A. The Lord’s Indictment of His People, 1:1-31

(1:1-31) Introduction: the scene is a courtroom trial. The presiding judge is the Lord Himself. The accused are the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem, the very people God had chosen to be His witnesses to the unbelieving nations of the earth. However, Isaiah’s message in this passage is applicable to all who know the Lord, for all believers are called to be His witnesses. Thus as His professed followers, we are all standing before the bar of the Judge of the universe. We are on trial, defending ourselves against some serious charges. And the Lord’s case against us is as strong as it was against Judah and Jerusalem.

God’s case is presented by the great prophet Isaiah, who makes a powerful, dramatic presentation of God’s charges. But even as he pronounces the Lord’s indictment, the love of God shines forth. With each charge, the Lord offers His people the hope of salvation. Even Isaiah’s name offers hope, for it means the Lord saves.

Only the redeemed—those who have been set free from sin and judgment—will live in the Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem. God will create New Jerusalem when Jesus Christ returns to set up God’s kingdom on earth (see outline—Re.21:9-23 and notes—Re.21:9-23 for more discussion). Through Isaiah, God tells His people that if they will repent of their sins, He will forgive them. Furthermore, He assures them that they will live in this Holy City of righteousness where there will be no evil or injustice. This is, The Lord’s Indictment of His People, 1:1-31.

1. God’s prophet Isaiah: he was a man given a very special vision by God (v.1).

2. God’s first charge: they were rebellious (vv.2-10).

3. God’s second charge: they were insincere, unacceptable in their worship (vv.11-20).

4. God’s third charge: they were unjust, deceitful (vv.21-31).

1. (1:1) Prophets, List of, Isaiah—Isaiah the Prophet, Prophecies Concerning, Judah and Jerusalem; Ministry of, Spanned the Reign of Four Kings: Isaiah was one of God’s great prophets, a man who received a very special vision from the Lord. The word vision means to see, to grasp and understand some truth or future event. It is not the same as an insight that comes from human reasoning or from the opinions of people. A vision is a revelation from God.

“For the Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved [led along] by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pe.1:21).

In a clear and dramatic way, God gave Isaiah a special revelation into events yet to come. Isaiah clearly saw…

In addition to learning that the Lord gave Isaiah very special visions, we glean two other significant facts from the opening verse of Isaiah:

1. Isaiah’s ministry focused on Judah and Jerusalem, and he preached and proclaimed the prophecies given by God. But in truth, Isaiah ministry is to the whole world. As the above outline shows, God gave him visions that concerned the future of the nations and of world history itself. His visions included the coming of the Savior, which lay some 700 years in the future. Furthermore, God revealed to Isaiah the glorious consummation of human history. Thus he is definitely a prophet to minister to the whole world. His prophecies and messages are to be heard and obeyed by all people of all times. They are the Word of God, God’s clear warning to the world.

2. Isaiah’s visions and ministry touched the reigns of four kings. He began his ministry in the year that King Uzziah died (6:1). Uzziah lived a righteous life that pleased the Lord, but later in life pride and self-exaltation caused him to slide into sin. As a result, God disciplined him by afflicting him with leprosy, a disease he had until the day he died. As a leper, he was forced to live in isolation and to put his son, the Crown Prince Jotham, in charge of the government (see outline—2 Chr.26:1-23 and notes—2 Chr.26:1-23 for more discussion).

King Jotham was also a godly king, and he ruled over Judah for 16 years. Apparently he and Isaiah had a close relationship, for the prophet seems to have had unrestricted access to the royal court and the freedom to preach without fear of persecution (see outline—2 Chr.27:1-9 and notes—2 Chr.27:1-9 for more discussion).

However, when Jotham’s son Ahaz took the throne, the godly environment throughout the nation changed dramatically. Ahaz was a very wicked king, totally depraved. Throughout his 16 year rule, he promoted and led the people in false worship, even committing the detestable sin of human sacrifice. Shockingly, he sacrificed his own sons to false gods. It was during his reign that the famous Syro-Ephraimite War took place, a war that utterly devastated Judah. The nation lost 120,000 soldiers in battle and 200,000 women and children were taken captive. King Ahaz was also guilty of seeking an alliance with the evil and brutal Assyrians, looking to them as Judah’s savior. He sought the help of Assyria rather than the help of the Lord.

