Isaiah and the Culture Today

Here at The UnSafe Bible we have recently started teaching through a study of one of my favorite books, Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet to Judah and to Jerusalem and his prophecies covered the present-day issues of Judah at the time he was writing. He also made reference, at times, to the northern kingdom of Israel and also wrote a lot about the Messiah.

Nothing Truly New

However, as you study this book, even though Isaiah is discussing the culture of his day and the compromise God’s people were involved in with the culture, he is talking about the same issues for us today. Isaiah’s prophecies did not cover just near-term events to Isaiah’s day, but also reveals things up to our present day and on into the future. At one point, Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even names the names of rulers who will, in the near future for the nation, have an impact.

One amazing thing that you see as you study chapter 1, is the condition of the two Kingdoms that made up the Jewish people of 750 BC. The condition of both Kingdoms is hauntingly similar to what we see in our own western culture. Both Kingdoms, at the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry were enjoying economic prosperity. They did not have many worries economically and were enjoying relatively good times.

Both Kingdoms also had military strength and relative peace as well. On paper, everything looked good if you were solely looking at appearances. Isaiah is writing because God does not look at outward appearances, He looks at the heart. In the good times of the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, underneath the surface, is rot.

Too Similar for Tastes

The concerning thing for me, as I am studying this book, is the continuing similarity these two kingdoms have to our present day. The northern kingdom, also known as Israel at this time, was progressive in mindset. They had ceased to follow the perceived musty old morals of their grandparents and had opted for something more modern. They even went as far as appointing a more progressive and inclusive priesthood of non-Levites as well. All they were doing was in direct violation of what God had stated in His word.

In fact, for over 200 years, Israel had followed their own way of worship. God had sent several prophets to them to grab their attention, but they had two chariots in every garage. As they traveled the area, they also saw and then returned home with, some of the more progressive methods of worship they had seen, along with the gods connected with them. These were gods that were worshipped in surrounding countries and, per God, were not supposed to be entertained much less worshipped in Israel or Judah. Baal worship had been imported into Israel by its leadership including the sexual promiscuity that went along with it.

Then there was the importation of another god who went by the name of Molech. This god was more demanding in that he required his worshipers to offer up their children as a sacrifice to “pass through the fire.” In return they may have anticipated answered prayers or to find out something about the future. This method of divination or worship was something that God did not approve of.

What they were practicing, under the guise of religion, was infanticide. This is something that the culture worldwide is also enamored with today. Today, though, there is no pretense of religious worship, it is not about the worship of Molech. Today, it is all about the worship of self and the pride of being able to call your own shots in life. We have a term for the wholesale slaughter of the unborn, choice. Here is the thing, God’s opinion of the practice has never changed. He is just as opposed to it now as He was then.

God’s Offer

Our culture thinks that God winks…He does not. He has not changed and, as you can tell, thanks to the words of Isaiah, we haven’t changed much either.

In the first chapter of Isaiah, God set out an offer for Judah. It was too late for Israel but for Judah, there was still a chance. But they would have to repent and turn away from running headlong into the same sins as the northern kingdom of Israel.

Isaiah clearly states God’s offer in Isaiah 1:18-20. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword. Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (NASB95)

That was the offer for Judah. It was tied to a promise that if they accepted it and took action, they would remain in the land. As we look forward in the Bible, we learn that they did not take Him up on the offer. Judah did not stay in the land winding up in exile in Babylon.

The offer though still stands today for us. God was addressing His people, the people of Judah. The message is the same for those who are believers of Jesus Christ in the 21st century. We are to repent.

The Offer for Today

If you are not a believer, then Paul relates in Romans 10: 8-10 what is needed. “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.” (NET) If you do not know Jesus, believe that God raised Him from the dead and then pray confessing that He is Lord, as such asking Him to take over. That is what it means by the term Lord.

Isaiah makes it very clear to the folks in Judah what the problem was for them. They held the opinions of man, in other words their leaders, higher than the written word of God. They were told to stop that in Isaiah 2:22 but was a real problem for them. The culture of Isaiah’s day lived like God wasn’t interested in what they were doing. They lived as if He was dead. That sounds really familiar.

Today, in multiple countries around the world there is economic prosperity, there is peace, and for some, a strong military. But underneath there is a layer of rot that threatens the entire structure. Meanwhile, the same voice that called out to Judah during the time of Isaiah continues to call out today as well. God invites us to reason it out with Him. This means to examine the facts and weigh out the alternatives.

Our Need

A decision to follow Jesus is a countercultural decision. It will be dangerous to your reputation as well, as in some places of the world, your life. But it is eternally worth it.

Jesus said in John 14:6 that the way to heaven is exclusive. In a conversation with His disciple Thomas, He made it clear. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (NASB95)

Jesus died a horrible death. He did it because He loves you and me, not wanting any of us to go to hell. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NASB95)

Accepting that gift changes your life forever. It means that you will begin to look at the culture around you differently as you learn more about Him. The big thing though, you can be set free from sin…truly free. He has done that for me, and I know He can do that for you.

If you already know Jesus but have strayed away, His offer is still there, the same one He gave to Judah. It does require repentance though. We agree with His assessment of how we are living a life of following Him in name only and have not allowed Him to be Lord. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NASB95)

We must repent.

A word from the Apostle John

The Apostle John laid it out for those who stray from the truth. There is a solution for those who begin to follow the culture. You can still turn away from all it has to “offer” and turn back to the Lord.

“If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:6–10, NET)

If you do not know Jesus, believe. You do know Jesus, but have strayed away, repent and come home. Join us in being UnSafe.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Ken Brown

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