Let's Talk, Part I: How Stupid Can You Be (Isaiah 1a)

Isaiah 1:1-31; 18, 3 (1-9, 10-20, 21-31)

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isa 1:18, ESV). "Let us settle the matter" (NIV). "Let's settle this" (NLT). "Let us discuss this" (HCSB). "Let's argue our case."

"The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand" (Isa 1:3, NIV).

Theme and title for the book of Isaiah: The Broken Heart of God (Isa 6:8). (Other titles: A Savior will suffer to save you; Only God saves; The Lord is salvation; God preserves a remnant; A suffering Messiah/Savior; Behold the beauty of the Lord; God loves and hopes as his heart breaks; God saves sinners; God judges and saves; Your God reigns; I am God and there is no other; On eagles wings.) [Some key verses of Isaiah: Isa 6:8; 12:2; 45:22; 48:11; 53:5.]

Isaiah means "Yahweh (is) salvation." ("The Lord is salvation" or "The salvation of the Lord.") It is one of the longest and most important books in the Bible. It is widely considered the deepest, richest and most theologically significant book in the OT, unparalleled in theological breadth, spanning from creation to new heavens and earth. Isaiah is the Paul of the OT, the Shakespeare of the prophets, and the "fifth gospel." The NT quotes Isaiah 66 x (alluded to >85 times), surpassed only by Psalms (79x). Isaiah's ministry was for 50 years from 740-690 B.C during the reigns of four kings (1:1).

1.       Judgment (1-39): The Assyrian period.
a.       The Holy Judge (1-12).
b.      The Sovereign King (13-39).
2.       Salvation (40-55): The Babylonian period.
a.       The Suffering Servant (40-55).
b.      The Final Conqueror (56-66).

Big ideas (Isaiah 1:1-31):
  1. God is gracious. He does not treat us as our sins deserve.
  2. God is humble. He takes the initiative even though we are in the wrong.
  3. There are always witnesses to our sin, even when we sin privately.
  4. Our most urgent need is always a new self-awareness through the conviction of sin.
  5. Conviction of sin leads to repentance before God and man. A hardened heart blames others for our own sins.
  6. Sin makes us stupid. It makes our pets appear smarter than us.
  7. Religious activity does not please God. Beware of hypocrisy and duplicity in yourself. A godly life always includes justice and righteousness by caring for the needy: the fatherless and the widows.
Read Isaiah 1:1-31:
  1. What is Isaiah about (1:1)? Who does it concern? What is God doing in verse 2 (Dt 30:19)?
  2. Sin affects God's people nationally (2-9) [rebellion], religiously (10-15) [hypocrisy], and socially (21-31) [injustice]. Despite this, what 9 corrective actions are commanded and demanded (16-17)? Identify them.
    • your heart (16a) [inwardly - 2 commands].
    • your life (16b-17a) [outwardly - 3 commands].
    • your society (17b) [socially - 4 commands].
  3. What is God's gracious invitation and promise (18)? How is this remarkable and counterintuitive?
  4. What are two alternate courses of actions and their respective consequences (19-20; Dt 30:15-20)?
Isaiah 1 is holding before us a mirror, so that we can see ourselves more realistically. The rest of the book shows how God saves people like us, so that we become the New Jerusalem. But Isaiah begins the good news of the gospel with the bad news of the gospel, because it's when we place ourselves under God's truth and judgment that we experience his mercy, grace, forgiveness and salvation.

Just as chapter 1 introduces the book, verse 2 sets the tone for that chapter: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.” The verb “rebelled” also appears in the last verse of the book (Isa 66:24).The whole prophecy is framed within these two appearances of “rebelled.” Rebellion against God is our problem. But God saves rebels. And true worship is rebels like us waving the white flag of surrender before our rightful Lord in repentance.

Let's Talk, Part I, II, III (Isaiah 1:1-31):
  1. How Stupid Can You Be (1:2-9, 3) [Conviction of Sin]: Your pets are smarter.
  2. Please Don't Burden Me By Coming To Church (1:10-20; 13) [Repentance]: Nothing grieves God more than unrepented personal wrongdoing and hypocritical worship in the house of God. Religious practices commanded in the Bible, divorced from a heart grateful for redemption that is purely and entirely by grace and resulting in a life of obedience, is meaningless and abhorrent to God.
  3. Care For What and Whom I Care For (1:21-31; 23) [Redemption]: Injustice and oppression.
Let's Talk, Part I: How Stupid Can You Be
  1. The broken heart of God (2-3).
  2. The broken strength of the church (4-8).
  3. The unbroken grace of God (9).
"What is conviction of sin? It is not an oppressive spirit of uncertainty or paralyzing guilt feelings. Conviction of sin is the lance of the divine Surgeon piercing the infected soul, releasing the pressure, letting the infection pour out. Conviction of sin is a health-giving injury. Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit being kind to us by confronting us with the light we don't want to see and the truth we're afraid to admit and the guilt we prefer to ignore. Conviction of sin is the severe love of God overruling our compulsive dishonesty, our willful blindness, our favorite excuses. Conviction of sin is the violent sweetness of God opposing the sins lying comfortably undisturbed in our lives. Conviction of sin is the merciful God declaring war on the false peace we settle for. Conviction of sin is our escape from malaise to joy, from attending church to worship, from faking it to authenticity. Conviction of sin, with the forgiveness of Jesus pouring over our wounds, is life." Ray Ortland, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners.