The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 1:10-18 and serves as a portion of the introduction into the setting and culture of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. Isaiah is unique because the prophet’s call does not take place until chapter 6, and yet there are prophecies happening even before his well-known call narrative. Many opinions are out there concerning this placement, but it seems Isaiah is letting his hearers/readers know about the situation into which he is called in order to better understand the scope and nature of his words.
The climate of Israel at the beginning of Isaiah’s tenure as prophet may be considered as quite close to our own. Our text points out how the people are going to the Temple and offering up sacrifices, etc. but the LORD God is not pleased with these offerings. The practice of these offerings is not the problem. Indeed, the LORD Himself commanded them, but the hearts and attitudes of those making the offerings would appear to be the problem. Interesting to consider is last week’s Old Testament pericope which included the rejection of Cain’s offering for the same reason. They have a wrong attitude, hearts which are far from the LORD.
As the first 5 chapters of Isaiah indicate, the Temple/worship had become more of a social club atmosphere. In the midst of their practices, the powerful and influential of Israel were neglecting, even ignoring the needs of the poor, destitute and sick among them. The LORD God is not pleased with this and, therefore, is not pleased with their sacrifices either. In other words, they are being called upon to get their hearts right with God and live out their faith. Thus, the words of verse 17: “…do good …seek justice …correct oppression …plead the cause of the orphans and widows.”
While we understand why this is important on one level (that of living out your faith) it is also important how the actions of taking care of the down and out of society point to the Messiah and His earthly ministry. The people of Israel and the person of the Messiah are intimately intertwined. The way in which the country carries out its life of service to the LORD, bears witness and points to the One who is coming and how He will carry out His ministry. So, the marks of this Messiah are, “The lame walk, the blind see, the prisoners are released, etc.” And, as we know, Jesus came and reached out to the outcasts, lepers, prostitutes, sick, etc.
The pericope ends with some of the most beautiful words of Gospel in Isaiah. Even though the sins of the Israelites are great, like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. In spite of great transgression, there is even greater forgiveness.
1:10 קְצִינֵי . from: קצין “chief; ruler; authority”
הַאֲזִינוּ root: אזן Hiphil: “to heed; to give ear to; to listen to” This is followed by תּוֹרַת “Torah” which should be translated not as “law” but as “teaching”. The context indicates the more comprehensive meaning.
1:11 שָׂבַעְתִּי root: שׂבע Qal: “to be weary of; to have had enough of something”
מְרִיאִים. “fatted steer; fatling; well-fed animal”
וְעַתּוּדִים> “male goat; male sheep”
חָפָצְתִּי root: חפץ Qal: “to delight in; to take pleasure; to desire”
1:12 רְמֹס> Qal: “to trample with the feet; to crush”
1:13 שָׁוְא “worthless; emptiness; vanity”
קְטֹרֶת. “incense; smoke of sacrifice”
מִקְרָא “assembly; congregation; worship assembly”
אָוֶן “iniquity; false cult”
וַעֲצָרָה “celebration; assembly; festive assembly”
1:14 לָטֹרַח from: טרח “burden”
נִלְאֵיתִי root: לאה Niphal: “to be tired; to be weary; to weary oneself”
1:15 וּבְפָרִשְׂכֶם root: פרשׂ Piel: “to spread out; to stretch out”
אַעְלִים; root: עלם Hiphil: “to shut; to hide; to close”
1:16 רַחֲצוּ root: רחץ Qal: “to bathe; to wash oneself”
הִזַּכּוּ root: זּכה Hithpael: “to clean oneself; to make yourself clean”
רֹעַ “evil; vice; corruption”
מַעַלְלֵיכֶם; from: מעלל; “deed; practice”
חִדְלוּ root: חדל Qal: “to cease doing; to leave off”
הָרֵעַ root: רעע Hiphil: “to do evil; to do wickedness; to treat poorly”
1:17 לִמְדוּ root: למד Qal: “to learn”
אַשְּׁרוּ ; root: אשּׁר Piel: “to set right; to correct; to lead”
חָמוֹץ “oppressor; oppression”
יָתוֹם “orphan; fatherless”
רִיבוּ root: ריב Qal: “to carry on; to plead; to contest a lawsuit”
1:18 וְנִוָּכְחָה> root: יכח Niphal: “to reason; to argue; to dispute”
חֲטָאֵיכֶם from: חטאֵ “sin”
כַּשָּׁנִים; “as crimson”
כַּשֶּׁלֶג; “as snow”
יַלְבִּינוּ root: לבן Hiphil: “to become white; to grow white”
יַאְדִּימוּ: root: אדם Hiphil: “to become red; to be red; to show red”
כַתּוֹלָע “as scarlet; as crimson”
כַּצֶּמֶר; “as wool”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 1:10-18.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 1:10-18.
Lectionary Podcast-Rev. Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Isaiah 1:10-18.
All Saints Resources:
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Revelation 7:(2-8)9-17.