Isaiah 1:1-20

A
driver who ignores the highway sign “No U-Turn Allowed” risks receiving
a traffic citation. In our relationship with God a u-turn is absolutely required.
Rebellion against God, manifest in immorality and idolatry, was rampant in Isaiah’s
time. The “vision” of Isaiah reveals the character of God, His will
for us, and the action we must take for a vital relationship with Him. This
prophetic word has been likened to a “miniature Bible.” The Prophet
sounds forth the judgment of God in the first thirty-nine chapters. The final
twenty-seven chapters ring with hope. Facing judgment, the Word declares: U-Turn
Required.

Turn
from Rebellion to the Father (v. 1-9)

Before
Isaiah speaks of judgment there is a revelation of God as Father (v. 2). The
Father grieves over the rebellion of His children. Desiring our own way we often
forget those who “nourished and brought” us up. Even animals recognize
their dependence on the hand that feeds them (v. 3). Our quarter horse, grazing
on the other side of the pasture, recognizes our vehicle and knows my wife is
coming with the oats. “But Israel does not know, my people do not consider.”

Some
people think the Old Testament reveals only a God of judgment and wrath. It
was in the wilderness that Israel discovered “the Lord your God carried
you, as a man carries his son” (Deut. 1:31). The word from Hosea remains
true for us, “When Israel was a child, I loved him” (11:1).

Serious
consequences come from rebellion (v. 4-9). A broken relationship with God affects
the individual, the family, and the nations. Jesus provided the vivid story
of the rebellious son (Luke 15) who left his father and ended up dining with
pigs. The decision remains – rebellion or relationship. The Father loves us
even in our egotistical rebellion and will receive all who turn to Him.

Turn
from Religion to Holiness (v. 10-17)

Can
personal rebellion be overcome with religious ritual? Isaiah witnessed an abundance
of religion and ritual. Sacrifices, incense, Sabbaths, assemblies, and appointed
feasts had become “futile” and an “abomination” before God.
“Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear” (v. 15). False
religion so easily replaces righteousness; holy services quickly substitute
for holy living.

A
relationship with the Father results in holiness. “As He who called you
is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1: 15). God did
not hear the prayers of Isaiah’s hearers because “your hands are full of
blood” (v. 15). The Psalmist said the one who stands in the holy presence
of God must have “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4).

Holiness
is the practical implementation of God’s character in all our life. Holiness
does good, seeks justice, rebukes the oppressor, defends the fatherless, and
pleads for the widow (v.17), a refrain in Isaiah’s prophecy (3:14, 10:2, 56:1).
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit
orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the
world” (James 1:27).

U-Turn
Required (v. 18-20)

From
selfish rebellion and empty religion we are called to make the u-turn of repentance.
A holy, loving God invites us, “Come, let us reason together.” Turning
from destructive sinfulness makes sense; repentance is a reasonable response.
It is foolishness to continue in rebellion.

Repentance
means we must leave our sin, put it away and “cease to do evil” (v.
16). The u-turn of repentance results in an individual going in a new direction.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Preaching in Guam, I
heard a military wife sing a song titled, “I Don’t Go There Any More.”
She testified about the positive changes Christ brought to her life.

A
holy, loving Father promises to change us. Once covered with scarlet we can
become “white as snow.” Good rather than evil awaits everyone who
is “willing and obedient.”

_______________________

Sermon
brief provided by: Bill D. Whittaker, President, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Pineville,
KY

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