"The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah." NIV translation
The book opens by telling us about the author and, by listing the kings, it gives us the time in which it happened. It is estimated that the book was written from about 740 to 681 B.C.
"Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: 'I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.'" NIV translation
Now, the prophet begins to share the very words of God. You can almost feel the sadness in this passage as God laments at how his people have abandoned him. He compares them to various animals who by contrast always know their master and their home. These very words seem as fitting today in our society and even in our "churches" as they were when they were written.
Isaiah 1:5 & 6
"'Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness- only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.'" NIV translation
Isaiah continues to share the words of God and God asks his people some questions. You can almost feel the compassion as God describes the personal effects of their abandoning Him and asks why they continue in that way. The same compassion should be a part of us as Christians as we see the suffering of those around us.
"'Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a city under siege. Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have been like Gomorrah.'" NIV translation
Now, God's words describe the effects on the nation that are the result of their abandonment. God still gives them some encouragement as he reminds them that He left them some survivors (unlike the city of Gomorrah). This is referring to the destruction of the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah as described in Genesis 19 where they were totally destroyed.
This same comparison can be used for many nations today as we have turned away from being led by God to our own ways. Sodom & Gomorrah had become a haven for all sorts of detestable sexual sins before their destruction. The parallel with our society today is scary and one can only wonder how long God will delay His judgment.
"Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!" NIV translation
Now that the people have been told about the effects of their idolatry, God gives another plea to them to listen. He is not simply calling on them to listen to the words but to repent and put the words into action. The same plea is going out to us and to the local bodies of believers today.
"'The multitude of your sacrifices- what are they to me?' says the Lord. ' 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.'" NIV translation
od is not a god of meaningless religious activity. The people were going through the motions of religious activities but their hearts were not right. God tells them that he doesn't need their sacrifices to sustain him. The same can be true of us today in that God does not want us to just have a routine and go through the motions. He wants us to have the close personal relationship that Jesus has with the Father. We may not bring animal sacrifices as the people of this day did but many times we can see our attendance at worship or other activities as our sacrifice to God. He doesn't want that from us anymore than He wanted their animal sacrifices in an unworthy manner.
"'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.'" NIV translation
God continues to tell his people that all of their religious activities meant nothing to him and in fact they have become a burden. You can almost feel the way the people grudgingly went about their religious duties instead of truly worshiping God. The same can be said of many of us today only we now call them "ministries". Many are doing so through their own power and without the anointing of God much like the "trampling of my courts" that God speaks of in this passage.
"'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. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean.'" NIV translation
od even tells his people in this verse to stop praying and to "make yourselves clean". This is not talking about the ceremonial washing of the hands but points to the coming Messiah. This can be a reminder to us as well that there are requirements for prayer and that it is a privilege for God's children.
Isaiah 1:16 & 17
"'Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.'" NIV translation
God is showing the people that true worship of Him is not about rituals. Here, the people are encouraged to put their faith in action by serving instead of just showing up at the temple and going through the motions. The same message is true for the church today as many are showing up on Sunday but that is the extent of their "worship". It didn't please God then and it doesn't please Him now!
"'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.'" NIV translation
This verse is probably the most quoted of all of the book of Isaiah. This verse tells of the promise of our sins being forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 1:19 & 20
"'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." NIV translation
These verses, although they are from the same passage as verse 18, are not quoted as often or well known. Simply put, these two verses help us to understand that, after our sins are forgiven, we are called to obey. If we obey, we will be blessed. If we do not obey, the sword of Jesus' mouth will devour us. (He will deny us on judgment day.)
"'See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her- but now murderers!'" NIV translation
The "faithful city" refers to Jerusalem and the fact that God has set aside the city to be holy. This verse is a lament of the fact that the holy city was inhabited by all sorts of false gods and religions. The same is true of Jerusalem today as it contains the Dome Of The Rock (Muslim holy site), the Wailing Wall (Jewish holy site), and various other "religious sites". The same analogy is true of local bodies of believers (churches) of today as they have turned their back on the very word of God and allowed all sorts of false teachings to sway people from the truth.
Isaiah 1:22 & 23
"'Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.'" NIV translation
This passage describes the corruption of the city and its people as they have turned away from God. The city was chosen by God to be a beacon of light but they now seek to serve themselves instead of those that are less fortunate. This passage also describes our world today as it is normal and expected that everyone is out to get as much as they can for themselves. This is in direct contradiction to the word of God but it is a great opportunity for us, as Christians, to stand out and be the shining light that Jesus called us to be.
Isaiah 1:24 & 25
"Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: 'Ah, I will get relief from my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.'" NIV translation
This passage consists of a warning as well as a promise. God wants us to be made pure as that is the only way that we can have fellowship with Him. This passage says that God will get "relief" by purging the impurities. We, as Christians, need to stop and think about how our sins grieve God. If we are willing, God will remove the sin. If we hold onto the sinful practices, we will be removed along with the dross.
Isaiah 1:26 & 27
"'I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City. Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.'" NIV translation
This passage tells of the promise for God's people in that, after they repent and turn back to God, He will restore their relationship. The same promise is true for us today and we can have that right relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
"'But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish. You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen. You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.'" NIV translation
At this time, Babylon was controlled by the Assyrians and was planning a revolt against them. The ruler of Babylon wanted Judah to join him in that revolt with the promise of freedom. This passage is a warning to Judah about the consequences of trusting in a man instead of trusting in God.
This same warning applies to us today as many Christians put their hope and trust in politicians to provide for them or to protect them. Our hope and trust (just like that of Judah in Isaiah's days) must be in God alone or these same consequences will apply to us.