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Lesson 1: Crisis of Identity *

Introduction: Have you ever been in a courtroom while a trial was taking place? If you watch a criminal trial, you will see that the first thing the prosecutor does after the jury is selected is to explain the charges against the accused. The defense can then explain its side of the case or wait until after the prosecutor puts on the state's evidence. Isaiah starts out his book like he is a prosecutor laying out his case to a jury. Jurors, let's jump in and find out what this case is all about!

  1. What Master?

    1. Read Isaiah 1:1-3. What charge is God making against Judah and Jerusalem? (The people have rebelled against God.)

      1. God illustrates the rebellion by saying that an "ox knows its master." What does that suggest about the people of Judah? (They do not know who is in charge.)

      2. God also illustrates the rebellion by saying that the donkey "knows his owner's manger." What does that suggest about the people of Judah? (A manger is home. It is the place to eat and sleep. The people do not "live" with God. They are not "eating" by His hand or feeling at home with Him.)

        1. What is the significance of God using an ox and a donkey as a point of comparison with the people of Judah? (It is no compliment. God says the people are dumber than a donkey or an ox. They do not know or understand what an ox and donkey can understand.)

      3. Parents, God is talking about His children. Anyone find anything familiar here?

    2. Read Isaiah 1:4. What are the specific charges of wrongdoing leveled against the people of Judah?(They are corrupt. They do evil and practice sin. They have no regard for God.)

      1. God calls them "children." What does that suggest? (Immaturity. They were rebellious, immature and evil. A great combination!)

      2. What important idea do you find in the charge that the people have "turned their backs" on God? (They do not want to know what is right. They have an attitude that rejects God.)

  2. Diagnosing the Body

    1. Read Isaiah 1:5-6. God now sounds like a medical witness at the trial. The testimony is that the body is in bad condition. Is being in sin like being beaten?

      1. Have you emerged from a time when sin reigned in your life and you felt like you had just been in a boxing match with a champion on the other side? Do we get beat up by sin?

      2. What does verse 5 suggest is the correct answer? (What logical sense does it make to keep getting beaten up by sin? The answer is "No good reason.")

      3. What specific parts of the body are mentioned as being injured? (The head and the heart.)

        1. What significance do you see in the mention of these two body parts? (The head is the seat of thinking. The heart means the place of emotion. God says these people have diseased thinking and emotions.)

      4. The wounds and sores are untreated. What does that mean? (It seems nothing is being done about the sins of the people. No attempt is being made to turn from sin.)

      5. Does this description of a body in need remind you of any other text in the Bible? (Read Revelation 3:17. This is the verdict on Laodicea, the church of the last days! If we believe we are living in the last days, then we need to pay close attention to what Isaiah is saying to Judah.)

    2. Let's go back and revisit Isaiah 1:1-2. Why does God call on heaven and earth? (We just reviewed the charges. God is arguing his case before heaven and earth. You are not the only "juror," the universe is judging this case. This is a serious matter.)

      1. How does Isaiah know all of this? (Verse 1 tells us that Isaiah was shown a vision of this courtroom scene by God. It is interesting that God communicates with His prophets by pictures. Sometimes we tend to think pictures are unholy and writing is holy. God is a "visual" teacher.)

    3. We have the courtroom scene laid before us. Judah is the accused. God is the prosecutor. Heaven and earth (and you) are the jury. Do you think that Judah realizes that the charges against it are true?

  3. What Future?

    1. Read Isaiah 1:7-9. Think of what you know about farming. What do you think is a "shelter in a vineyard" and a "hut in a field of melons?" (Temporary shacks to take a break from the sun.)

      1. What does this suggest about Judah? (It is on the verge of collapsing.)

      2. What does verse 9 tell us is the reason Judah is about to collapse? (Because almost all the citizens have been killed. Just a few survivors are left.)

