ISAIAH: CALLING PEOPLE HOME
ISAIAH (A Prophet from the Old Testament)
The Prophet Isaiah was saying that there has come a breakdown between God and His people.
Isaiah was calling “the people of God” home. Because Because God restores us and gives us new life in Christ
God’s truths to Israel can be applied to the Church and people…today
ISAIAH: CALLING PEOPLE HOME
“The Diagnosis of a Disease” – Part Two
“Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken: ‘I reared
children and brought them up, but
they have rebelled against me’.”
Isaiah, in his opening chapter, gives a diagnosis of a problem with the nation of Judah that is going
to reoccur with different symptoms at different times in different situations, but all derive from one
source. Though he sometimes refers to Israel, he is addressing the people of Judah, therefore the
people of God. Author and Bible teacher, Charles Price, discusses the diagnosis and remedy Isaiah
gives as God’s prophet, which applies to all of us today who form the church of Jesus Christ.
The diagnosis begins in verse 3 where God says through Isaiah, “The ox knows its master, the
donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” In verse 4, he
says, “They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their
backs on him.” Out of familiarity, an ox knows its master and a donkey his manger, but what has
happened is that the people of Judah have neglected God. They’re no longer familiar with Him, and
that has turned into a position of rejecting God – “they turned their backs on Him”. God seeks
active relationships, and whether it’s Israel or the church of Jesus Christ, we don’t just have a
relationship where we can say, “We are the people of God”. Every Israelite could say that, but there
needs to be fellowship and a sense of living out of a relationship with a God that is real and vital.
God did not simply select us and bring us into relationship with Him so He would have another
person He could use, but so that He could bring us to Himself. Jesus defined eternal life as “that
they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3). By that
He doesn’t mean that we may know our eternal destiny or that our sins are forgiven or knowing
Him intellectually, but knowing Him by experiential interaction and involvement with Him. Paul
says in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ.” That is an ever deepening experience of Him
which gives us a greater revelation of Him. It’s an ongoing development of our knowledge and
experiences of God.
The Christian life, however, is not defined by our experiences. They become history a day later. It
isn’t defined by feelings which are up one day, down the next, nor by our activities. The Christian
life is defined by a developing relationship with God. We can know all about Christianity, have a
relationship with our church and be very concerned about Christian doctrine. We can even be born
again of the Holy Spirit and not have that intimate, personal relationship with Christ. A good
question to ask ourselves is, “Is Jesus Christ our friend?”
For many in ministry, Jesus Christ has become a ‘business partner’ and the friendship is neglected.
God and Israel had a good business partnership, but the people had missed the whole point of God
bringing them to the Promised Land. In Exodus 19:4, God said to Moses, “You yourselves have
seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
That’s the ultimate purpose for which God brings us into relationship with Him; to bring us to
Himself that we may commune with Him and enjoy Him. He said to Israel, “Out of all the nations,
you are my treasured possession. You will be for me a Holy nation.”
It is the same with the church of Jesus Christ today. We are set apart for God, a Holy church, but we
cannot live that way unless Jesus Christ is our friend. It takes time, discipline and intentionally spending time with God. An intimate relationship will not grow out of a quick “Good morning and
good night, God” with a little routine rhetoric added. We need to converse with Jesus, confess and
confide in Him, just as we would a close friend. Rather than a side by side relationship where we go
through our daily activities with God on the periphery, God is wanting a face to face relationship
where we spend time alone with Him, and make Him our friend and confidante.
Interestingly, God speaks through Isaiah as a father. “I reared children and brought them up but they
have rebelled against me.” A father’s response to sin and rebellion in his child is grief, which is the
price we pay for love. If we don’t love, we don’t grieve. The nature of the sin of the people of Israel
that God grieves over is their broken relationship with Him. “They have forsaken Me.” This is a
reoccurring diagnosis throughout the book of Isaiah.
What are the symptoms and consequences of this? God says, “The multitude of your sacrifices –
what are they to me? I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened
animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear
before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless
offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear
your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have
become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I
will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen” (Isaiah 1:11-15).
This is an extremely discouraging passage because these are things God ordained, but have become
meaningless, because they were done merely out of obligation. The end result – the ritual replaced
the reality. The rituals were the acts, but were only meaningful as they point to the reality, which is
reconciliation and fellowship with God. Take away the reality and the ritual becomes a dead end. It
happened all the time with the people of Israel and it happens with us. In the New Testament, we
are given the symbols of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, and if we are not in a loving, committed
relationship with Christ, the all-important issue becomes, “Have I been baptized? Have I had
communion lately?” These are merely symbolic acts designed to bring us into a deeper fellowship
with Christ. Detached from that, they become an end in themselves, and God says it makes Him
weary. It makes Him sick.
What is the remedy? Isaiah 1:18-20 says, “Come now, let us reason together’, says the LORD.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if
you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword’. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
“Let us reason together” is an incredible picture of the grace of God. No bombardment, but reason
with Me. Reconnect with Me. Bring back that face to face relationship.
We outsource many things in our lives; lawyers to deal with our legal issues, accountants for
finances, doctors for medical issues and the church for our spiritual issues, but sadly, our spiritual
issues are often outsourced without dealing with God directly. God says, “Come to Me, and I will
tell you what I will do; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” That doesn’t
happen in a washing machine. It’s a miracle of God that can only happen in the context of a loving,
active relationship. All the promises God gives us in His word trip over that. They don’t come to
fruition unless we first come to Christ in confession. We are then forgiven, cleansed and God
imparts to us the fullness of Christ, which enables us to live with all the battles that still go on, all
the temptations we struggle with, but we live fruitfully. This was true for Israel and remains true for
us as believers. If our relationship with God has grown cold, we need to pray for a disciplined,
focused intention to revive that face to face relationship with Him and make Jesus our friend.
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