He starts by saying that this is a vision that he saw, not just a word that he heard from the Lord. In some way, he saw what he is conveying to us.
In verse 1:2, he calls all creation to listen because the God of the universe is speaking. The Lord says, "Son's I have reared and brought up (literally, as a parent) but they have revolted against me" I have found this verse comforting in a sad sort of way.
In verse 1:4 Isaiah describes the children of Israel as a "sinful nation". He goes on in this verse to describe their spiritual state. He concludes with the real problem causing the whole situation. "They have turned away from Him." it is important to point out here that the children of Israel were not acknowledging the fact that they had turned away from Him. They probably didn't even realize that there was actually any problem.
Verse 1:5, he asks them a question... "Where will you be stricken again?" He was asking them, what did they have left? What's next as you continue in your rebellion? He was trying to get them to look at the situation that they were in.
He says" The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint" Their intellectual and moral thinking and values were all wrong... "sick"
There are so many things in the world today that do not make sense.
The world is sick.
Common sense seems to have taken moral decency by the hand and just walked away.
He says in verse 1:6 that the nation was sick from head to toe, "only bruises welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged nor, softened with oil"
I want to point out the end of this verse with a little side note. Today in the church we "anoint with oil"
and pray for people with illnesses. There are whole church bodies that shun Dr care and perform only this ritual for seeking a healing from the Lord.
When the people of biblical times used oil to treat illnesses or wounds, that WAS their Dr care. It wasn't a ritual they performed. It was a way of cleansing and cauterizing wounds, they used different oils to perform different medical treatment. As late as the Civil war, Drs used boiling oil to treat gunshot wounds. It was terribly painful, but it was actually a form of medical treatment. We have made it into a ritual, when actually when they used oil on a sick person, they were utilizing the medical treatments available to them at that time in history. Isaiah is saying here in the end of verse 1:6 , that they hadn't even seen a Dr to have their problems treated. They had not acknowledged their problem, they were not on their way to a healing.
In verse 1:7 Isaiah now speaks plainly to describe the troubles they have been having. "your land is desolate. Your cities have been burned with fire, (a common plight for a besieged city, many Assyrian sculptures show their conquering heroes putting the torch to a conquered city) The crops from their fields were being eaten by foreigners.
Verse 1:8 Is referring to Jerusalem itself. All of the troubles described in verse 1:7, were happening to the villages, fields and small cities that surrounded the big city Jerusalem. He goes on in verse 1:8 to describe how frail and unprotected Jerusalem was at this point. He says it is like a shelter in a vineyard, or a hut in a cucumber field.
The vineyards and the cucumber fields only needed protection for a short time every season. Only when they were ripening was someone posted to watch them day and night. They would construct weak, flimsy shelters for the watchmen to stay in while they watched the ripening crops. This is what Isaiah is comparing Jerusalem to. The weak flimsy watchmen's huts.
In verse 1:9 he is saying that because of a few faithful, their land had been spared the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. ( What happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? Find out in Genesis 19:1-29, very interesting reading)
In verse 1:10, the language gets very strong. The Lord has had enough. He goes on to command them to listen. He calls them rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah, which if you have read about Sodom and Gomorrah you will know, that to call them rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah, is probably about the most insulting thing that the Lord could address them as.
In verses 1:11 and 12, the Lord says that He has had enough of the sacrifices and burnt offerings of rams and cattle. He says He takes no pleasure in the blood of Lambs and goats. He refers to their goings and comings in His temple as a trampling of His courts. The Lord had ordered these sacrifices. He had carefully instructed them on what should be done to carry out every sacrifice and sin offering.
(quickly skim the book of Leviticus to get an idea of what the Lord commanded in the way of sacrifices and sin offerings)
Why was He saying this? Because, He knew that their hearts were far from Him. It had all become witless, heartless, ritual to them.
Verse 1:13, Is such an important verse! The Lord says " Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me" This verse was a real "soul searcher" for me. In Rev. 8:3-4, we are told that our prayers are mixed with incense upon the golden altar by an angel, which is before the throne of God, and the smoke of the incense and our prayers, rise before the Lord God out of the angels hand. Our prayers are a tangible ingredient of the pleasant aroma which rises before the throne of God. He doesn't want incense, He wants our prayers!!!
