Pastor James J. Barker

Text: ISAIAH 1:1-18


  1. Isaiah the prophet lived in a day very much like ours.
  2. It was a time of tension; it was a time of crisis. All you have to do is glance through the newspapers and you can see that we are certainly living in a time of tension and a time of crisis.
  3. Our country is rapidly descending to new depths of depravity – "gay marriages" and the AIDS plague, partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, horrible filth on television and on the radio, and in the movies, etc.
  4. Millions of our citizens are mentally imbalanced, taking drugs to get through the day, many are so doped up and drunk that they have lost touch with reality. Obviously, the majority of people are oblivious to God’s imminent judgment.
  5. Isaiah’s day was very much like ours. World-shaking events were transpiring. Catastrophic and cataclysmic judgments were taking place. There was tremendous social upheaval.
  6. A new nation had arisen in the north, Assyria, they were moving quickly toward world dominion. Assyria was a brutal and idolatrous nation and by the time Isaiah had written this book, the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken into Assyrian captivity.
  7. Meanwhile, the southern kingdom of Judah was in a precarious position – the Assyrian army had 185,000 soldiers just outside the walls of Jerusalem, ready to move in and destroy.
  8. At this time, King Hezekiah went into the temple and prayed to God. God heard his prayer and sent the prophet Isaiah with a word of encouragement – the Assyrians would not invade the city of Jerusalem and they would not overtake Judah.
  9. However, God was preparing another nation, Babylon, and they would overthrow Judah unless she repented and turned to God.
  10. As I read the Bible and see the patience and long-suffering of God, I wonder – how much time do we have left? God’s message has not changed in the 2,700 years since the days of Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 1:18).



    1. As I said, Isaiah’s day was a time of tension and a time of crisis. Let’s look at the crisis and notice how similar it all is to our day.
    2. God says that Isaiah’s vision was "concerning Judah and Jerusalem" (1:1) but there is an important application here for us today.
    3. God begins this prophecy in a majestic manner – He is calling the entire universe to listen to His indictment against His rebellious children (1:2).
    4. Judah is on trial and God is the judge. Heaven and earth are His witnesses (1:2). Rebellious children deserved the death penalty (cf. Deut.21:18-21). But God, in His mercy and grace, wants to reason with them (1:18).
    5. Even a dumb ox, one of the least intelligent of God’s creatures, and even an ass, the stupidest and most stubborn of all animals know who is feeding them, but man doesn’t (1:3)! Most people today do not recognize that God has given them everything they have – food, clothes, shelter, transportation, jobs, money – everything comes from God. Sin so debases men that they oftentimes sink lower than the animals.
    6. There was a little boy who grew up in a Christian home and he was invited to his neighbor’s house for dinner. But these neighbors were not saved and he was surprised to see them start eating without giving God thanks for the food. He asked his little pal’s dad, "Don’t you folks thank God for your food?" The host was a bit embarrassed but admitted that they did not. The little fellow thought about that for a moment and then blurted out, "You’re exactly like my dog – you just dig in!"
    7. We laugh at this but most people are really living like animals!
    8. Ingratitude is a terrible sin, but it gets even worse –
      1. "seed of evildoers" (1:4) – they inherited their iniquity.
      2. "children that are corrupters" (1:4) – not only corrupt, but corrupters, i.e., spreading their corruption like a contagious disease; not just sinners, but tempters, spreading sin and vice.
      3. "they have forsaken the Lord" (1:4) – turned their back on God and "provoked" Him "unto anger."
      4. Lost sinners are described as "sick" (1:5), spiritually sick, putrefying sick – "the whole head is sick" – sin has affected their brain, they cannot think properly. This diseased brain and faint heart indicate total depravity and complete degeneration! (cf. 1:6)
    1. Beginning in verse 7, Isaiah describes the future as if it had already taken place. This is not unusual for prophets – John describes future events in the Book of Revelation as if they had already taken place. Here Isaiah uses the Hebrew perfect tense which suggests completed action.
    2. Enemy invaders have taken Judah and made her desolate. But for the grace of God in sparing a small remnant, their destruction would have been as complete as that of Sodom and Gomorrah (1:7-9).
    3. As far as God is concerned, they were as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah (1:10; cf. Rev.11:8). What does God think of NYC ?
    4. Next, God condemns religious hypocrisy and externalism (1:11-17). Many so-called "evangelical" churches today with their rituals, their doxologies, their creeds and formalism are guilty of this.
    5. Some years ago the captain of a whaling vessel found himself surrounded by icebergs but he sighted a ship at a great distance and decided to try and reach it. Getting into a boat with some of his men he carefully picked his way through the lanes of ice toward this mysterious -looking ship. Coming alongside he hailed the vessel with a loud, "Ship ahoy" but there was no response.
    6. He looked through the porthole and saw a man, evidently the captain, sitting at a table as if writing in a log-book. He again hailed the vessel but the man did not move – he was dead and frozen! Upon examination he discovered that all of the sailors were frozen and that from the last entry in the log-book it appeared that this ship had been drifting about the Arctic seas for 13 years.
    7. Many churches today are like this floating sepulchre, drifting aimlessly with a frozen crew. From a distance they seem to be alive but are actually frozen dead (cf. Rev.3:1).
    8. God despises ritual without reality, sacrifice without obedience, and religion without salvation.
    9. God wants sincere believers worshipping Him with sincere hearts – true Christianity is a heart religion. In the Old Testament, every sacrifice was supposed to express the grateful attitude of the heart.
    10. Is your heart right with God?
    11. Marks of dead religious externalism:
      1. It serves no purpose – "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord" (1:11).
      2. It is nauseating (1:11b).
      3. It is an abomination to God (1:13).
      4. It is wearisome (1:14).
      5. It is ineffectual (1:15).
    1. God wants repentance; God wants religious phonies to "cease to do evil" and to "learn to do well" (1:16,17).
    2. Evil does not have to be learned; it comes naturally to us as descendants of Adam and Eve. But doing well must be diligently learned. We have looked at the crisis; now lets see the consultation.



    1. With such ungrateful, hypocritical, corrupt sinners, God is willing to enter into consultation.
    2. It is a sign of God’s matchless grace that He would condescend to reason with helpless and hopeless sinners such as us. God says, "Come…" (cf. Gen.7:1; Isa.55:1; Matt.11:28-30; John 7:37,38; Rev.22:17). His invitation is always the same.
    3. In gracious entreaty, God invites lost sinners to reason with Him so He can forgive us and pardon us and cleanse us (Isa. 1:18).
    4. Back in Isa.1:2, God appears as the righteous Judge of the universe, indicting Judah for her ingratitude, rebellion, and apostasy. But now God is willing to bestow favor and pardon if His people will reason with Him.
    5. God is willing to "settle out of court." There are some people here today who are not saved. God is trying to reason with you, to settle things with you now – accept His pardon now, tomorrow could be too late (Rev.20:11-15).
    6. Many years ago, John Witherspoon, the first president of Princeton College, was on board a ship, where, among other passengers, was an obnoxious, contentious atheist, who went around the ship arguing with everyone. By and by a terrible storm arose and it looked for awhile that all would be drowned. There was much consternation and confusion on the ship but the most frightened of all was the annoying atheist.
    7. In his fearful condition he sought out the preacher and found him resting in his cabin. "Oh Dr. Witherspoon, oh Dr. Witherspoon," he cried, "We are all going, we are all going! The ship is rocking! We are all going! Don’t you think so?" Dr. Witherspoon turned to him and replied, "Yes, we are all going but you and I are not going in the same way."
    8. God is trying to reason with us – He wants you and I to go the right way.
    9. Notice that God first condemns sin before He offers pardon. Too many people are expecting pardon but have never acknowledged their sin. "God has no blessing either for time or eternity for the man who persists in sin and refuses to judge himself in the light of God’s revealed Word. Where faith is truly present, contrition for sin will be manifest and amendment will follow inevitably" (H.A.I.).



    1. After conviction of sin, after repentance, comes conversion. Have you been converted? Have you been born again? Do you believe the Gospel and have you trusted Christ?
    2. "Scarlet" signifies the deeply dyed and permanent nature of sin, which only Jesus’ blood can wash "white as snow" (cf. Rev.7:13,14).
    3. Years ago there was a popular novel and motion picture about a lady named "Scarlet." I cannot understand why any one would like a name that is a picture of sin (cf. Rev.17:3).
    4. No baptismal waters can wash away these scarlet and crimson sins – only the precious blood of Jesus. The church cannot save you, the preacher cannot save you, your good works cannot save you – only Jesus Christ can save you.


    1. He can only save you if you repent and accept His offer of pardon. Years ago an English prince went to visit the King of Spain. The prince was taken down to the galleys to see the men who were chained to the oars and doomed to be slaves for life. The king promised that in honor of the prince’s visit, he would allow the prince to choose one man to be set free.
    2. The prince spoke to several prisoners – they all complained and claimed to be innocent of all charges. Finally he met one prisoner who told him, "Sir, I am thankful to be here. If I got what I really deserved, I’d be executed!" This was the one the prince chose.

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