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Salvation in Isaiah Chapter 1

The prophet Isaiah has been called one of the GOSPEL PROPHETS. He is called that because there is so much of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel in his writings, which are really the words that the sovereign Lord God gave to him to speak to his people. He has also been called The Prince of the 16 prophets of the Old Testament.

There are 66 chapters in this prophecy and his ministry spanned the reign of 4 Kings of Judah – Uzziah, in whose reign Isaiah was born; Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.

Isaiah’s name means JEHOVAH IS SALVATION and Isaiah the prophet certainly lived up to his name.

He was a preacher of righteousness, preaching to an apostate Judah who were a nation obsessed with their rebellion and Idolatry, despite the wealth of warning that they had received from God’s other messengers – the prophets.

We have to wait until we get to his 6th Chapter before we find recorded Isaiah’s personal call by the Lord God to his ministry as a preaching prophet.

But that did not prevent Isaiah from launching straight in with a message in the first chapter, which we read earlier.

So much for Isaiah the PROPHET.

As we look together at some of the words of this first chapter we will notice three things –

1. The Problem – Judah’s sins.

2. The Prescription – the call to Repent.

3. The Promise – God will forgive.

Let us start with the first P

1. The Problem – Judah’s sins.

We are ushered into a courtroom. Have you ever attended a court scene? Perhaps some have been on jury service; or others have been called as witnesses to a trial. Most of us will know what a court is like.

Isaiah stands to speak in court. In the Judgement seat is God Himself the sovereign ruler who also has initiated the prosecution – it is the crown against Judah. The Counsel for the prosecution is Isaiah who stands to address the court with evidence – Judah and Jerusalem, from their king down to the poorest inhabitant – are all on trial.

Isaiah is also the chief witness and he begins to give his testimony. In the public gallery are all of heaven and earth, called to hear the indictment and the proof of the case. Verse 2.

What is the charge? What have the nation done?

The charge is treason and rebellion! God’s people had been loved deeply by the Lord God. They were a nation who had received great favour and benefit directly from the hand of God and they in return should have done better. Verse 3 accuses them of being insensible to all this love – even an animal knows a little of what is good for it. But God’s people are ungrateful and in their backsliding they have grossly offended the Lord.

Isaiah goes on to describe the sorry state of the nation of Israel. Judah is like a man assaulted from head to foot, left to die without any medical attention – v 5 –6.

Then in verse 7 – 8 he mourns how the mighty nation has been reduced to a slum – Jerusalem is like a lonely shed in a tumbledown vineyard, an abandoned croft in a field of melons.

But, verse 9; it is only by God’s grace that a remnant of people has survived the calamities of God’s punishments – the punishments of multiple invasions from their enemies. If God had not been gracious then Judah and its capital city would have been the ancient equivalent of Hiroshima – and we know what that was – Sodom and Gomorrah and the other three towns that were destroyed by fire and brimstone.

What does this scenario mean to us tonight?

Surely it is that the world of unbelievers are in the same sorry state – and this country is no exception. We have known a golden age of Empire, an empire on which the sun never set – so great and influential was the Mighty British Empire. The recipient of much blessing through many revivals Britain took the Gospel message to many nations around the world and it is interesting to see how far reaching a godly influence to heathen nations extended. British people had a reputation for fairness as well as prosperity – but most of that is now gone. We have descended into a sinful nation, a secular nation. God blessed us in so many ways – and we have squandered all that blessing by turning our backs on God – just as Judah did.

So Isaiah’s message is relevant today in the 21st century.

We are in the dock – both the remnant and the majority of the British people – we are brought to the Judgement seat of the Lord Jesus Christ to be charged with treason. We who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are resting beneath the protective shadow of the cross should not stand in judgement. We have also been ungrateful children to the Lord God. And God’s Son the Lord Jesus says to all of us – saints and sinners –

3 I tell you, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

So what can be done?

Some would say we need to return to religion, to the religion of our fathers and grandfathers. We need a moral reformation in which people return to church and become more godly obeying His laws.

Would that solve the problem? Would God be appeased with that?

Notice what Isaiah next says in verse 10 –15.

10 Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

The people of Judah tried that – they tried to become religious. Israel was redeemed from Egypt to become a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19 v 6.) A full code of worship and ceremonies, sacrifices and feasts were ordered by the Lord in Sinai – Moses was given the instructions which he was to pass on to the people – it is all recorded for us in Exodus and Leviticus. Priests were appointed from the tribe of Levi to administer these holy rites with the purpose of instructing the people about a PROPER approach to God, and ultimately to point them to the Lord Jesus Christ who would come to fulfil all the types and shadows of the ceremonial laws.

But external worship can never substitute for INTERNAL HEART worship. When worship is only on the outside it becomes an abomination to God. Correct observances of an outward form of ceremonies, meticulous observing of the rites and sacrifices were USELESS without true heart religion – they became vain oblations v 13.

The priests’ prayers therefore go unanswered. The people attend worship with heavy hearts. Then they return home with more burdens than they brought.

This is a picture of much religiosity today. People go to church Sunday after Sunday, give their money and sometimes their time to charity work, but since they are unconverted they go home unforgiven and unblessed. This has been the pattern over the past 50 years – and it is one reason why churches are empty and emptying – what is the point? There is no forgiveness because the priests themselves do not know what it is to be forgiven. And anyone can give to charity – you don’t have to go to church to do that. So people give up going and the nation continues to decay.