He continues to proclaim His hatred in verses 1:13-15, for what their religious traditions had become. They were a burden to Him that He no longer wanted to bear.
Verses 1:16-17, He calls them to change."Wash yourselves, become clean, cease to do evil"
"Learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, take up the cause of the orphan and the widow"
What is interesting about these verses is that they defy the thinking of today's society. When so many sins are called diseases or addictions, and people are convinced that they are unable to change because these problems are not their fault, the Lord says no. "Cease to do evil" If it were not possible to put away sin, the Lord would not command us to do it.
He not only tells us to put away our sin but He commands us to look to help the unfortunate and the helpless. ***This formula for repentance and service to others is not worked out in very many lives**
Now the tone changes in the words of the Lord. In verse 1:18, He invites His children to reconnect with Him. Things were bad but not hopeless. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow"
Taking another side note here***
I always wondered why the word 'scarlet' was used like a noun in many places in the bible. While looking into this I found that 'scarlet' was actually a substance that they used to die the fabric for the temple and the temple garments (Exodus starting in chapter 25). It was also what the threads were dipped in that were tied to the birds in Leviticus starting in chapter 14. It was also the substance that was thrown into the fire when the ashes of the red heifer were being created. In all of the scripture translations of Numbers 19:6, the word
' material' is added after the word 'scarlet'. It is always in italics. Obviously it is added because the word scarlet is used like a noun. Actually, in their world, scarlet was a noun.
It was produced by a worm called Coccus illicus. It crawls up a tree, attaches itself permanently, to the tree, wraps itself in a bundle and lays it's egg underneath of it's body. As it's body breaks down, it oozes it's body fluids of bright red scarlet, this body fluid feeds and protects it's eggs while permanently dyeing the tree. It is this 'scarlet' that was used, by God's command, to dye all of the sacred cloth and garments of the temple. As the body of the worm is eaten by the larvae , the color leaves the insect's shell and it becomes white as snow, it blows in the wind and resembles snow on the trees.
Now back to our verse. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow" I think that there is something more here. Also, Jesus calls Himself a worm in Psalm 22:6. I don't know if He is actually talking about the same kind of worm. I will look that up. But, I encourage you to do some more research into this if this is interesting to you. You can go to BlueLetterbible.com and type in the word scarlet and see all of the amazing references to this substance.
Starting in verse 1:21, the Lord applies the same disappointments to the city of Jerusalem as a whole, as he applied to the individuals earlier in the chapter. Once a faithful city, Jerusalem is now full of thieves, ungodly rebels and sinners. He makes the same reference to the unrepentant sinners caring for the helpless widows and orphans as He did in 1:17. The people did not care about the things that are close to God's heart.
In 1:24-26 He promises to take charge of cleaning up Jerusalem at their expense. It would not be pleasant. The literal of verse 1:25 is "I will bring my hand back upon you", and the rest of that verse " I will smelt away your dross with lye"
The process of using lye to extract gold or fine metals, is used when the gold is very fine and very mixed with dirt, sand, and other metals and minerals. It is also used in circumstances when the gold is suspected of being there but not actually detectable when looked at. It is a very lengthy, exhaustive process to separate the gold from its pollution.
These are the steps that the Lord has taken, and is taking, to get Jerusalem to the day when verses 1:26-28 will be fulfilled. He speaks briefly here of the millennium. Read Isaiah 66:10-24, these scriptures elaborate on the verses in chapter 1.
In verse 1:29, through the end of the chapter, He addresses the most prevalent sins of man. In verse 29 He says "Surely, you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired, and you will be embarrassed at the gardens you have chosen". There were many lush gardens and high places that were used to "worship" other gods with sexual sin. These activities were given the stamp of approval by their kings and rulers. Some of these practices were even brought into the temple. Read chapter Ezekiel chapter 8.
He was telling them that the day would come when they would be embarrassed by their sin.
He then addresses the sin of pride in oneself and self sufficient strength. The Lord regards these things like tinder, wood that is easily burned up. The self indulgent sinner and the prideful arrogant man will both be burned up like tinder with no one to quench the fire.
This is the end of the chapter. I don't have a way yet to remember Isaiah 1.
I'm still praying for the answer. This study is going to be intense, keep reading your chapters. Pray for remembrance.
I will be praying for all of you!