No doubt, Isaiah faced a difficult time during the reign of Ahaz, for the king led the entire nation down the path of secular living and false worship. People who live wicked lives and engage in false worship want nothing to do with the Lord and His claims of righteousness. Although Scripture says nothing about Isaiah facing the threat of persecution, he was most likely under constant pressure to stop preaching the coming judgment of God. As a prophet of God during the reign of an evil king, he most certainly faced ridicule, contempt, and threats upon his life. (See outline—2 Chr.28:1-27 and notes—2 Chr.28:1-27 for more discussion.)

Whatever the case, when Ahaz’s son Hezekiah took the throne, the situation throughout Judah again changed dramatically. Although Hezekiah had been reared in one of the most wicked environments imaginable, he somehow came to know the Lord in a very personal way, and he wholeheartedly committed his life to the Lord. Hezekiah’s godly reign would not stop the tide of wickedness flowing through the Southern Kingdom, but it would stay the hand of God’s judgment for a long time. Judah would not fall to Babylon until more than one hundred years had passed. Under Hezekiah’s leadership, a spiritual reformation took place and revival broke out among the people (see outline—2 Chr.29:1-32:33 and notes—2 Chr.29:1-32:33 for more discussion). Apparently Isaiah had a close relationship with Hezekiah, for he devoted four complete chapters to him, covering his entire reign (see outline—Isa. 36:1-39:8 and notes—Isa. 36:1-39:8 for more discussion).

Violence, immorality, and the constant threat of war—these were the problems facing society in Isaiah’s day. Assyria, the most powerful nation of that day, was determined to build a world empire, and the Assyrians were among the most brutal people to ever come upon the stage of world history. Seldom before or since have there been days so turbulent, so gripped by a spirit of lawlessness. These were the days in which Isaiah was called to minister and proclaim God’s Word to the world.

Thought 1. People today desperately need a spiritual vision—a clear insight into spiritual matters—yet millions seem to be blinded to spiritual truth. They are complacent, disinterested, and even closed-minded to the truth that only those who approach God through His Son Jesus Christ are acceptable to God. Down through history prophets have courageously proclaimed this truth. The vast majority of people reject prophetic visions of Christ and of God’s warnings to the world. They want nothing to do with a message that proclaims the truth of righteousness and of the judgment to come.

But not Isaiah, the great prophet of God. He wanted clear insight into the future. He wanted to know what God’s people faced. He undoubtedly sought the Lord often for clear insight into the future so he could face whatever was coming and do all he could to prepare God’s people.

As believers, we should all seek clear insight as we study the prophecies in God’s Word. Understanding what He says about the future strengthens our faith and better prepares us to face the terrible trials of life. Listen to what God’s Holy Word says about spiritual vision and insight:

“And their eyes were opened, and they knew him [Christ]; and he vanished out of their sight” (Lu.24:31).

“He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you” (Jn.16:14-15).

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ep.1:18).

“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).

“And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink” (Ge.21:19).

“And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

“For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness” (Ps.18:28).

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps.119:130).

“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness” (Isa. 29:18).

2. (1:2-10) Rebellion, Example of, Israel—Rebellion, Discussed—Judah, Indictment Against, Rebellion—Jerusalem, Indictment Against, Rebellion—Forsaking God, Example of, Judah—Turning Away, From God, Example—Apostasy, Example of, Judah—Discipline, Example of—Chastisement, Example of—Remnant, of Israel, Promised—Court Trial, of Whom, Judah and Jerusalem: God’s first charge against His people was a strong one: they were rebellious children. God’s relationship with His people is like that of a father with his children. God’s Father-son relationship with Israel began when the Lord called Abraham to trust Him. From the time God chose him, Abraham and his descendants were to follow and obey the Lord just as children follow and obey their fathers. Down through the generations, God nurtured His people, caring for and looking after them. He always guided them, taught them, and met their needs. And when they sinned, He disciplined them and did all He could to bring them back into fellowship with Him.

