) principle and position. God's people weren't called to go through the motions of worship because it is expected of them; or, because they hope that, by doing them, God would overlook their sin. Their hearts and minds were in the wrong place. They were living by an incorrect principle (ethic) and they had forgotten the purpose of their worship. An act of worship that is not coupled with a heart of holiness is meaningless and displeasing to the Lord.

Knowledge of God's character must be followed by a life, whose overarching theme and direction, is following along with His character. This will not, however, make us righteous; Christ does this. However, God has not provided the means of our righteousness in order for us to order our lives in any way that we want. We, as God's people, are called to reflect His character. This is not legalism; this is a theme of a proper relationship with the Creator of the cosmos. God may love us; however, He is also the embodiment of justice and righteousness, at all times and in the perfect sense. He will not look upon His people in love, one moment, and in justice, the next moment.

Verse 15 also speaks to the reversal of position that God's people have allowed for themselves. In Leviticus 11:44 and Exodus 28:41, the Lord commanded His people to "consecrate" themselves. In the Hebrew, this refers to having one's hands full, and the context is related to being about the Lord's business.[6] However, the Lord is now telling them that their, "hands are full of blood". This points very clearly to a surrendering of holiness and the taking up of guilt and sin. Instead of being about the business of the Lord (v. 17), they have been about the business of evil. They are trying to ride the fence and the live a double life; thus, their worship was neither lukewarm or cold, it was empty. Having been redeemed in Christ, washed in His blood, and possessing eternal life changes nothing, in regards to the ethical standards of our lives. God's people are called to holiness and obedience as much today, as they were in Isaiah's day.

Verses 16-17 - A Call for Repentance

Alike other prophecies of judgment, Isaiah enumerates a way of escape-true repentance. The Lord amplifies the need of the people to be cleansed, inside and out, of their sins by speaking a triplicate message of action: "wash," "clean," and "remove the evil" (v. 16a). Therefore, we know that God was not changing the requirement of the Temple cultus; instead, this speaks to the condition of their heart during worship. Their hearts were rebellious, as they had departed from biblical justice. They had ceased to care for the weak among them (v. 16, "fatherless...widow's") that had already by spelled out by God, "the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled" (Deut. 14:29b). This was counted as evil, which is the opposite of justice since it ignores God's Word.

While these people were in clear violation of the Mosaic (Sinai) covenant, this command is actually amplified for God's people, today. Within the people of God, there still exists the destitute, weak, orphaned, and widowed and it is still on the heads of God's people to care for them.[7] Furthermore, we are warned to be, "found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace" (2 Pet. 3:14b). Therefore, if we are attempting to worship and live our lives while accepting sin in our lives, we need to repent. If we are ignoring specific things that God has clearly convicted us of or spoken against, we need to repent.

Verses 18-19 - Promise of Renewal

In verse 18, the Lord is symbolically placing His arm around the shoulder of His people and speaks as a father to a child, "Come now, let us reason together." He then proceeds to spell out His offer of mercy. The Lord tells them plainly that their sins are obvious to Him, "like scarlet... crimson," (v. 18); but, He admits that they may be wiped away, "white as snow... like wool" (v. 18). However, this would not happen magically or for nothing. Given their place in the covenant and their rightful place with the Lord, they were provided with a reasonable condition-true repentance and obedience.[8] The Lord, in Christ, has offered us the same conditions; but those offered today are much better. Because, not only are we provided the offer that our sins-though they are like scarlet and crimson-will be white as snow and like pure wool; we are also given the promise of the Spirit. The Spirit of God enables us to obey God; however, He goes further than this, as he enables our desire to obey. Praise God!

In verse 19, we are told of the obvious conditions, willingness and obedience; this is, essentially, repentance. However, this is repentance of the heart, versus that of the mouth. God desires that our hearts be moved toward Him, toward holiness, toward righteousness, and toward biblical justice. This form of repentance will warrant divine grace and forgiveness.[9] The Lord does not simply forget our sins, He graciously blots them out of existence. This is what is meant by, "as far as the East is from the West" (Ps. 103:12). Obedience is deeper than outward expression; it is related to the seat of the will-the heart-obedience begins there. Hence, the Lord has coupled willingness with obedience; obedience and spirituality cannot be coerced.

