With the Northern Kingdom of Israel in terminal decline, God focused His attention on the Southern Kingdom of Judah, which held the temple in Jerusalem and was overseen by King David’s descendants, the kings in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Whereas God had sent the prophets Elijah and Elisha to warn the north about the consequences of their spiritual rebellion and idolatry, He sent another series of prophets to warn the south. During the reigns of King Uzziah and his son, Jotham, the Lord sent the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah to extend the olive branch of peace and reconciliation and give a clear prophetic warning of the consequences of persistent disobedience and rejection. Rather than working miraculous signs and wonders, these later prophets largely brought the word and message of God, His coming kingdom, and the Christ, who would one day rule over it.
Isaiah’s initial message to the people was similar to that of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Christ many centuries later.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:16-17 NKJV
Like the young man in the pig sty in the Parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15, we may one day come to our senses and realize that we are far away from God. Something bad may happen to wake us up, but we may then be unsure of what to do or how to get back onto the right track with God.
As long as we have breath, it is never too late to recognize that we are headed the wrong way and to make a turn to get back to God. Just as sin pulled us away from Him one step at a time, our journey back may start with the smallest step of willingness – a desire to ask for His help and to invite Him to be a part of our lives, whether it is for the first time or the hundredth. This is the initial step in our recovery and restoration.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18 NKJV
This was and still is a gracious offer by the Lord. No matter what we have done or failed to do to Him and others, He desires that we turn to Him for complete healing and forgiveness. He wants to fellowship alongside us and to shower us with His many blessings so that we in turn may be a blessing to those around us. That is the core of His design for our lives.
In Isaiah’s day, the cleansing of our souls from sin was done through burnt offering sacrifices, offered to God in our place. Yet Isaiah tells us that these were no longer working for God. He was fed up with all the sin and injustice in Judah. He did not want to see them going through a series of half-hearted rituals only to turn around and mistreat others the minute they walked out of the temple. He was weary of all the futile ceremony; it troubled and wearied His soul to see the lack of love in people’s hearts.
Isaiah would later prophecy that God Himself will provide the acceptable sacrifice in the form of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who would die on the cross and be resurrected from the dead three days later. Jesus would then place the Holy Spirit into believers’ hearts to generate a new heart, one filled with love and forgiveness and bearing the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). With these God is well pleased.
Lord, whether I feel near or far from You today, lead me and guide me to be closer to You. Grant complete forgiveness for all of my sins through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Help me to turn away from the thoughts, words and actions that grieve You, and fill me with the Holy Spirit to bear the fruits of a joyful and grace-filled life. Help me to be a blessing to those You have placed around me in my life. In Jesus name, Amen.