THINK: It doesn't matter what you try to do for God, how much time you put into church activities or what religious routines you go through if you personally aren't in a right relationship with Him. The people of Judah, just like their sister nation Israel, had rebelled against God, but mistakenly thought they could enjoy His favor as long as they kept up their religious rituals, sacrifices and offerings. These things, however, were meaningless to God (1:13) because of the evil and injustice that were rampant among the people. If we aren't careful, our praises and prayers can also become pretentious, ineffective and disgraceful to God if our hearts aren't sincerely devoted to Him.
RESPOND: Where did Isaiah's message come from, and how did he receive it? (See 1:1 first note.) What was the historical background of Isaiah's ministry, to whom did he deliver his prophecies, and what was his general mes- sage (1:1-4)? (See 1:1 second and third notes.) In what ways had Judah and Israel rebelled against God, and what would happen as a result? (See 1:2 note.) Why does Isaiah frequently refer to the Lord as "the Holy One of Israel" (v. 4)? (See 1:4 note.) Why had God allowed Judah to be raided and robbed by other nations (1:7-9)? (See 1:7 note.) Why were the people's offerings meaningless (1:13), and why did God refuse to listen to their prayers (1:15)? (See 1:11 and 1:15 notes.) What did God expect of His people (1:16-17)? What did God offer His people if they turned from their rebellious ways and followed Him (1:18)? (See 1:18 note.) What did God mean when He said, "I will thor- oughly purge away your dross" (1:25)? (See 1:25 note.) When are "the last days" (2:2)? (See 2:2 note.) When will the events described in 2:1-5 be completely fulfilled? (See 2:2-5 note.) Why did Isaiah pray that God would not forgive the people ? (See 2:6-9 note.) What is the "day in store" that Isaiah refers to in 2:12? (See 2:12 note.)
PRAY: Praise the Lord for His purity and holiness. Confess and turn from anything in your life that could keep you from developing His character and following His plans.
ACT: Is there any aspect of your life, character or behavior in which you're being hypocritical-pretending to be something you aren't, saying one thing and doing another or acting one way in public and another in private? If so, repent and make a change so your praise and your practice are spiritually authentic and pleasing to God.
THINK: Don't be judgmental! Don't be closed-minded! Don't be hateful! These seem like reasonable restrictions; even the Bible warns against such things. Yet, people today tend to twist these standards to justify ungodly behaviors, trying to portray evil as good and wrong as right - often in the name of freedom, compassion, understanding and "tolerance." Behaviors and lifestyles that God condemns as deviant and destructive are openly accepted and even celebrated in society. Those who challenge these immoral norms are accused of being closed-minded, judgmental, hateful and even dangerous to society. While always demonstrating compassion, Christ's followers must never compromise the standards of good and evil-right and wrong-that are revealed in God's Word.
RESPOND: What would God take from Jerusalem, and why? (See 3:1 note.) What eventually happens to a society that rejects God? (See 3:5 note.) What was God's message to those who were faithful to Him (3:10)? (See 3:10 note.) How had the leaders treated the poor, and how would God respond (3:14-15)? (See 3:14 note.) How were the women of Jerusalem behaving, what were their priorities, and what would happen to them as a result? (See 3:16-27 note.) What or who is "the Branch of the Lord" (4:2), and what is significant about that title? (See 4:2 note.) How does chapter 4 describe those who survive the coming judgment (4:3)? (See 4:3 note.) What does the song about the vineyard (ch. 5) represent? (See 5:1-7 note)? Chapter 5, pronounces six "woes" (statements of judgment) on what specific sins (vv. 8,11-12,18-23)? (See 5:8-32 note.) In what ways do people today portray evil as good (5:20)? (See 5:20 note.) What's significant about Isaiah's reference to "distant nations" (5:26)? (See 5:26 note.)
PRAY: Give thanks for God's blessing and help when you do what's right and for providing patient correction and discipline when you aren't doing what's right. Pray for people you know who might misjudge and oppose you because of your stand for God. Pray that their minds will be spiritually opened to the truth.
ACT: Pay more attention to spiritual matters, inner beauty, character issues and helping others, rather than being preoccupied with outward appearance and selfish concerns. Apply this to the way you view yourself and others.