Verse 20 - The Ultimatum

Isaiah concludes with a word of judgment if His people failed to act according to wisdom. If they refused His offer of repentance, if they continued in their rebellion (which would, at this point, be heightened due to this delivered oracle) then they would face judgment, "you shall be eaten by the sword" (v. 20b). This sword would likely take the form of a foreign power, perhaps Assyria or Babylon. This judgment, like those who fail to repent, today, wasn't a settled affair. The Lord offered to the rebellious a way out of judgment, and He does so today, as well. However, it is likely that Isaiah did not anticipate that the people of his day would repent.[10] In the sixth chapter, we are given this indication. However, what shall we say about this present generation? What shall we say about ourselves-will we be like Isaiah or the Judahites? We can know that this word is sure, because, "for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (v. 20c).


In Isaiah 1:10-20, we read that God is formally accusing His covenant people of neglecting holiness, biblical justice, and accepting the place of sin in their lives. How many of us, today, could God make such an accusation of? However, we also read that God provided them an olive leaf of mercy; He offered to them a chance to repent and be cleansed. Unfortunately, it was also noted that many would not repent and would face the sword of judgment. Today we are faced with the same dilemma. Most, today, will not repent. However, if you hear His voice and feel His conviction over your life and will repent of your sins and place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ then He will blot out your sins. He will adopt you as a child, and provide eternal life. Judgment is not, yet, settled. How will you be known to God?

EW Commentary Isa. 1:1, 10-20

A. God states His case and offers a cure.

1. (1:1) Introduction: The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz.
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

a. The vision of Isaiah: This book contains the prophecies of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who ministered from about 740 to 680 B.C. For about 20 years, he spoke to both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. After Israel's fall to the Assyrians in 722 B.C., Isaiah continued to prophesy to Judah.
i. This period of Israel's history is told in 2 Kings 15 through 21 and 2 Chronicles 26 through 33. Isaiah was a contemporary of the prophets Hosea and Micah. By the time of Isaiah, the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, and Amos had already completed their ministry.
ii. By this time, Israel had been in the Promised Land for almost 700 years. For their first 400 years in Canaan, judges ruled Israel. These were spiritual, military, and political leaders whom God raised up as the occasion demanded. Then, for about 120 years, three kings reigned over all Israel: Saul, David, and Solomon. But in 917 B.C. Israel had a civil war and remained divided into two nations, Israel (to the north) and Judah (to the south) up until the time of Isaiah.
iii. Up until the time of Isaiah, the kingdom of Israel - the northern ten tribes - had some 18 kings, all of them bad and rebellious against the LORD. The kingdom of Judah - the two southern tribes - had some 11 kings before Isaiah's ministry, some good and some bad.
iv. In the time of Isaiah, Israel was a little nation often caught in the middle of the wars between three superpowers: Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
v. As Isaiah's ministry began, there was a national crisis in the northern kingdom of Israel. The superpower of Assyria was about to overwhelm the kingdom of Israel. During the span of Isaiah's ministry as a prophet, the southern kingdom of Judah was faced with repeated threats from the larger surrounding nations.
vi. Many modern scholars think that there was more than one author to the book of Isaiah. They use terms like "Deutero-Isaiah" and "Trito-Isaiah" or the "Isaianic School." Sometimes more than one author is supposed for the book of Isaiah because of changes of style and tone, and sometimes as a denial of Isaiah as predictive prophecy.
vii. However, the New Testament indicates that there was only one author of Isaiah. In John 12:37-41, John quotes from both the "first" part of Isaiah and the "second" part of Isaiah - the parts supposedly written by two or more different Isaiahs - and John specifically tells us it was the same Isaiah. The New Testament quotes Isaiah by name more than all the other prophetic authors combined.
viii. The book of Isaiah is filled with many wonderful prophecies of the Messiah, telling us about the person and work of Jesus Christ some seven hundred years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. For this reason, sometimes Isaiah is called "The Fifth Gospel."