God chose the Israelites to be His special witnesses on earth, to proclaim that the Lord Himself (Jehovah, Yahweh) is the only true and living God (Ge.12:1-3). He gave them two wonderful gifts: His Word, which they were to share with the world, and His Son, the Savior, who was to rescue the world from the bondage of sin and death.

But down through the generations, the Israelites rebelled against the Lord. Like rebellious children, they rejected His love and His Word and broke all of His commandments. Forsaking the Lord, they lived wicked lives characterized by immorality, lawlessness, and violence, and they corrupted the society and land God had so freely given them. Note God’s first charge against His people, the charge of rebellion.

1. The picture is that of a court trial (v.2). The great judge is the Lord Himself. He sits upon His sovereign throne of judgment, ready to indict the accused and to execute justice. The defendants are God’s own people, the very ones He had chosen to be His special witnesses. In a deep, thunderous voice, the Lord calls upon heaven and earth to witness the charges against His people. Heaven and earth had witnessed not only the birth of Israel, but also its rebellion against the Lord. Therefore, all creation would agree with the charges God was now leveling against them. Choosing heaven and earth as witnesses showed just how solemn and serious the judgment of God’s people would be.

2. The charge of rebellion revealed three facts about God’s people (vv.3-4):

a. It showed they had less knowledge and understanding than an ox or donkey. These animals know their owners. They know the person who feeds them and looks after them. They even know who holds them responsible to work. But not God’s people, not the Israelites. Their rebellion proved they did not really know the Lord. They did not understand His love or why He had chosen them to be His people. They simply did not comprehend that they were to be His witnesses to the other peoples of the earth.

b. It showed they had sinful hearts. God’s people had become loaded down with a heavy burden of guilt (v.4). They were evil children, not only corrupt themselves, but corruptors who led others to imitate their evil behavior.

c. It showed they had forsaken the Lord, despised the Holy One of Israel, and turned their backs on Him (v.4). The title The Holy One of Israel is used about 25 times in the book of Isaiah, but only six times elsewhere in the Old Testament. The word holy emphasizes the character of God and contrasts His righteous acts with the sins of Israel. God’s holiness stresses the necessity of their living pure and righteous lives. As The Holy One of Israel, God had a very special claim on the nation. But Israel totally rejected Him and His claims on their lives. They refused to be His witnesses to the unbelieving nations and peoples of the earth.

3. The rebellion of God’s people was sheer folly, for it led to continued chastisement by God (vv.5-9). Their rebellion down through the years had caused God to discipline the Israelites. Other nations had been allowed to attack, conquer, and devastate them. In addition to war, the nation had suffered all of the consequences that sin brings upon a people: it had become an immoral, lawless, and violent society. As long as Judah persisted in its rebellion, it would continue to feel the hand of God’s discipline.

When Isaiah announced this prophecy, the nation was apparently still experiencing some prosperity. The judgment predicted here still lay in the future; therefore, the people still had time to repent of their rebellion and turn back to the Lord. Seeking to focus their attention on God’s judgment, Isaiah asked two questions: Why would they choose to be stricken by God’s judgment again? Why would they force Him to discipline them? Then he made three comparisons to show what the nation would be like when God’s judgment fell:

a. The nation would be like a wretched victim that had been attacked and beaten (vv.5-6). No part of the nation’s body would escape injury, and the wounds would be severe. The head, heart, and entire body of the nation, from the sole of the foot to the top of the head, would be bruised and cut. Left untreated, the wounds would become infected and open sores allowed to fester and rot.

b. The nation would be ravaged (vv.7-8). Cities would be burned and the people’s farms plundered and destroyed. Jerusalem, the daughter of Zion, would be besieged, destroyed, and abandoned (v.8). The capital would look like a crumbling hut that had been left to deteriorate in a field long after the melons had been harvested.

