This text comes from the book of Isaiah, chapter 1, verses 1 to 3. The Prophet Isaiah lived seven hundred years before the Common Era. His prophecy covered the reigns of four kings, and tradition tells us that he was cruelly put to death by Manasseh, who came after them. He lived at a time of general rebellion against the rule of GOD, and of national backsliding. The chief symptom of this was a love of luxury and affluence leading to idolatry and widespread injustice.
Isaiah’s task was not an enviable one. GOD sent him to denounce the sins of His people, to warn them of the dire consequences, and to woo them back to the ways of Godliness at a time when they were not disposed to listen. He begins by summoning the heavens and the earth to hear what the LORD, the Covenant GOD of Israel, is about to say. In doing this, Isaiah is calling into remembrance a song that GOD gave to Moses to teach the people of Israel. It was meant to be a song of witness and an indictment of them.
Deuteronomy, Chapter 32, verses 1 through 6:
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. For I proclaim the Name of the LORD. Ascribe greatness to our GOD! They have corrupted themselves. They are not His children because of their blemish. A perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you? These words come from the mouth of GOD, spoken and passed on through Moses, our great lawgiver. The sad decline that GOD foretold was evident everywhere in the days of the Prophet, Isaiah. Let us listen to what GOD has to say. He says,
I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.
We know from our own experience that the sharpest sorrows that an earthly parent has to endure, include the ingratitude of those they love most: their children. In this passage, GOD is depicted as the Father of Israel, and they are depicted as rebellious and ungrateful children. As it is written in Hosea, Chapter 11, verses 1 through 7:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them. My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.
He Who gave us the heart of a father, or a mother as the case may be, made us in His Own image, and no doubt, it cost Him great sorrow to see His children rebel against Him. To emphasize the seriousness of their rebellion, and the unreasonableness of it, GOD contrasts the touching loyalty of their animals in verse 3:
...the ox knows its owner, and the donkey, its master’s crib, but Israel does not know. My people do not consider. We take for granted the obedient service of our animals. They recognize our voice and follow our directions.They trust and depend upon us for their daily care. They hardly ever complain at our demands, and all too often they die because of our mistreatment of them.
Yet they never exchange our service for that of another. What a lesson we can learn from them. A friend of mine, Dr. Frohwein, told me many years ago of an encounter with a Jewish scholar who felt insulted at being approached by one whom he considered inferior in learning. In reply, Dr. Frohwein mentioned the fact that we can learn even from animals, and if so, why not from a fellow human? He quoted this verse and gained the ear of the scholar.
What is it that we can learn from this passage? Simply this: that Israel as a people are not unique in their lamentable attitude toward GOD. We are just a representative sample of humanity, and what GOD says about our sin, our rebellion, and our ingratitude, He says about all humans.
All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to his own way. (Isaiah 53, verse 6.) We are all guilty and more senseless than the animals.
Psalm 49, verse 20:
Man who is in honour, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish. But we must not jump to the conclusion that GOD is pleased with this state of affairs; nor must we presume that He has abandoned us to the just consequences of our going astray. The second half of the verse we quoted from Isaiah 53, verse 6 supplies the answer. The whole statement reads as follows:
All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to his own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. GOD has found some One who can pay for the consequences of our sin. There is no problem identifying ourselves as the stray sheep. But who is this One spoken of in the verse? The answer is found in that same Chapter, and others like it. We are talking about our Messiah, our Redeemer, who came to set us free from the tyranny of our sinful nature, to restore us to our right mind, and to fill our mouths with songs of gratitude and praise. Concerning Him, the Prophet sings in Chapter 61, verse 10:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD! My soul shall be joyful in my GOD! For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation! He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Righteousness and salvation are a gift of GOD. They cannot be earned by us, but they have been earned for us by Mashiach Tsidkenu, our Righteous Messiah! Hear Him! At the beginning of this Chapter,
The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives; and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. (Isaiah 61, verse 1.)
Israel means ‘Prince of GOD’, and when GOD contrasted the disobedience of His people with the touching loyalty and obedience of their animals, He was inferring that sin reduces us to a level beneath them. It was this that Messiah came to reverse. As our sin bearer, He removes the guilt of His people, and restores them to their princely standing in the sight of GOD. Psalm 113, verse 7 and 8:
He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes, with the princes of His people.
Shall we pray: Avinu She’ba Shamayim, our Father in heaven, we thank You for your mercy in sending YESHUA to be our Redeemer. May He make us truly Israels, princes of GOD. We ask it in our LORD, YESHUA’s Name. Amen.