b. Isaiah, son of Amoz: The name Isaiah means Salvation is of the LORD. There are at least seven men by the name of Isaiah in the Bible, but only one is Isaiah, the son of Amoz.
i. Some have thought that Amoz and the prophet Amos were the same person, but this seems unlikely. Some ancient Jewish traditions say that Amoz was a brother of king Amaziah, but there is no biblical way to prove this.
ii. We know more about Isaiah than we do about many other of the prophets. Isaiah was married and was the father of at least two sons (Isaiah 7:3 and 8:3). He lived in Jerusalem (Isaiah 7:3, 22:1, 37:2, 38:5, and 39:3).
iii. There is "a strong Judeo-Christian tradition that holds that Isaiah also outlived Hezekiah and was sawn asunder by his successor Manasseh with a wooden saw after the prophet had hidden himself in a hollow tree from the angry king." (Bultema) Many think Hebrews 11:37 (they were sawn in two) is a reference to the martyrdom of Isaiah.
iv. Most of all, Isaiah was a great man of God. Isaiah "has the courage of a Daniel, the sensitivity of a Jeremiah, the pathos of a Hosea, and the raging anger of an Amos; and moreover he leaves all of them far behind in the unique art of holy mockery. His courage is of such a nature that he never, not even for a moment, shows himself to be weak or timid." (Bultema)

c. In the days of: The prophecy of this chapter probably took place in the time of Ahaz, king of Judah (2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28). Ahaz was an evil king, and in his reign Judah was invaded many times by surrounding nations.


10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Listen to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah! 11 "What are your many sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fattened cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. 12 When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courtyards? 13 Do not go on bringing your worthless offerings, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the proclamation of an assembly-I cannot endure wrongdoing and the festive assembly. 14 I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of bearing them. 15 So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you offer many prayers, I will not be listening. Your hands are covered with blood.

a. You rulers of people of Gomorrah: God was obviously trying to get the attention of the leaders and people of Judah. He did this by associating them with two cities synonymous with sin and judgment.

b. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? Even in the midst of their rebellion, Judah continued its religious ceremony and ritual. They continued the sacrifices, they continued the burnt offerings, they continued offering the fat of fed cattle, they continued burning incense, they continued their assemblies and their sacred meetings - and God was sick of them all.
i. See how the LORD describes His reaction to these religious rituals: I have had enough.... bring no more futile abomination to Me.... I cannot endure...My soul hates...they are a trouble to Me...I am weary of bearing them.
ii. This is a sobering thought. We can offer God all kinds of religious rituals and ceremonies, all kinds of religious service, and He may hate it and consider it an abomination! Perhaps, in the midst of all their calamity (described in Isaiah 1:5-9), Judah thought the answer was in religious ceremonies, in their ancient version of "church attendance" and a few dollars in the offering. But if their heart wasn't changed, and humbled, and surrendered to the LORD it made no difference. Without the right heart, God hated their religious ceremony and service.
iii. "When sinners are under the judgments of God they will more easily be brought to fly to their devotions than to forsake their sins and reform their lives." (Matthew Henry)

c. When you spread out your hands: This was the posture of prayer in that ancient culture. Instead of praying with heads bowed and hands folded, they would pray with the face turned towards heaven and the hands spread out to heaven. So, when they prayed, the LORD says, "I will hide my eyes from you...I will not hear."
i. We may be certain, that in the midst of all this religious ceremony, there were many fine prayers offered. Many eloquent, stirring, and emotional prayers were said. But they were empty, hollow, useless prayers, because God looked at Judah and said, "Your hands are full of blood."

5. (1:16-20) The LORD offers a cure.

16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor, Obtain justice for the orphan, Plead for the widow's case. 18 "Come now, and let us debate your case," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They shall become as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You will eat the best of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

a. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean.... Learn to do good, seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow: The corruption of Judah's leaders and people was shown in their bad treatment of one another.
i. Many centuries later, the apostle John repeated the sense of Isaiah's message: If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20) The leaders and people of Judah wanted to say they loved God by their religious ceremonies, but the LORD cared more about how they treated other people, especially the weak (the fatherless...the widow).

b. "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD: The Lord GOD invites His people to come reason with Him. What He offers us isn't just offered because He is greater than us and has the right to dictate whatever terms please Him. God's direction for us is reasonable. It is smart. It is the best way to live.
i. It is madness to reject and resist a God of infinite wisdom, infinite love, infinite grace, and infinite power. True reason will drive any honest man to the humblest adoration and submission towards God.
ii. The angels surrounding the throne of God are covered with eyes, which speaks of their great ability to perceive and know (Revelation 4:6-8). These are perhaps the most intelligent, rational beings God ever created, and they spend every moment of their existence lost in total praise, total adoration, and total surrender to God. This is where the highest reason will drive us.
iii. It is just plain reasonable to follow God. Have you ever once heard of an old Christian, on their deathbed, gathering their children and friends around, and saying: "Now friends, watch out for that Christianity! I've followed Jesus my whole life and I'm so sorry I did! What a waste that was!" What nonsense! Quite the contrary, we find that Christians on their deathbed are trusting and loving God more than ever. It's just plain reasonable.

c. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool: The LORD offered a repentant, humbled Judah true and complete cleansing from sin. Their condition of sin could be transformed from deeply stained to become completely white.
i. In this passage, Isaiah says nothing about how this cleansing comes. But we know that it comes because Jesus took upon Himself our stain of sin, and God judged sin perfectly and completely in Jesus, so we can be accounted white as snow and as white as wool.
ii. There is tremendous hope in God's forgiveness! We really can be clean from the stain of sin. Our good works can't clean the stain. Our best intentions or promises can't clean the stain. Our suffering or pain can't clean the stain. Time can't clean the stain. Death can't clean the stain. Only the work of Jesus can make us white as snow! We really can have a break with the past, and a new beginning in Jesus Christ. The power of sin, the shame of sin, the guilt of sin, the domination of sin, the terror of sin, and the pain of sin can all be taken away in Jesus.
iii. "The Lord does not deny the truth of what the sinner has confessed, but he says to him, 'Though your sins be as scarlet, I meet you on that ground. You need not try to diminish the extent of your sin, or seek to make it appear to be less than it really is. No; whatever you say it is, it is all that, and probably far more. Your deepest sense of your sinfulness does not come up to the truth concerning your real condition; certainly, you do not exaggerate in the least. Your sins are scarlet, and crimson; it seems as though you have put on the imperial robe of sin, and made yourself a monarch of the realm of evil.' That is how a man's guilt appears before the searching eye of God." (Spurgeon)
iv. Spurgeon described people deeply stained by sin: "A wicked old wretch who has taken his degrees in Satan's college, has become a Master of Belial, a prince and chief of sinners - a Goliath amongst the Philistines - yet, to such a man, is this word sent today. Your hands are bloody with the souls of the young, you have kept a hellhouse; you have grit up public entertainments which have debauched and depraved the young; you have gold in your pocket to-day, which you have earned by the blood of souls; you have the fool's pence, and the drunkard's shillings, which have really come into your hands from the hearts of poor women, you have heard the cries of the starving children, and you have tempted their husbands to take the drink, and ruined their bodies and their souls. You have kept a place where the entertainment was so low, so grovelling, that you awoke the slumbering passions of evil in the minds of either young or old, and so you shall sink to hell with the blood of others on your head, as well as your own damnation, not with one millstone about your neck, but with many." All this may be true of you; yet God can forgive your sins and you can be made white as snow.

d. Come now: When we consider the greatness of God's cleansing and pardon, it is all the more reason for us to come now. God wants the separation between you and He to be gone now. He doesn't want you to continue in your destructive path another moment. He wants the best for us now.
i. "Come now, no season can be better. If ye tardy till you're better, ye will never come at all. Come now; you may never have another warning; the heart may never be so tender as it is to-day. Come now; no other eyes may ever weep over you; no other heart may ever agonise for your salvation. Come now, now, now, for tomorrow you may never know in this world. Death may have sealed your fate, and the once filthy may remain filthy still. Come now; for to-morrow thy heart may become harder than stone, and God may give thee up. Come now; it is God's time; to-morrow is the devil's time. 'To-day if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, when your fathers tempted me and proved me in the wilderness and saw my works.' Come now. Why delay to be happy? Would you put off your wedding-day? Will you postpone the hour when you are pardoned and delivered? Come now: the bowels of Jehovah yearn for you. The eye of your father sees you afar off, and he runs to meet you. Come now; the church is praying for you; these are revival times; ministers are more in earnest." (Spurgeon)

e. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword: Here God offered Judah a choice. They could find hope in the midst of their chastisement, relief from empty religious ritual, and cleansing from their sin. But they had to surrender their heart before God, and not refuse and rebel. Instead, they had to be willing and obedient.
i. No one perfectly matches either phrase, but which phrase better describes your life? Is it willing and obedient or refuse and rebel? There is a consequence for either course: eat of the good of the land or be devoured by the sword. No wonder the LORD said, "Come now, let us reason together!"