Israel is split in two (Israel and Judah). This immediately made me write down the question, WHY? Why is Israel split? So I researched a little bit. If we go back to 1 Kings 12: 1-24 it talks about Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Rehoboam became king and immediately the people of Israel went to him and said, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” (vs. 4). Then I questioned, what was the heavy yoke? So I researched that (yes, I love to learn, and yes I will research anything if it gives me a better understanding J ). In 1 Samuel 8:10-18, Samuel tries to warn the people of Israel “who were asking him for a king” (vs. 10) that “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (vs. 11-18). Samuel warned the people what a king would do for them, or should I say take from them. They didn’t listen. They got their king! And with that came a heavy yoke to bear. So when the people of Israel asked Rehoboam if he would lighten the yoke on them he consulted the elders of his father Solomon and his own friends. He rejected the advice of the elders and used the advice of his friends. Look!
“The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” (vs. 13-14). When Israel saw that King Rehoboam was not going to listen to them they responded by splitting. “But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them. King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.” (vs. 17-20).
Whoa! The Israelites got their king, suffered the consequences, and became very angry when King Rehoboam said he was going to make it worse. So what do the Israelites do? They split apart and get another king! What!?
All of this information is important background information for when we are studying Isaiah. We now have a better understanding of what Israel has gone through and why they are split in two.
In Isaiah chapter 1 verses 2-3, we see that Israel no longer recognizes God as God. “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (vs. 3, emphasis added) It’s pathetic that animals can recognize who is in charge, but God’s chosen people? Oh no! Not a clue. I have to wonder if this is partially because they had an earthly king and no longer saw God as the King of kings. If only the people of Israel hadn’t begged for a king. If only they had accepted that God was all they needed. Not an earthly king.
Let’s skip down a bit. In verse 13 it says, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.” God does not take pleasure in our outward expressions of praise, thanksgiving, sacrifice, offerings, etc. if our inward faith is missing. God is so uninterested He says, “STOP!” (vs. 13, emphasis added). This is so displeasing I would rather have nothing. God urges us to, “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (vs.17). The difficult part about this verse is it doesn’t say do your best, just try. It says specifics. Help the orphans by defending them. Be there for the widow by pleading on her behave. When is the last time we STOPPED going through the motions of worship and actually worshipped? I know for me I have no problem worshiping God…when I am alone. But in church, with eyes looking at me…that is harder to do. I need to stop bringing meaningless offerings of praise. I need to only give God my very best. When is the last time we not only helped an orphan by sponsoring them, but we DEFENDED them? That means we have to be taking an active part of their lives. We cannot simply have an auto-deposit set up for sending our funding to Africa to help an orphan. We have to be there for them in prayer, in financial support, and in defending them.
The next part excites me! It points toward Jesus! ”Though your sings are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (vs. 19, emphasis added) God is already telling Israel about grace, about mercy, about transferring our sins and replacing them with purity. He is pointing to the cross! 700 years before it ever happened He is telling people about salvation!
In verses 21-22 Isaiah is telling about how once Israel and Jerusalem were “full of justice, righteousness…” (vs.21) but now they are “choice wine…diluted with water” (vs.22). In the study notes of my bible it asks this question, has your faith become impure or watered down? Are you just going through the church motions? Are you “doing church” without any real faith in God?
Think about it.
God placed on my heart to really dig in to Isaiah. Will you do that with me?
Go read Isaiah chapter one a few times. Write down verses that stick out to you. Share them here if you want. Meditate on them and ask God to teach you about Him.