Today we embark on what will be a long journey through one of the big prophetic books in the Bible. At the outset I am going to quote from Eugene Peterson’s introductory notes in The Message:
”Isaiah is a large presence in the lives of people who live by faith in God, who submit themselves to being shaped by the Word of God and are on the lookout for the holy. The Holy. The characteristic name for God in Isaiah is ”The Holy.” As we read this large and comprehensive gathering of messages that were preached to the ancient people of Israel, we find ourselves immersed in both the presence and action of The Holy…Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it…”Symphony” is the term many find useful to capture the fusion of simplicity and complexity presented in the book of Isaiah. The major thrust is clearly God’s work of salvation: ”The Salvation Symphony” (the name Isaiah means ”God Saves”). The prominent themes repeated and developed throughout this vast symphonic work are judgment, comfort and hope. All three elements are present on nearly every page, but each also gives distinction to the three ”movements” of the book that so powerfully enact salvation: Messages of Judgment (chapters 1 – 39), Messages of Comfort (chapters 40 – 55), and Messages of Hope (chapters 56 – 66).”
You will see in these opening verses that Isaiah, whose name means ”Yahweh (the LORD) is salvation’ ‘prophesied for at least forty years, during the reigns of four kings of Judah (1). These kings ruled in Judah from 792 to 686 B.C.
In (2-4) the Lord calls on heaven and earth to hear His complaints against His own family: ”Heaven and earth, you’re the jury. Listen to GOD’s case: ”I had children and raised them well, and they turned on me. The ox knows who’s boss, the mule knows the hand that feeds him, But not Israel. My people don’t know up from down…My people have walked out on me, their GOD, turned their backs on the Holy of Israel, walked off and never looked back.” The Message. This was true of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, but Isaiah’s main focus was on Judah and its capital city Jerusalem (1).
Verses 5 – 9 show Judah almost destroyed. The description is thought to fit well with Judah’s situation during the invasion of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (2 Kings 8:13). At that time the city was under siege (2 Kings 18:17 – 37). Whether or not that is correct we cannot be certain, but we do see once again that if we do not turn from our sin and back to God we end up nowhere good.
How many parents are there who grieve over wayward children? They will especially be able to identify with God’s heart displayed in today’s reading. You love your sons and daughters so much, but they have rebelled against you and the standards you hold dear. They show no (or little) appreciation of you. You never hear from them. They are not in sympathy with you in terms of the things that matter to you most.
Prodigals should take note that the ‘pig sty’ awaits (5-9). There is trouble ahead for those who abandon Father and home. (But, even among the pig pens there is hope, as you will know if you are aware of the details of Jesus’ famous story.)
Prayer: Thank you Father God that you are waiting, watching for your ‘prodigals’ to return. Although we do not love like you, we stand with you today, looking down the road for any sign of a returning, much-loved figure. I pray especially for…. (you fill in the blank).