By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Isaiah 1.1-31
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Book of Isaiah in conjunction with this article.
Diseased and Broken
In many ways our nation is hurting. We have crime untold from petty theft to grand larceny from assault and battery to murder; worse yet these behaviors seem to be bragged on and promoted, just examine some of our video games and new reports. Our nation is filled with disease and sickness, and cancer seems to have touched at least one of our own loved ones. Churches exhort and demand that the nation repent, but perhaps the root of our problem is closer than we want to believe.
Some Ancient Historical Perspective
When Isaiah is telling his visions to Judah, the nation has been split from its united kingdom for more than 200 years.1 Depending on the dates, either Judah (the southern two tribes) had recently witnessed or was witnessing Israel (the northern ten tribes) being invaded and taken captive by the Assyrians.2 The southern clans themselves are in disarray and are suffering from poor spiritual choices. Comprehensively speaking, these are some dark days for Israel and Judah – some of the worst.
But even in darkness there is a ray of hope. Isaiah gives his vision in the first chapter and tells of a wretched situation. Judah had rebelled against Jehovah.3 Individually and collectively, they were weighed down with sin and iniquity; had turned their backs to God4 and were persistent in rebellion.5 The people are described as ravaged with illness and disease6 and living in a ravaged land.7 While Jehovah proclaims his weariness and disgust at their worship8 and states his rejection of their prayers,9 he still offers hope to his people.10
While Isaiah’s vision continues with an unsavory description of the people, we will end our review here. It is important to reveal that no matter how bleak and dismal the situation, Jehovah offers hope. But the hope is on his terms, because he is the one who brings the blessings of a covenant relationship.
Some Modern Historical Perspective
Our nation is one that has been richly blessed during its short existence. While historians, philosophers and theologians continue their debate about the forces of God and the forces of humanity in national history, we must accept one important truth: America, while blessed by Jehovah, was not a nation called to be his specific people. Please allow me to further explain what this statement means.
While the United States has a rich Bible history (upon which the very foundation of our country is based, and the country’s Judean/Christian values shape and influence our very way of life), the nation was not developed by God for any biblically stated (mandated) special purpose. The Ancient nation of Israel fulfilled Jehovah’s spiritual purpose. The United States does not fulfill this role any more so that Egypt, Greece, or Rome. It is true that Jehovah is the God of all nations, not just Israel and not just the United States, but the entirety of the world – throughout time.
While the previous declaration of difficult truth may be hard to swallow, this is what it means to us. We, as modern-day twenty-first century American believers, cannot preach to the “American public” to repent as Isaiah visioned to the “Judean public”. The modern-day application of Isaiah’s vision does not directly apply to the American public, but to the church.
Yes, there is biblical evil occurring within the borders of the United States, but the repentance that is truly needed is for the church in America to repent. Just like Isaiah visioned, there is a faithful vestige11 and the church, like Judah of old, needs to be grateful for that remnant. But if we, the believers, want national change, we must ourselves change. We need to repent.
Are we, as individual Christians and collective churches, certain that our worship is acceptable? Are we certain that our prayers are being heard and answered?
Just this week, I have conversed with several who have spoken about the (I will use some softer language) inability – instead of perhaps, unwillingness – of churches to assist the needy. Let this not be spoken of us. As Isaiah visioned, let us, “stop doing evil, learn to do good, seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend the orphans and plead for the widow”.12 One of the church’s tasks is to do good to all, as we have opportunity,13 not just to preach. Perhaps it is time that the church learns a lesson from the Macedonians.14 Since those brethren could give freely out of their extreme poverty (because our Heavenly father gave them that ability), why then do we fret about finances, even in a slow market?
The LORD is faithful. If we do his will then he will give us blessings. May he bless us as we, where needed, repent and seek to do his will.
1. “National Split.” Years are approximate. Source dates from: Timeline, Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 1051, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
2. “Assyrian Invasion.” ibid.
3. “Judah Rebelled.” Isaiah 1.2b; NASB.
4. “Judah’s sin.” Isaiah 1.4; NASB.
5. “Persistent Rebellion.” Isaiah 1.5a; NASB.
6. “Ravaged with Illness.” Isaiah 1.5b-6; NASB.
7. “Ravaged Land.” Isaiah 1.7; NASB.
8. “Jehovah’s Weariness of His People’s Worship.” Isaiah 1.11-14; NASB.
9. “Jehovah Rejects His People’s Prayers.” Isaiah 1.15; NASB.
10. “Israel’s Hope.” Isaiah 1.16-20; NASB.
11. “Faithful Vestige.” Isaiah 1.9; NASB.
12. “Learn to Do Good.” Isaiah 1.16b-17, Quote: CJB; Link: NASB.
13. “Do Good to All.” Galatians 6.10; NASB.
14. “A Lesson from the Macedonians.” II Corinthians 8.1-4; NASB.