c. The nation would suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah: it would be decimated (v.9). In His mercy, God would save some people, but they would be few—just a small remnant. Although the vast number of Israelites would continue to rebel against God, there would be a few genuine believers who would obey God’s commandments and live righteously. God would spare those few so that His purpose for the Jewish people could be fulfilled. He would still give His Word to the world through the believers of Israel, and His Son, the promised Messiah, would come through the Jewish people. The promise of the remnant is one of the great promises of Holy Scripture (Isa. 1:9; 4:3; 6:13; 10:20-23; 11:11, 16; 46:3; Je.6:9; 23:3; 31:7; Mi.2:12; Zec.8:12; Ro.9:27-29; 11:5).

4. Because of the people’s sin, they had become just like Sodom and Gomorrah: totally depraved. Their only hope was to hear the Word of the Lord and to listen to His law (v.10). Hear and listen mean to heed, give attention to, and obey God’s commandments. This was the only hope for the rebellious children of Jerusalem and Judah.

Thought 1. How many of us have rebelled against God, turning away from Him and His Holy Word? To rebel means to disobey God. People who refuse to keep God’s commandments live as they please, doing their own thing. How many of us are living immoral and unrighteous lives, engaging in sex outside of marriage, oppressing the weak, and cheating others? A person who rebels is defiant. How many of us are defiant toward parents, employers, teachers, or any other person in authority? A person who rebels can cause divisiveness and sometimes rebellion. Think of the turmoil when athletes rebel against a coach, when students rebel against teachers, when employees rebel against employers, when children rebel against parents, and when people rebel against governments. But as serious as rebellion is within society, the gravest offense is rebellion against God. When we rebel against Him, we contribute to the immorality, lawlessness, and violence of society. And we doom ourselves to suffer the punishment of God’s judgment. Listen to what God’s Holy Word says about rebellion:

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Ro.2:5).

“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Ep.5:3-6).

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Th.1:7-9).

“For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb. 2:2-3).

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-13).

“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:5-7).

“And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known” (De.11:28).

“But if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers” (1 Sam. 12:15).

“Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” (Pr.28:14).

“He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Pr.29:1).

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (Isa. 30:1).

“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts”(Isa. 65:2).

“And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day” (Eze.2:3).

“Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house”(Eze.12:2).

3. (1:11-20) Worship, False, Formal and Ritualistic—Worship, Formal and Ritualistic—Ritual, Danger of, Formal Worship—Ceremony, Dangers of, Formal Worship—Worship, Dangers of, Insincere and Formal—Temple, Abuse of, Formal Worship; Insincere Worship—Cleansing, Spiritual, Steps to—Spiritual Cleansing, Steps to—Reason, Invitation to—Reason, True and Honest, Results of—Forgiveness of Sins, Secured by, Honest Reasoning—Prayers, Kinds of, Formal and Insincere—Offerings, Kinds of, Formal and Insincere: God’s second charge against His people was sad and tragic. Their worship was insincere; thus it was unacceptable to God. The people of Judah and Jerusalem were worshipping, but their worship was false. Isaiah used strong language to express God’s disgust with false worship.

1. God charged His people with phony, empty, ritualistic worship (vv.11-12). Note that the people were worshipping the Lord. They were faithfully attending worship services and offering their sacrifices to the Lord. But their worship was hypocritical, for in their hearts they were rebelling against God (vv.2-4, 10). They refused to obey His Word and were living sinful lives. As soon as they left the worship services, they returned to their immoral, lawless, and selfish ways.

Remember that the burnt offering was sacrificed in order to bring about reconciliation with God (see outline—Le.1:1-17 and notes—Le.1:1-17 for more discussion). Thus in making their offerings, the people were seeking to be reconciled with God. However, they were unwilling to turn from their sins and turn back to God. They were unwilling to keep His commandments, unwilling to live righteous lives, unwilling to commit all they were and had to Him. As a result, God rejected their offerings. He took no delight in them.