This then was Judah’s problem and it is ours too.

2. The Prescription – the call to Repent.

Isaiah has put his case. But he now changes from prosecutor to preacher – verse 16 - and tells the people that Repentance is the only answer. Ceremonial purifications are not enough. And we can notice that by the time the Lord Jesus Christ came amongst His people, the Jews, a great many more rituals had been added – such as the washing of hands before going to market (Mark 7 v 4). External washings of all sorts seem to have been the fashion. What was needed was SOUL washing – with tears of repentance and heart washing by God the Holy Spirit. Isaiah speaks of a complete change within – that is the way to acceptance with God.

16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

Be washed – inside – have a clean heart by renouncing and putting away the evil habits and sinful lifestyle. Repentance is not merely a cessation of bad habits but a rejection of the evil that motivates those bad habits. It is change of mind, heart and will. Notice how Isaiah puts it – he does not invite the nation to repent – he commands them to do so – because it is God Himself who commands them –

1. BE WASHED! You need spiritual cleansing not ceremonial washings, which do nothing for the soul.

2. PUT AWAY EVIL BEHAVIOUR THAT I CAN SEE. Takes steps to abolish sham and false worship and all the attendant hypocrisy that accompany such practices.

3. CEASE TO DO EVIL. Put away the moral evil that flows from religious hypocrisy – they treated each other in a most sinful way – and God was offended – it had to stop! All three elements of the command of verse 16 were essential for the nation of Judah – and it applies to people today as well. God calls men and women and boys and girls today to repent – God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.

What do you know of true repentance my friend?

Are you good on the outside because you are here in church – but it is a different kettle of fish at home? There you are dreadful. There you are unkind – there you lose your temper – there you are grumpy – there you are selfish – but here at church you appear to be ceremonially clean – just like the Jews, You can do your duty - come to the meetings – help in the work – but elsewhere, at work, at home, at school, with others you are different. Repentance applies to EVERY part of our lives and God sees everything about us. He even sees what our hearts are like – and he commands repentance in the heart. BE CLEAN! PUT AWAY WICKEDNESS! CEASE TO SIN AND DOING EVIL! My friend can you hear God’s word tonight? This is not merely a message for the Jews in Jerusalem two and a half thousand years ago – it is for YOU – NOW. Are you listening – will you repent? This was the prescription from Isaiah – this is the prescription for us.

3. The Promise – God will forgive.

Only when he has called the people to repent can Isaiah announce God’s gracious Promise.

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

This of course is one of the famous Bible verses that many will have memorised. Here God the judge, (and we are back in the courtroom,) argues His case with every accused person, with the prisoners in the dock, with sinners both Jew and Gentile, who are His creatures – fallen though they are. God has stated the charge and now He announces the grounds on which He will pardon the guilty. The prosecution has made the case and Judah stands guilty as charged.

Your sins are as scarlet, they are red like crimson. You are guilty! And you deserve the death penalty.

This is what verse 18 clearly says.

But look at the tenderness of the way that the Lord puts it. Now that your guilt is established and you are a condemned sinner – Come now, let us reason together. God has to say this because the scene before us is a cowering, convicted and terrified prisoner who sees no hope in his state. The wrath of Almighty God is upon him and he is doomed. He tries to get as far away from the just holy and righteously indignant Lord God – because he fears!

And God reaches out to the condemned one and tenderly says, “Come – let us talk about this.” The Lord encourages the guilty prisoner to approach him, to come close to him. He sits at the bar of justice – and if the prisoner is to receive justice then he has every right to fear.

But this is different – God is inviting the guilty prisoner to come to the bar of mercy. The Almighty Judge explains that he has a way of showing mercy, of making the sinners scarlet sins appear like snow, all clean and white. He can change the redness of his sins into the white purity of wool.

How can the judge do it?

By providing a substitute. And He offers a clean slate to the prisoner through the work of His substitute – who is none other than His own son the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a promise of pardon for the guilty – for all who believe that Jesus Christ is God’s own son, and that he died on a cross 2000 years ago to pay the penalty for His people’s sins, can receive that pardon when they repent and turn from the very sins that make their souls crimson and red.

There is a path of pardon In His blood; There is a sure salvation In His blood. The law’s full consummation, A Father’s approbation – Hear Zion’s acclamation! In His blood – Atonement and redemption In His blood! O come, ye sons of Adam, And rejoice! Now trust the God of Abraham And rejoice! O hasten, happy sinner, To life in Christ for ever, To bonds that nought can sever: O rejoice! In full and glad surrender Come, rejoice! William Williams, 1801-1876

Why my friend, are you still an unconverted sinner? Why have you not yet received the pardon so clearly offered to sinners through the Lord Jesus Christ?

Is it that you do not believe that God could ever pardon a sinner like you?

Is it that you do not want to change your life and have your heart changed and to be converted?

Is there too much for you to lose, with your friends?

Or is it that you are not prepared to repent of your sins, as God commands you? You are quite happy to remain disobedient to God’s command!

You must know that God’s gracious invitation to you to come to His bar of mercy will not stand for ever. It is now that He makes His promise

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

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