Today Isaiah pronounces judgment on the drunken and prideful people of Israel. Even the priests and prophets have erred with intoxicating drinks. However, the people mock Isaiah’s message saying that it is simple and beneath their wise understanding. So Isaiah responds, “But the word of the Lord was to them, ‘precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little,’ that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught.”
The prophet’s job is faithfully to share the word of the Lord. It is the responsibility of the hearers of the word to respond with repentance. Isaiah says that it is by the word of the Lord that God has laid the foundation for our lives – “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.” This foundation is the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom the Lord promised to send back in the Garden of Eden. Later in the story, Peter will explain that Jesus is the foundational cornerstone that gives life to those who believe in Him and is a stumbling block to those who reject Him – “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Peter 2:4-8).
Isaiah uses an example of a farmer to illustrate how the Lord works with His people. God knows the right time and the right way to give His people what they need in order to produce the desired outcome. And since the people of Israel will not heed the warnings of the Lord and turn from their wickedness, the Lord turns them over to their enemies. As Isaiah prophesied, Assyria besieges Israel while Hoshea is king of Israel and during Hezekiah’s reign in Judah – “Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive to Assyria… because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed His covenant and all that Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded; and they would neither hear nor do them.”
Although the Lord sent prophet after prophet to urge Israel and Judah to repent and turn back to Him, they did not listen. So the Lord removes His protection over Israel and only Judah remains. Isaiah also warns Judah who is acting like a rebellious child – “Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.” Isaiah says it is only by the grace of God that He hasn’t destroyed Judah like the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed earlier in the Patriarch Era (Genesis 19).
The Lord knows the people of Judah are performing religious ceremonies with wrong motives. God does not delight in the blood of animals but in the heart of the person bringing the sacrifice, the heart of someone who trusts in Him. Since their motives are wrong, God will no longer accept their offerings or prayers. The Lord calls Judah to repent. An evidence of their repentance will be how they treat one another – “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” One of Jesus’ disciples, John, will also later say that our love for God is exhibited in our love for one another – “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? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
We end the reading with the Lord giving Judah an invitation – “‘Come now, and 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 be as wool. 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’; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The Lord offers cleansing and healing through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, who is coming later in this story to take on the stain of sin so that we may be washed clean. The invitation is open to all. Tomorrow we will hear more from Isaiah, so keep reading. (Isaiah 28:1-29, 2 Kings 17:5, 2 Kings 18:9-12, 2 Kings 17:6-41, Isaiah 1:1-20)