The people’s coming before Him to worship amounted to nothing but trampling His courts. They were hypocrites—people who professed to know God, but whose hearts were far from Him. Their worship was nothing but outward show. Their sacrifices had become nothing more than a ritual, a formal and insincere ceremony that God hated. They had become a weary burden to Him. Keep in mind what God wanted: obedience. To obey is better than sacrifice, that is, worship (1 Sam. 15:22).

2. God issued a strong warning through Isaiah: His people must immediately stop their false worship (vv.13-15).

⇒ They must stop making meaningless offerings.

⇒ They must stop bringing detestable incense. Remember that incense was a symbol of prayer ascending to the Lord.

⇒ They must stop their evil assemblies—not only their regular worship services, but also their special festivals, feasts, and gatherings (v.14).

⇒ They must stop their formal prayers. God did not hear their prayers because their hands were as murderers who treated the needy unfairly and unjustly and in some cases murdered them (v.15).

3. Surprisingly, despite the people’s hollow and hypocritical worship, God made the astounding offer of full pardon. The people could be spiritually cleansed from their sin (vv.16-18). But three steps were necessary:

a. They must first repent, turn from their evil ways, and learn to do right (vv.16-17). They must…

b. They must come to the Lord and reason with Him (v.18). They must admit that their sins were as scarlet, the deepest color of red, and that they were as guilty as murderers who shed the blood of innocent people.

c. They must come to the Lord for forgiveness. Believing the promise of God, they must confess their sins and ask God to forgive them. Though their sins have stained them as red as scarlet, the Lord can make them as white as snow, as white as wool.

4. Isaiah warned God’s people of two possible verdicts (vv.19-20). If they were willing to be cleansed and to obey God, they would be rewarded (v.19). The people would once again eat the very best fruit of the land and live fruitful and productive lives.

However, if the people continued to turn away from the Lord, they would be destroyed. Judgment was certain, for the Lord Himself had declared it. His Word was the guarantee that judgment would fall on all who continued to rebel against Him and disobey His holy commandments.

Thought 1. False worship is unacceptable to God. When people truly believe and obey God’s Word, their worship is acceptable; but when they continue in sin, their worship is unacceptable. No matter how much they worship, their worship is meaningless, for they are just going through the motions. They are insincere and hypocritical. As soon as they leave the worship service, they continue in their sinful ways. They profess one thing, but live another. In truth, their hearts are far from God.

Think of the millions of churches and worship sites throughout the world. There is one within walking distance of almost every person living in a major city of the world. Yet crime, immorality, and greed flood these same cities. Churches and organized religion seem to make little difference. It is as though they have become irrelevant to society.

Why? Because the worship of so many people is insincere. Think of the number of people who own a Bible and claim to be religious, but whose behavior exposes them as hypocrites. Many attend worship services, but as soon as they walk out the church doors, they return to their sinful ways. In God’s eyes their worship is meaningless. Listen to what God’s Holy Word says about false worship:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Mt.7:21-22).

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Mt.23:14).

“Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Mt.23:28).

“He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mk.7:6).

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” (Lu.6:46-49).

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Ro.14:17).

“Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Ga.4:10-11).

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (2 Ti.3:1-6).

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Tit.1:16).

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth”
(1 Jn.3:18).

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps.51:16-17).

“And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues” (Ps.78:35-36).

“Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross” (Pr.26:23).

“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil” (Ecc.5:1).

“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isa. 29:13).

“Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness” (Isa. 48:1).

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isa. 58:1-7).

“And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not” (Eze.33:31-32).

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Ho.6:6).

4. (1:21-31) Injustice, Caused by, Corrupt Leaders and People—Jerusalem, Described as, a Harlot; an Unjust City—Jerusalem, Sins of, Injustice—Society, Sins of, Injustice—Jerusalem, Titles of, the City of Righteousness—Promises, Restoration of Jerusalem—Jerusalem, New, Assured by God—Judgment, Against Whom, God’s Enemies—Justice, of God, Will Be Executed: God’s third charge against His people was heart-rending: they were unjust and deceitful. Wickedness, lawlessness, and violence ran rampant throughout Judah and Jerusalem. Even so, God had not given up on His people. There was still a remnant, a small number of true believers scattered here and there across the land. For the sake of these few who were righteous, and because of His own promise to Abraham, the Lord would restore Jerusalem and the promised land.

