God’s Case Against His People

KEY VERSE: “The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.” —Isaiah 3:13

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 1:2-6, 18-20

THE people under discussion in our lesson are the Israelites, whom the Lord loved because he first loved their fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers.” (Deut. 7:8) Their relationship with God evolved through the Law Covenant that was made with them, and depended upon obedience to the terms of that covenant. We read in Deuteronomy 7:12, “It shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he swore unto thy fathers.” History tells us that the Israelites were a very disobedient and stiff-necked people. They were constantly being led by their idolatrous neighbors into idol worship, a practice which was against their Law and was abhorrent to the Lord.—Lev. 19:4

Down through the centuries, the Israelites alternated from obedience to disobedience. When they were obedient, the Lord would bless them, and when they were disobedient, the Lord would chastise them. But in spite of all their experiences, they never learned the lesson. Our subject today brings us to an expression of exasperation on the part of the Lord toward this faithless and disobedient nation. In Isaiah 1:2, the Lord says, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” Their relationship with the Lord began when he brought the Israelites up out of the land of Egypt and freed them from slavery. During the long period of their relationship under the Law Covenant, the Lord performed many great and wonderful miracles to provide for their comfort and safety, but these things were soon forgotten and they returned to their sinful ways.

In verse three of our selected text, the Lord said, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” The Lord, in essence, is saying that even the dumb animals know from what source their sustenance and very life comes, but Israel has not learned the lesson. In verse four he continues, “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” The whole purpose of the Law arrangement was to develop in the hearts of the people love for the Lord and a desire to be obedient to his precepts. But Israel had regressed and were as bad, or nearly so, as when the Lord first began to deal with them.

In verses five and six, the Lord states that because of past chastisements they are like a human body that is full of bruises, sores, and wounds—so much so, in fact, that there is no place left to inflict additional punishments. He is weary of punishing them further, because of their failure to learn from past experiences. In verses eleven through fifteen, the Lord states that without a proper heart attitude manifested by their obedience, all of the multitude of sacrifices, their feast days, and even their prayers are abhorrent to him.

The Lord then pleads with Israel in one last effort to reconcile them to himself: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” (vss. 17-19) In spite of all their past errors and sins the Lord was willing to forgive them if only they would repent and endeavor to be obedient.

What a wonderful illustration of the Lord’s patience and longsuffering in his dealings with his people, and how aware we should be of how the Lord looks at the sham of mere formalism. We think of the words of Samuel, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”—I Sam. 15:22

Dawn Bible Students Association
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