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Isaiah 1 is best known for his prophecies about the Messiah. Prophecies made hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Matthew quotes Isaiah when describing John the Baptist’s ministry. Jesus quoted Isaiah’s prophecies when speaking in parables. The apostle Paul also refers to the same prophecies when he is in Rome. The Gospels quote more from Isaiah’s writings than from any other Old Testament prophet. What made people sit up and take notice of Isaiah was that he foretold the judgment of God upon Judah. The Bible speaks more about the tribe of Judah than any other single tribe of Israel. After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel became divided. Jesus, our Savior, is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jesus’s lineage and the Church He established would come through the tribe of Judah.

We study Isaiah because he had a direct link to our God. Isaiah received God’s instructions to share with the people of Judah. There is no doubt that our nation today is in need of Isaiah’s messages. There are those who doubt that our nation was founded upon Godly principles. They are wrong! If you have doubts, read the Federalist Papers 2. The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison between October 1787 and May 1788. The essays were published anonymously, under the pen name “Publius,” in various New York state newspapers of the time. They form the foundation of thinking for our Constitution. In them you will find we are a country created on the foundation of being a nation under God.

Woe means “grief, anguish, affliction, wretchedness, calamity, or trouble.” The dictionary defines the word woe as “an exclamation of judgment on others.” The Bible uses the word to describe misfortune on oneself. Isaiah had specific concerns about the nation of Judah. These are known as the “Four Woes of Isaiah.” Isaiah was concerned for this nation because the people would not repent of their sins and turn to the LORD (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Three of the woes address the nation of Judah. The fourth woe was foretold after Isaiah had witnessed God sitting on His heavenly throne. The woes are about the character of a nation who had rejected God, His Laws, and Commandments. Is Isaiah talking to us today? Should we contemplate whether the spiritual condition of Judah parallels that our own nation?

The first woe condemned Judah for rejecting God’s Laws. The issue with Isaiah is that the people had no moral absolutes, no moral compass to follow.

(Isaiah 5:20) 3 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

The sin defined here is that of “perverting and confounding” things, especially in the areas of morality and religion. Isaiah defines a nation that preferred fake doctrines to those that were true. He called out people who preferred evil instead of upright conduct. The nation of Judah was busy removing all the distinctions of right and wrong. The people’s preferences were to pursue what was wrong! Judah had become a nation without God, without a direction. By removing God, they removed all common sense. The winds, the trends, the “isms” of the world were about to destroy God’s people.

Isaiah’s second woe described the people as unteachable.

(Isaiah 5:21) – “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent 4 in their own sight!”

Paul’s letter to Rome describes that same spiritual problem in these words: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). It is not that our world lacks for teachers or schools. Isaiah knew very well that the source of the material used was critical to the success of the instruction.

(2 Timothy 3:16-17) – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Most people think that the sole purpose of teaching is to impart knowledge. Imparting knowledge or facilitating learning is only one of the responsibilities of teaching. We live in an age where parents are shirking their responsibilities in raising their children. Students are being empowered by society to seek their knowledge from sources other than God. When is it that the desirable characteristics or moral values get established? If it is not through family, if not by education based on God’s Laws, have we turned over our instructions to social media, a secular educational system, the government and the Internet? God help us if that is true!

Isaiah’s third woe highlighted the narcissistic nature of the people of Judah and their loathing of the righteous.

(Isaiah 5:22-23) – “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine [drunkards], and men of strength to mingle strong drink 5: Which justify [acquit] the wicked for reward [bribe], and take away the righteousness [innocence; justice, rights and liberties] of the righteous from him!”

This is worth a bit of decomposition. Isaiah was lamenting that the people of Judah now hated the righteous, loathed the righteous. Is this biblical equivalent of “cancel culture” at its worst! If someone followed God, and did not support the recklessness of Judean society, they were loathed. The meaning of loathe is to “find repugnant.” The word is filled with hatred and bigotry. If the people of Judah had social media, they might have had a “secret review panel” to make sure that only the contemporary views of society could be posted. Righteousness is an attribute that belongs to God, the Lawgiver, and can only found in His Laws. No man can be justified by his own works apart from God’s Laws. Therefore, righteousness is a wonderful gift from God to humanity. It is granted by Grace through God’s love for us despite our own imperfections. It is the God-given quality imputed to man when we believe in His Son Jesus Christ.

The fourth woe is one Isaiah stated of himself. Shaken by a vision of the LORD sitting on His heavenly throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), Isaiah saw the man he was and was overwhelmed by his own sinfulness.

(Isaiah 6:5) – “…Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean 6 lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Isaiah’s lament for himself was that he could see the people needed to be shown the errors of their ways. Yet, Isaiah viewed himself not as righteous but as a sinful person. God was looking for a man who would declare His final warning to Judah before effecting His judgment. God response to Isaiah by purging his lips of sin:

(Isaiah 6:6-7) – “Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah answered saying, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

The sinful conditions of Judah in Isaiah’s day are the same as those in our nation and world today. The world has rejected God and His Commandments. Society is morally bankrupt (no right or wrong), removing God from public places, and becoming unteachable. Our nation worships temporal pleasures. A media and entertainment industry boast of vices and despise righteousness through the products they produce and release to our nation. Recklessness is called courage, and prudence timidity. Treachery is shown as cleverness, and honesty somehow has become stupidity. There is never enough stuff! Isaiah’s warnings were to tell the people of Judah that once God’s judgments were made, God would not disturb them in their pleasures. Why, because they prefer their own reasonings to the counsels and commands of God. Isaiah did add that their pleasures would be temporary in this world and there would be consequences, judgements forthcoming. We have had our sin purged by the Cross of our Savior. God is calling out, “Whom shall I send!” 

Contemplations

  • What moral compass do you think our society follows today?
    • Ideas to Explore: Sports, entertainment industry, media, political leaders? Which groups that are providing direction are Godly? Do you think that a nation can survive without God? What is the role of the church?
  • Where do you see the parallels between Judah and our nation today?
    • Ideas to Explore: The removal of God from society? The focus on race instead of God? The perversions of life? The insanity of politics? The bigotry and hatred of God-fearing people?
  • Where do you see the dangers in a culture that cancels the freedom of expression?
    • Ideas to Explore: Why is the current focus of the “cancel culture” aimed at conservative views? Can a free society survive without freedom of expression?
  • Has the COVID crisis exposed any new thoughts you might have about our educational system?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is online learning exposing any issues? Why is there such focus on color and race? What do you think the children will be like who grow up with dozens of self-declared genders? How to we teach children to “want to learn?”
  • How would you describe a “functional home?”
    • Ideas to Explore: Is God in the home? Are there two parents? How are the parents involved in the education of the children?
  • What has been the impact of the liberalization of drugs in our culture?
    • Ideas to Explore: More states legalize drugs – Is this a growing problem for society? How do drugs interfere with  a person’s ability to learn?

Notes:

  1. https://www.gotquestions.org/life-Isaiah.html
  2. https://guides.loc.gov/federalist-papers/full-text
  3. NIV New International Version Translations
  4. wise, shrewd
  5. boasting of their drunkenness
  6. defiled; polluted
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