    1. Is Isaiah talking about the present or the future? (The time of Isaiah's prophecy is pinned in verse 1. It was during the reign of these kings. King Uzziah reigned from 790-739 B.C. Hezekiah reigned from 715-686 B.C. Judah was destroyed in 586 B.C. Relying on these dates, Isaiah was looking ahead by 100 years. Isaiah was saying, "This is your future. This is where you will be if you do not turn away from sin.")

  1. The Defense

    1. It is typical in a trial (or in dealing with your children) that the "accused" has some sort of defense. The same is true here. Let's continue by reading Isaiah 1:10-11. What defense do we find here?

      1. When someone is living out of harmony with God's will, what do we suggest as a cure? Start attending church, right?

        1. Is this an adequate defense?

      2. How do you explain God's complaint here? Aren't these people attending church? Giving offerings? Confessing sin?

    2. Read Isaiah 1:12-14. When God says the people are "trampling [His] courts" what does that suggest to you? (They are not being respectful in the temple.)

      1. When God refers to their "meaningless" offerings, what does that suggest? (They have not truly repented. They are making the animal sacrifices, but they are not serious about sin.)

      2. These people are keeping the Sabbath. What is wrong with that? (God calls the assemblies "evil." Something He has to bear. Seeing their worship is a burden to Him.)

      3. Is church attendance "meaningless" to you?

        1. What does our text suggest is the problem? (What we have read so far suggests the problem is not with the "worship service," but with the heart and head of the worshiper. Just attending church, just going through the steps, is not going to save you.)

    3. Read Isaiah 1:15. I thought Jesus always listened to our prayers. Is that not true?

  2. The Cure

    1. Read Isaiah 1:16-17. What is the root cause of God's unhappiness with the people? (They are doing evil. Instead of encouraging and defending the oppressed, they are killing them ("hands full of blood" (see v.15 last line).)

      1. We have a very interesting sequence of steps that God asks the people to take. They are:

        1. Wash (v.16);

        1. Stop doing wrong (v.16); and,

        2. Learn to do right (v.17).

Is that still the "cure" today?

      1. The "fatherless" and "the widow" are terms used to indicate these were poor people. What are we asked to do with regard to them?

        1. What does society ask us to do today? (I was in church watching a little movie about the work my daughter's school does for the homeless. The school takes food to the homeless and tapes the whole affair. What struck me was that the homeless were generally about 25-50 pounds overweight. If they had been missing meals, it was not obvious. The Bible seems to have a different focus for the poor than we have today. The goal for the poor is justice - not a meaningless life.)

    1. Read Isaiah 1:18-20. Are the demands that God makes upon us reasonable or arbitrary? What does verse 18 suggest to us? (God is not barking out commands. Our God says, "Let's talk about this like reasonable people." If God did not have a reasonable program He would not approach us like this.)

      1. Forgiveness is offered to the people of Judah. What does God ask in exchange? (He asks for us to be "willing and obedient" instead of being those who "resist" and "rebel.")

      2. All of this worries me a bit. I often find myself in the position of being a rebel. Tell me what, as a practical matter, we should avoid rebelling against?

        1. Does this include church leaders?

        2. Your pastor?

    2. Let's go back a few questions. Isn't church attendance an antidote to sinful living? (I think God's point is that if you are living an evil life, but regularly attending church, it is not what God wants. Coming into the presence of God each week helps to combat sin in our life. Except where we pay no attention and think that our weekly attendance shows that we are righteous. God says make your worship meaningful. Pay attention to your sacrifices. Repent of your sins (v.16 "wash"), and stop doing evil.)

    3. Friend, how about you? When you consider whether you live a righteous life, is your regular church attendance at the top of your "I'm living right" list? Have you considered how you live between Sabbaths? God calls on us to consider if we are like the accused in Judah. If we are, God says, "wash, stop doing wrong, learn to do right."

  1. Next Week: Crisis of Leadership
* Copr. 2021, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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