Isaiah 1:1-18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 3, 1999

Introduction to Isaiah

The book of Isaiah is the first book in the section of the Old Testament that we call the "prophets". It is the Old Testament book that has the clearest picture of the coming Messiah. John, the forerunner of Christ, began his ministry with a quote from Isaiah (Mat. 3:3). Jesus preached His first sermon in Nazareth from Isaiah (Luke 4:17-21). The New Testament quotes from Isaiah more than from any other prophet.

This is not a book that was written all at once, in a single sitting. There are various sections of the book, and it is the compiling of the writings of a man over sixty years. There will be times that the prophetic message is aimed at Isaiah’s time. There will be times when the prophetic message is aimed far in the future. There will be times when the message has a double effect with both a near and far prophecy.

:1 Isaiah the son of Amoz

Isaiah = "Yahweh has saved"

One Jewish tradition says that Amoz was the brother to King Amaziah, the father of Uzziah, which would make Isaiah the cousin to King Uzziah, and a member of the extended royal family.

Tradition has it that Isaiah was killed by the son of Hezekiah, King Manasseh. Justin Martyr records that Isaiah was "sawn asunder" by orders of Manasseh.

:1 Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

This covers the period described in 2Kings 15-21; roughly from 740 to 680 BC, or, about 60 years.

Historically, the main event that took place during Isaiah’s life was the rise of the Assyrian empire, which came and conquered and carried away the entire northern kingdom of Israel in 722 bc. The prophets Hosea and Micah were also at work during this time as well.

:3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.

crib – manger, feeding trough

The ox and donkey, though we wouldn’t consider them as brilliant animals, at least know where to put their loyalty.

In contrast, Israel doesn’t know who its God is.

:6 but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.

closed, neither bound up, neither mollified – In ancient times, a wound was tended to by pressing it out to get all the dirt and puss out, then it was bound up with cloth and then treated with oil.

The picture is not of a sick person, but that of a person having been beaten and whipped for their disobedience. Rather than tending to their wounds, they just ignore them.

Israel had been attacked by all sorts of nations, even losing some of their territory, all because of their sins. But rather than deal with their sins, they’ve just ignored the problem.

:8 as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers

Both a cottage in a vineyard and a lodge in a cucumber field were small, lonely shelters built in the middle of the field to guard the field from thieves and birds. Once the crop was harvested, the shelters were abandoned until the following year.

:9 we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah

Sodom … Gomorrah – When Sodom and Gomorrah were judged (Gen. 19), they were totally consumed with fire and brimstone. There were no survivors. Yet Israel was not to be like this. God in His grace would leave a "remnant", a few survivors.

Paul quotes this verse (Rom. 9:29) to refer to the small number of Jews who would come to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.

:10 ye rulers of Sodom … ye people of Gomorrah.

ye rulers of Sodom – God now addresses the rulers in Jerusalem as if they were the rulers of Sodom or Gomorrah.

:11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?

It was God who designed the system of sacrifice for sin.

The idea was that an animal would take your place on the altar and die to pay for your sins.

But the system was designed with one prerequisite, that you be a person who was repentant over your sins.

What happens is that people get to thinking that all they have to once they’ve sinned is to simply pay for a sacrifice, and they are not only okay with God, but they can go on sinning to their heart’s delight.

Today, some people think that as long as they show up at church, that they’ve done their "God-thing" and everything is just fine. Wrong.

When David committed his sin of adultery, followed by murder, he became aware that God wasn’t just looking for another sacrifice from him.

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

:12 who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?

Or, "Who asked you to come to church?" Actually, God was the one, sort of …

Exodus 23:17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

But when God commanded His people to come and appear before Him, He didn’t expect them to show up as stubborn and rebellious as this.

:13 incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies,

incense – burning of incense was associated with prayer. As the smoke of the incense rose, it was symbolic of a person’s prayers rising before heaven.

new moons – monthly feasts at the time of the new moon.

assemblies – times when God’s people came together to worship.

When God designed Jewish worship, with it’s sacrifices and incense, the things offered were to be a "sweet savour" to the Lord (Lev. 1:9). Now they were just a bunch of stink.

:13 I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.

NKJV – "I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting."

God can’t stand the "sacred meeting" and "sin" happening at the same time. God has a hard time with people playing at church and yet not having any intention of doing anything about their own sin.

:15 when ye make many prayers, I will not hear


Unrepentant sin stops your prayers.

The Psalmist wrote,

(Psa 66:18 KJV) If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Later, Isaiah writes,

(Isa 59:1-2 KJV) Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: {2} But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

It’s not that God somehow goes deaf when we have sin in our life. It’s not that He can’t hear, it’s that He won’t hear.

:16 Wash you, make you clean;

By this time, some of us are feeling pretty condemned over certain things in our lives.

