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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 1

Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Isaiah 1: Introductory Prophecies

Chapter 7: Further Law Violations

Isaiah 1:23 says,

23 Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them.

It is common around the world for men to use government authority as an occasion for profit. Anyone who has been given the authority to decide who is allowed to do what is in a position where he may demand a bribe or “reward” for granting that which is in his power to grant. Such corruption is everywhere illegal, but such laws are seldom enforced because the highest leaders of the land are usually guilty of doing the same thing. So bribery, though technically unlawful, is an accepted way of life in most of the world.

But bribery is forbidden in the laws of the Kingdom. Exodus 23:8 says,

8 You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.

When judges can be bought off, the rich are seldom prosecuted, and the poor are oppressed. So we read in Deut. 16:18-20,

18 You shall appoint for yourselves judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

The law of God establishes justice, as long as it is applied impartially and without bribery. Bribes cause judges to be partial in their ruling. They are partial to those who bribe them. For this reason, partiality and bribery are often linked in Scripture.

Bribery is rooted in greed, and judges often sell justice. Injustice undercuts prosperity, because it allows the rich and powerful to steal from others with impunity. All they have to do is pay the judge a fine from that which they have stolen. Call it a sin tax.

The Righteous Nature of God

In the Kingdom of God, the laws are established according to the righteous nature of the King. Though some—even Christians—would find fault with the law of God, thereby maligning His character, Deut. 10:17 sets forth the true nature of God, saying,

17 For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

We see here that we are to follow the example of our King—God Himself—"who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.” In many religious systems, men give offerings to their gods in order to bribe them into granting their wishes. Christians, too, have done this, not understanding the nature of God.

Likewise, men have shown partiality toward those of their own family, tribe, or nation. This too subverts justice toward the alien. Israel experienced such discrimination and injustice when they were living in Egypt. God tells them to learn from their own experience and to treat aliens with impartial justice.

The entire concept of a “chosen people” is rooted in lawless partiality unless applied in the way that the law intended (as the apostle Paul described in Romans 11:1-7). To be “chosen” is to be “elected” to receive authority. Those who are truly “chosen” are those who know how to rule with impartial justice according to the mind and nature of God Himself. It is not based upon race or genealogy but upon their faith and relationship with God.

Chosen ones are evident by their works, and this includes their ability to pursue “justice and only justice” (Deut. 16:20). Of course, we know that true justice also includes the mercy of the law of Jubilee and of the limitation of beatings to just forty lashes. Justice without mercy, along with endless punishment without forgiveness, is justice perverted and distorted, for it no longer reflects the character of God.

Widows and Orphans

One of the major injustices in the past has been to take advantage of widows and orphans. So Isaiah 1:23 indicts Israel’s judges for not defending them properly. Widows and orphans were especially vulnerable because they had no legal covering, no one to defend them from injustice. Under normal circumstances, the head of the family was the kinsman redeemer, a title often mistranslated as an “avenger of blood.” The kinsman redeemer was responsible to defend the family.

In the biblical system of justice, God Himself becomes the kinsman redeemer of those who have no one to defend them. This includes widows, orphans, and aliens who have left their family and culture behind in order to dwell in the Kingdom of God. Exodus 22:21-24 says,

21 You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

In other words, God Himself becomes their Covering and their Protector. He then vows to judge their oppressors by making their children fatherless and their wives widows, according to the law of equal and impartial justice. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24) becomes “widow for widow, orphan for orphan” in this case. The judgment always fits the crime.

Those without legal covering are provided for by allowing them to benefit from the third-year tithe (Deut. 14:28, 29). This law also includes “the alien,” because God is their covering as well. The same people are given provision through the law of gleanings (Deut. 24:19-22). This was the law by which Ruth the Moabitess was allowed to glean in Boaz' field.

The notion that God is partial toward Israelites or Jews is a serious violation of His law forbidding impartial judgment. The problem surfaced many times in the New Testament as well, first in the Jewish attitude toward Greeks and Romans and later when Peter himself was shocked that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon non-Jews. First the Holy Spirit was given to Samaritans (Acts 8:5, 17), and later Peter told how the Spirit came upon the Romans (Acts 10:45, 46). The lesson that Peter learned that day is seen in his own testimony in Acts 10:34, 35,

34 Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”

Apparently, the early Christians still had not learned that aliens were commanded to keep all three of the feasts. This included Pentecost, that is, the feast of weeks (Deut. 16:9, 10, 11) and Tabernacles (Deut. 16:13, 14). Jesus’ disciples apparently did not understand the laws of impartiality, thinking that the Holy Spirit was the promise given to their fathers and was reserved only for Jews, Israelites, and the physical seed of Abraham.

The fact is that God blessed Abraham, not so that he might hoard God’s blessings for himself and his family, but so that he might bless all nations (Gen. 12:3). The most important blessing was to lead others into a relationship with God, which is revealed in the feast days.

Institutionalized Partiality

Though Isaiah 1:23 specifically mentions widows and orphans, we ourselves ought to be aware that the law of impartial justice applies to aliens as well. Those who do not understand the law have institutionalized notions of divine partiality, thereby doing injustice to all those that were to be blessed through Abraham’s seed.

There is, perhaps, no better example of this than the teaching that the Jews are God’s chosen people. This was always a Jewish fantasy, but in the last 150 years, it has become common among Christian Evangelicals and Pentecostals as well. Yet Paul shows the example of the “chosen” people by setting forth the remnant of grace, numbering just 7,000 in the days of Elijah. Paul tells us clearly that only these were “chosen,” and the rest of the Israelites were “hardened,” or blinded (Rom. 11:7).

Paul does not limit the “chosen” ones to those of a particular genealogy, because God, being impartial, does not violate His own nature. He is always true to Himself. And while there is indeed a prophetic function for nations and for genealogy, it is inaccurate to label such as “chosen people” as if to ignore their relationship to God Himself. Is a blind Jew chosen just because he may be descended physically from Abraham? What about King Ahab of Israel?

These are important questions, because, as we will see in our study, Isaiah is the first prophet to give a clear teaching of universal salvation. He is the first to see clearly that salvation was open to all and that God was inviting all men everywhere to worship at His temple. His universal message was based upon the law of impartiality, perhaps more than any other single law.

For this reason, we ought to be aware of this law as we proceed, so that we may understand the prophet’s message.