Connecting to the Larger Story
Even with a king to lead them and a temple in which to worship God, the kingdom of God's people continued to turn away from God. God used the prophets to speak to the people to warn them of the dangers of falling away and the consequences they would reap as a result. At times, a good king would listen and lead them back to God for a time, but over time the people fell further and further away. One of the greatest indictments God held against the people and their leaders was that they oppressed the poor, the widows, the orphans, the strangers, and the most vulnerable in society all the while making a good show of religion through offerings.
Important to Note
1) Isaiah, speaking for God, pointed out that the main wrong the people had committed was not against God but against one another. By oppressing each in murder, theft, and taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable, they had turned away from God and the commandments God had given. In fact, the people had continued in offering sacrifices to God, thus doing their religious duty to God, but this is not enough. In fact, God cared nothing for all the sacrifices they made if they did not live in peace and love with one another. One cannot love God if one does not also love one's neighbor.
2) This prophecy starts with the punishment that will occur as a result of turning from God. They would conquered by another kingdom and lose everything. It then turns to the indictment of what the people and their leaders have and have not done. Yet this prophect is not all doom and gloom. It turns finally to God provision for a future - the people's sin would be removed and the nation rebuilt with a holy remnant. Righteousness and justice will be restored. The punishment God brings is not for punishment's sake but for the restoration of what God had intended to begin with.
Thoughts for Reflection
1) What kinds of things do we do to make ourselves out to be good while we ignore the needs of others?
2) Can punishment lead to a restoration of what is good?