It’s now January 3, and if any of you have made New Year’s resolutions, you’ve probably broken most of them by now. For some of us, it has nothing to do with silly resolutions, there are much bigger problems in our lives that we have been hiding from.


Have you ever watched a little girl get her new dress dirty just before church? Little girls get their dresses dirty sometimes when they really don't mean to, and then they're faced with a number of options. (I can testify that this doesn’t apply to little boys, little boys don’t seem to care at all about what condition their clothes are in when they come to church!)

They can try to hide the dirt by folding the dress over and walking close to their mother. Or they can pretend that they don't know about the dirt: "Dirt? I didn't know there was any dirt on me!" Or they can just try to stay away from mother so that mother can't see the dirt. If mother comes into the living room, the daughter goes into the bedroom. She'll try to get in the car before her mother gets in.

Or she can do what she ought to do if she has a mother who reflects the grace of God. She can go to her mother and say, "Look, my dress is dirty." If her mother is right on, she does something about the dirt but not the daughter.

-- Steve Brown, "The Prime Principle," Preaching Today, Tape No. 107.


Don’t run, just get washed.

Please listen carefully. Some of us just simply run from God when we get caught in sin. We think, "Why be a hypocrite?" and we stop coming to church.

When God says He’s sick of these "solemn assemblies" with their sin, it doesn’t mean that He wants you to stop coming to church.

It means that He wants you to get washed. And He has a way to do it too.


Keep coming.

What if I keep falling back into my sin? Shouldn’t I just stop coming to church? No.

God isn’t telling those who are struggling with their sin to stop coming. He’s telling those who don’t care about their sin to stop coming.

If you’ve fallen, get back up and try again.

Proverbs 24:16 for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (NIV)

:16 cease to do evil


Do something about your sin.

How serious are you about your sin? Are you willing to do something about it?


In Mexico and the tropical zones of South America a so-called "strangler" fig grows in abundance. The Spanish-speaking people refer to it as the "matapalo" which means "the tree killer." The fruit is not palatable except to cattle and the fowls of the air. After the birds eat it, they must clean their beaks of the sticky residue. They do this by rubbing them on nearby trees. The seeds of the small fig have a natural glue which makes them adhere to the branches. When the rainy season arrives, germination takes place. Soon tiny roots make their way down into the heart of the wood and begin to grow. Within a few years the once lovely palms have become entirely covered with the entangling vines of the parasitic growth. Unless the tree is set free through the removal of these "strangler" figs, it finally begins to wither, dropping one frond after another until it is completely lifeless. The only way to stop the killing process is for someone to take a sharp knife and cut away the invader.

:17 Learn to do well;

God isn’t necessarily expecting an overnight, instant and complete change. Sometimes change takes time.


Doing right takes some learning.


My six year old son received a new guitar for Christmas. He has this idea that I can somehow make him a complete guitar player with only one lesson. He expects to start playing a song right away. We’ve now had a few "lessons" and he has actually learned to finger a "D" chord. But he’s a long ways from being a complete guitar player. He has to be patient. He has to keep learning. He has to keep practicing.

Sometimes certain people go through a dramatic change when they come to know Jesus. But with some of us, we’ve been finding that much of this "Christian life" takes a lifetime of continual learning.

:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD:

reason – (yakah) – a law term used of arguing, convincing, or deciding a case in court.

:18 though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

scarlettowla’ – worm, scarlet stuff, crimson; the dye made from the dried body of the female of the worm "coccus ilicis". When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted. (from page 73, "Biblical Basis for Modern Science", 1985, Baker Book House, by Henry Morris)

David, in his prophetic Psalm that depicts the crucifixion, has Jesus saying,

(Psa 22:6 KJV) But I am a worm (towla’), and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

After the dead worm has fallen off the tree, the little red spot left on the tree dries up, turns white, and flakes off the tree. Jesus, who would die on a tree, has provided for our cleansing by shedding His own blood. As we come to trust Him, our sins are washed and become white as snow.


Receive God’s cleansing.

How does God take our filthy, bloody sins, and make them white as snow? Through Jesus.

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

To "confess" means simply to agree with someone. If I’m going to confess my sins, then I must agree with God that my sins are sinful. I must agree with God that I need to change. I must agree with God that Jesus Christ has paid for my sins. I must agree with God that He has forgiven me.

It takes a little faith. It’s not that you have to pump up some magic amount of faith to be cleansed, but you have to believe that Jesus can do it.


(Mat 9:27-30 KJV) And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us. {28} And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. {29} Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. {30} And their eyes were opened …

These men believed that Jesus could heal them, and that’s why they came to Him. They received according to how they believed. If you constantly live your life in fear, then you’re not going to receive what Jesus has for you. But if you put aside your fear and just put your life in His hands, you’ll see Him do great things.