Note the charge of injustice leveled against the city of Jerusalem and its citizens (representing all Judah). Note also God’s wonderful promise that some day in the future He would restore the great city and free its citizens from all enemies and oppressors.


1. Under David’s leadership and during the early part of Solomon’s reign, Jerusalem had been a faithful city, a just and righteous city. But since that time, Jerusalem and its citizens had become as unfaithful as harlots who had turned away from the Lord. Now the city was full of murderers! In its early years, Jerusalem had been like pure silver, but now it had become like dross, like worthless scum (v.22). Because of the unrighteousness of its citizens, Jerusalem had become like watered-down wine. The leaders of the city were corrupt, filled with a spirit of covetousness. Many of their associates were thieves, so the leaders often took bribes to keep silent. Ignoring their duty to serve the citizens of the land, the leaders refused to help and defend the orphans and widows when their cases were brought before them.

2. Isaiah predicted the verdict and sentence of God (vv.24-31). And what he predicted would take place, for the Lord Himself was pronouncing it. To emphasize the certainty of God’s verdict, Isaiah used three divine titles in making this declaration: it is the Lord, the Lord of hosts (Lord Almighty), the Mighty One of Israel who pronounces this verdict and sentence. The people could rest assured that what was now being declared would take place. Isaiah proclaimed five startling judgments:

a. The Lord will judge and get rid of all His enemies (v.24). Vengeance will be executed upon all who oppose and rebel against Him. The profession and worship attendance of people will not matter. If they have lived sinful lives and engaged in false worship, they will face God’s judgment.

b. The Lord will purge Jerusalem of all impurities (v.25). Although He will execute judgment upon all who rebel and engage in false worship, His purpose is to purify the city so that no evil will dwell within its boundaries. The future capital of the world will be the New Jerusalem, the city of God in which the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ will sit. Thus the city must be cleansed.

c. The Lord will restore righteous and just leaders to serve His people (v.26). Someday in the future, Jerusalem will be restored and called The City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.

d. The Lord will place all repentant people in the redeemed city of Jerusalem (v.27). All who repent of their sins—turn away from their rebellion, false worship, and injustice and return to the Lord—will be the citizens of the New Jerusalem. They will be the redeemed, the people set free from sin and the judgment of God.

e. The Lord will execute true justice against all rebels and sinners who forsook Him (v.28). Having turned away from the Lord, the Creator of the universe, they turned to false worship. Now they must stand face-to-face with the Lord of the universe. In that day they will bear the judgment of God’s hand. They will be ashamed and disgraced because of their false worship, and they will perish. They had trusted and worshipped false gods; as a result, they will suffer the same fate as the things in which they trusted. Just as the leaves of an oak tree fade away, so they also will fade away. They will be like a garden without water: the ground soon turns to dust and blows away. Even the strong and mighty—they and their works—will be burned with unquenchable fire (v.31). They will be consumed along with their wicked works.

Thought 1. Treating people unfairly is an injustice and it involves all kinds of sins and acts of wickedness. Abusing or sexually assaulting children is an act of injustice, for children are unable to defend themselves. Verbally abusing a spouse is an injustice, for it is lashing out unfairly and unkindly. Far too many of us mistreat other people, committing all kinds of injustices against them, such as…

Covetous, corrupt leaders ruled the government in Isaiah’s day. They were companions of thieves and willingly took bribes. Helping to meet the needs of their citizens was the farthest thing from their thoughts. They even neglected the fatherless and widows. Single mothers had to fend for themselves, no matter how many children they had. Few people in the community offered to help any of the needy. Each person was out for himself, living a selfish and self-centered life. As a result, injustice ruled supreme. The innocent and defenseless were discriminated against, treated unfairly, and often oppressed. Listen to what God’s Holy Word says about injustice and oppression:

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful al