Monday, November 20, 2023

The Book Of Isaiah. Day 1, Rebellion Against The Lord

Today we begin the book of Isaiah, a prophet who lived in Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Judah. He prophesied against both the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel, but primarily to Judah because the nation of Israel fell to Assyria during the years of his ministry. 

This book contains prophecies along with detailed descriptions of big events that took place during the years Isaiah served as a prophet. He served during the reigns of four kings of Judah. "The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah." (Isaiah 1:1)

The book opens on an accusatory note, with the Lord talking about how rebellious the people have been toward Him. He compares them to children who have been well-loved and well-raised but who have turned their backs on Him. The Lord calls upon the creation itself to witness His charges against the people. "Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: 'I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me.'" (Isaiah 1:2) 

His charges are not unfounded. The blood of the innocent that has been shed on the earth cries out to Him, just as Abel's blood cried out to Him when Cain slew his brother. The people's unrighteous actions (their idolatry, their greed, their sexual immorality, their murders, their disenfranchisement of the poor and helpless) have been witnessed by the heavens above. 

The Lord compared those who have forsaken Him to ungrateful children who cast their parents aside. Next He goes a step further in His righteous indignation; He states that farm animals display more sense than they do. "The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand." (Isaiah 1:3) This is insulting indeed, but justified. Domestic animals know who their owners are. They know who feeds them and gives them shelter. They don't say to themselves, "I don't need him. I can take care of myself. I think I'll just strike out on my own and make my own way in the world." 

One of my neighbors has a small farm on which he keeps cows and goats. Those animals graze in the fields every day but when they hear his car coming up the road after work, they gather near the trough where he puts their grain feed out every evening. Or they gather where he places a new large round hay bale every few days. They know when the hay bale starts running out that he will supply them with a new one. They don't pack their bags and leave town, thinking they will find more fun and prosperity somewhere out in the world; they remain close to home where they know their owner will give them food, water, medical care, and shelter. How foolish it would be of them to run away, and yet that's what the Lord says the people of Isaiah's day have done! They have forsaken Him, who supplies all their needs, and have decided to do their own thing and serve other gods---gods who have provided no proof of their existence. No one has ever spoken to or helped the people except the Lord because no other god exists.

This is why their sin is so great. It's not as if the Lord never gave them the proof of His existence. It's not as if the Lord never performed signs and wonders among them. It's not as if He didn't rescue them from Egypt, drive the heathen nations out of Canaan, and plant them in their place to make a great nation of them. It's not as if He hasn't supplied their needs in a land of plenty. Yet they said, "We will not serve You!" So He confronts them with their enormous guilt, "Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him." (Isaiah 1:4)

The Lord would be justified in allowing any nation to fall that does not acknowledge that He has been the source of their prosperity and protection. The USA has enjoyed a great deal of prosperity and protection since its founding, but if more and more people continue to forsake the Lord, He certainly is not obliged to continue protecting us from our enemies. Our nation could fall just as the southern kingdom of Judah fell. Our nation could fall just as the northern kingdom of Israel fell. We are not immune from destruction just because we have been very powerful for a very long time. It is not our own strength that has made us powerful, but God's strength. We have long been a nation with a large population of Jewish and Christian people who acknowledge the Lord, but fewer and fewer people these days claim to be religious at all. We must take the lessons of the Bible to heart and pray for the tide to turn back in the right direction, spiritually speaking, so that souls will be saved and our country can continue to enjoy the blessings of the Lord. 

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