Week 2, Day 1
READ: Isaiah 1-2
BACKGROUND: Isaiah was a prophet in the Southern Kingdom of Judah (after the death of Solomon, the nation split into 2 kingdoms – Israel in the North and Judah in the South – and the Bible follows both kingdoms) who lived in approximately 740-680 B.C. During Isaiah’s lifetime Judah, which had been more faithful to God than Israel, was following in Israel’s idolatrous footsteps. Isaiah wrote to warn the people of Judah that unless they turned back to God and followed him with all their hearts – instead of just going through the motions while treating others poorly and oppressing the poor and worshipping idols at the same time – then they would be punished in exile. Israel had already been conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C. and it’s people had been carried off to a foreign land. Also, one of the major themes of Isaiah is the redemptive work of the coming Messiah – Jesus – and there is more prophecy about the work of Christ in Isaiah than in any other Old Testament book. One more bit of trivia: tradition says that Isaiah was martyred during the reign of Manasseh by being placed inside a hollow log and sawed in half. Though not found in the book of Isaiah, this is referenced in Hebrews 11:37.
Thoughts on this passage (by verse):
1:5-6 – This is describing someone who has been punished by the whip, not someone who is ill.
7 – In Isaiah’s lifetime, Judah was attacked by Israel, Aram, Edom, Philistia, & Assyria.
17 – Isaiah was considered a social reformer and he constantly worked – with the Kings – for the cause of social justice because he felt that it was critically interwoven with faith and obedience to God.
18 – Scarlet/crimson, interestingly, was a colorfast dye in Isaiah’s world. Other colors might fade or wash away on their own, but it wasn’t possible to make something died red go back to white again.
29 – Oaks & gardens refers to practices of pagan idol worship
2:4 – Incredible visual imagery in this oft-cited verse. Inspired a famous sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich.
12 – The day of God’s judgment is a theme that occurs countless times in the prophetic books of the Bible.
19 – Revelation 6:15 contains a further description
Think: The “Senior Slide” is a pretty common phenomenon. Seniors, in the last half-year of their high school and/or college careers begin to lose interest and motivation in their schoolwork as they look ahead to the next phase of life. I certainly speak from experience – in both high school and college. But I can still very specifically remember a conversation I had during my last quarter of high school with my American Government teacher. I had begun showing up less frequently to her class, and I wasn’t exactly giving it my best effort. This didn’t seem like a big deal to me, though, because I had a comfortable “A” in the class. I mean, my precious GPA wasn’t in jeopardy so I didn’t think anybody should care. But my teacher cared. And she pulled me aside one day after class and said, “Mike, you know if you actually showed up every day and tried, or even if you showed up to the test review days right before the test, you’d be acing this class.” Confused, I responded, “I have like a 95% in this class.” And then she looked at me – and this is why I’ll never forget the conversation – and she said, “So what! You should have 100%. It’s a joke that you’re willing to settle for less. You’ll get your “A” but if that’s all that matters to you in life then you’re going to be a waste of potential.”
I think, when it comes to following God and being the people he calls us to be, we settle for 95% – or worse – all the time. We go through the motions enough to make sure that our salvation isn’t on the line, but we put in something far less than our best effort. And we justify it to ourselves by comparing ourselves to others who we don’t think are as good as us. “Well, at least I’m better than _________!” And we let ourselves off the hook because we do some good things. “Well, I know I should do more and stuff, but, like, I haven’t cussed in a week and I smiled at that one weird kid – I mean I didn’t talk to him…he’s weird – but I like gave him a smile and most people don’t do that.” And we show up at church and check off the box on the list of good things we did. But we don’t live the way we know God is calling us to live. We do just enough to get by.
All of us do this sometimes. The nation of Judah did. They settled for less and just went through the motions of their faith and in Isaiah 1:10-15 God says he hates that and he’s sick of it! If you’re in that boat right now, I want to encourage you with some wise words that were once shared with me. If you settle for anything less than 100% commitment to God then you’re wasting your potential. And you’re missing out on his best for you. God’s design for our lives is set up so that we can live fully and abundantly. And he doesn’t want you to waste your life; he wants you to live a life of meaning and significance and he wants to use you to change your world. Don’t settle for anything less!
ASK: Are there areas in my life right now where I am settling for less than God’s plan for me? What would it look like for me to be sold out for Christ in my school/neighborhood/workplace?