Begin at the beginning – the First Act.

The reign of Uzziah and Jotham 750-735BC

Isaiah 1:1-2:22

God’s Agenda and our Vision

This passage (and indeed the whole first act to Chapter 6) serves as a prologue to the whole book. Many themes are introduced – some not to reappear until the end. Hosea and Amos are active in prophecy in the Northern Kingdom (Israel – Samaria). For much of this time it is subdivided with part in vassalage to Assyria and part semi-independent in alliance with Aram (Syria).[1]  In Judah, where Isaiah is prophesying, the long reign of Uzziah[2] and the co-regency with Jotham bring stability as does their willingness to pay tribute to Assyria.

The whole is a Drama with several players – a narrator or herald, the people of Jerusalem, the Heavens and earth, and THE LORD[3] himself. The whole book is a conversation, between them.

What is remarkable is the character of the conversation, the new themes that appear and the freshness of the dialogue.

The Character of the conversation is of a courtroom. The Lord is the Prosecutor, Judah and Jerusalem the defendants, Heaven and Earth the witnesses both of the original covenant between God and his people and of the behavior which gives rise to the present accusations.

The New Themes include

  • ‘The idea of a ‘remnant’ (1:8) which will become a recurring theme through the book
  • God’s distaste for worship that has no meaning (1:11-15)
  • God’s desire for purity (1:16) and for justice espec for the widow and the orphan and the oppressed. (1:17)[4]
  • God’s willingness to talk and converse with his people (1:18)
  • God’s salvation for sin (1:18-19)
  • God will judge and refine through captivity (1:24-27)
  • God’s hatred of the Canaanite nature religions (1:29-31)
  • The Day of Yahweh will humble Israel’s pride (2:6-22)

And in the midst is the hope – the vision of God’s mountain – his holy hill (2:1-5)

How relevant are all these themes

  1. Great worship be it choral or modern praise is repugnant to God if it does not come from the heart and show in our lives
  2. God abhors ‘new age’ religion and the disguising of the occult in fancy dress.
  3. God will use history to refine his people and bring judgment on the nations including his own.
  4. God desires purity and justice. Disregard the poor at your peril.
  5. There will be a Day of the Lord which is to be feared
  6. The Lord is the one who saves from sin
  7. The Lord loves to enter into conversation and relationship with his people
  8. But above all his people need to share and hold and walk toward the vision of God’s people

Plenty to grasp hold of here.

[1] The (northern) Kingdom of Israel was conquered and wiped out by the Assyrians in 721BC – it never reappears and is the origin of the many legends of the ten lost tribes of Israel. From then on there is only Judaea – the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

[2] Kings calls him Azariah.

[3] Yahweh or YHWH – from here on The Lord signifies this name in the text.

[4] Read Amos Isaiah’s contemporary to see how God speaks in both Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) Kingdoms with one voice.