The Book of Isaiah
James J. Barker

Lesson 1

Text: ISAIAH 1:1-18


1.    I am going to start a series tonight on the book of Isaiah.  Isaiah is generally considered the greatest of the Hebrew prophets.

2.    Isaiah the prophet lived in a day very much like ours.

3.    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.

4.    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.

5.    Terrorism is a serious threat that will not go away, and yet 5 years after 9-11, Americans are not seeking after God.

Americans' faith unchanged by 9/11
Barna study says Americans used religion as Band-Aid, threw it away, September 7, 2006

Americans are no more religious now than in the weeks and months leading up to the worst terrorist attacks ever in the U.S., those of Sept. 11, 2001, when more than 3,000 innocent civilians died, a new report says.

The study by the Barna Group looked at interviews from more than 8,600 adults from right before the attacks and at regular internals since.

While there was an “intense surge” in religious activity and _expression immediately after the attacks that destroyed the twin towers in New York and damaged the Pentagon, those sentiments have not continued, the study said. “Many Christian leaders predicted that terrorism on U.S. soil would catalyze a spiritual awakening in the country,” said David Kinnaman, director of the study. “The first few weeks were promising.”

“But,” he said, "people quickly returned to their standard, faith-as-usual lives: within a month, most of their spiritual fervor was gone.”

The temporary surge in faith activity showed up most significantly in church attendance, with some churches reporting more than double their ordinary attendance on the Sunday immediately following the attacks. But the study said within just four months, by January 2002, the attendance levels were back at their pre-attack numbers.     

Other factors declined even more quickly. The report said as of October 2001, participation in Bible reading and prayer was no higher than levels from before the attack.

The shifts that were made in religious beliefs at the time of the trauma also failed to build a foundation for an upsurge in beliefs, Barna reported.  “For instance, October 2001 data showed that Americans were less likely to feel a responsibility to share their faith, they were less willing to reject the notion that good works can earn salvation; they were more likely to believe that the devil is merely a symbol of evil; and they were slightly less likely to believe God is the perfect, all-powerful creator who rules the world,” the report said.

Those shifts went against assumptions that Americans were moving towards an orthodox Biblical perspective.

Even the skepticism about traditional religious quickly “faded to the status quo,” Barna said.

As of this year, the study showed that beliefs about the devil, salvation, the nature of God, responsibility to evangelize and the Bible's accuracy could not be differentiated from those beliefs in the summer of 2001.

6.    Well, if people are not going to church or reading the Bible, what are they doing?  Millions of people are taking drugs to get through the day, and many are so doped up and drunk that they have lost touch with reality. 

7.    Millions of people pollute their minds with pornography, garbage on TV and rock music. Obviously, the majority of people today are oblivious to God’s imminent judgment.

8.    Interestingly, 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.

9.    A new nation had arisen in the north, Assyria, and 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. However, God was preparing another nation, Babylon, and they would overthrow Judah unless she repented and turned to God.

13. As I read the Bible and see the patience and long-suffering of God, I wonder – how much time does America have left?   God’s message has not changed in the 2,700 years since the days of Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 1:18).


I.     THE CRISIS WE FACE (1:1-17)

1.    Note the word “vision” (1:1).  Isaiah did not just sit down and write down whatever came into his head, or whatever the people wanted to hear.  This is what the false prophets do (cf. Isa. 30:10).

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.    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.

4.    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).  

5.    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).

6.    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)! 

7.    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.

8.    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!”

9.    I have told this story many times and people always laugh, but sadly – most people are really living like animals!

10. Ingratitude is a terrible sin, but it gets even worse –

a.    “seed of evildoers” (1:4) – they inherited their iniquity.

b.   “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.

c.    “they have forsaken the Lord” (1:4) – turned their back on God and “provoked” Him “unto anger.”

d.   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; Romans 3:13-18)

11.    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.

12. 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).

13. 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 ?

14. Next, God condemns religious hypocrisy and externalism (1:11-17).   Many churches today with their rituals, their doxologies, their creeds and formalism are guilty of this.

15. 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. 

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. They are like the church at Sardis.  Our Lord said to them, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (cf. Rev. 3:1).

19. God despises ritual without reality, sacrifice without obedience, and religion without salvation.

20. 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.  

21. Is your heart right with God?

22. Marks of dead religious externalism:

a.    It serves no purpose – “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?  saith the Lord” (1:11).

b.   It is nauseating (1:11b).

c.    It is an abomination to God (1:13).

d.   It is wearisome (1:14).

e.    It is ineffectual (1:15).

23. God wants repentance; God wants religious hypocrites to “cease to do evil” and to “learn to do well” (1:16,17).

24. 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…”

3.    “And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark” (Gen. 7:1).

4.    “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1).

5.    Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

6.    “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. (John 7:37).

7.    “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). 

8.    God’s invitation is always the same – “Come…” (Isa. 1:18).

9.    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).

10. 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.

11. God is willing to “settle out of court.”   Perhaps there are some people here tonight 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).

12. God is trying to reason with us – He wants you and I to go the right way.

13. 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.    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.     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 a while that all would be drowned.   There was much consternation and confusion on the ship but the most frightened of all was the annoying atheist.  

2.     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.”

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