Isaiah 1-2 How God Sees Sin
This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.
One of the keys to being victorious in our struggle with sin, is to see it from God’s perspective. From our perspective, we may see sin as either a regrettable occurrence, or a nagging problem, or even just a simple nuisance. But how does God see our sin? I believe Isaiah 1-2 gives us three answers to that question.
1. God sees the PERVASIVENESS of our sin.
In Isaiah 1:1-8, Isaiah the prophet describes a vision he has concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In verses 2-4 God makes various statements about Israel that I believe prophetically refer to all of us,
“Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me, The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.
We need to hear these words as spoken to us. God is revealing to us who we are. Like the doctor who examines his patient, God is examining us, and he not only sees our sin, he sees the pervasiveness of our sin.
Listen again to what he says in v. 5b-6
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.”
God is showing us that we are not just mostly good people who have made a few mistakes. We are not healthy people who have a problem in one area of our body. We are not injured people, who are recovering from a few unfortunate wounds. We don’t just have the occasional arrhythmia in the heart, or a few troublesome blood clots in our brain. The whole head is sick. The whole heart is faint. From the sole of your foot to the crown of your head, there is no soundness, no health.
What does it matter if you are dying of cancer or dying of heart disease, or dying of old age? You’re dying! And what God is saying here is that we have cancer and heart disease and old age. “There is no soundness in us, from the sole of the foot even to the head.” We are completely and totally sinful.
God is describing, through his prophet, the pervasiveness of our sin! With vivid word pictures, he reveals our utter depravity as sinners. Twice in verse 7, he describes Israel as desolate. The word means, “a wasteland”. It paints a picture of a desert, where there is no life, no water. Just dry, empty, and devoid of life.
We may be tempted to think, “yeah, but that is describing what we were before Jesus saved us. In Christ, we are saints!” Yes, its true that the Bible teaches that, in Christ, we are saints, but I think it is rather obvious that just believing that we are saints doesn’t automatically free us from a very real struggle with sin that if we are honest, all of us as believers still deal with…
Does a saint lie? Does a saint bite the head off her kids? Does a saint watch questionable things on TV? Does a saint go to God-dishonoring websites? Is a saint drawn toward sin like a moth is drawn to a flame? Does a saint feel deep-seated bitterness and lack of forgiveness welling up inside like an uncontrollable flood? Does a saint callously disregard the needs of those around him in order to focus on his own petty desires? Do saints get impatient over a 3 minute wait at the McDonald’s drive through?
Make no mistake about it. You and I are sinners! We may be sinners saved by grace, and there is more that remains to be said about our identity, but the fact that this is describing who we are is beyond dispute. God is speaking to his people here. He is not just describing the pagan nations around them. This is his people who have been established in the Promised Land, who have been redeemed from slavery in Egypt, who have been given the sacrifices and the blood of atonement, and yet God says to them, I see only bruises and sores and raw wounds. God sees the pervasiveness of our sin.
2. God sees that the sinner must be REJECTED.
Jump ahead to Isaiah 2:6
For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.
As I reflected on that verse, I asked the Lord, “How can you say that? How can you say that you reject your covenant people? The ones to whom you have promised redemption and forgiveness and an eternal inheritance?
But it’s not just here that we read verses like this. The are several places in the Old Testament prophets showing that this is indeed how a just and holy God responds to sin. He rejects the sinner. Listen to just two:
2 Kings 21:14
And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.
Cut off your hair and cast it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.
You may have noticed that I did not say God sees that sin must be rejected, but that the sinner must be rejected We’re so used to saying, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” And that is profoundly true, when rightly explained,
But it is also profoundly true that sin cannot be separated from the one who commits it. Without sinners there would *be* no sin. Can we really separate sinful deeds from the sinners who commit those sinful deeds? To speak of judging and condemning a sinful act is meaningless if there is no judgement of the one who committed that act. If a murder has been committed, there is no justice done in condemning the act of murder, if the murderer himself is not declared guilty and required to pay the penalty for his sin.
So when we talk about sin from God’s perspective, we have to understand that God always rejects the sinner! Even when the sinner is his covenant people Israel. Even when the sinner is you and me.
Now that statement might seem to present a problem to you, just as it did to me! How can God reject his own children as it says here in v. 6, “You have rejected your people, the house of Jacob.” That brings us to the third answer to the question, “How does God see sin.”
3. God sees the SOLUTION to our sin
Going back to chapter 1 of Isaiah we find some very good news. Isaiah 1:18
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Praise God that Isaiah doesn’t speak of sin without also speaking of grace! God has a solution to this problem of sin. And let me just point out that I am using the word “problem” here from our perspective. Our God is not a God who has to confront “problems”. God never has to solve anything, as if something could come up that he wasn’t expecting. But from our perspective, we have a problem: Our sin is pervasive. The whole body is sick! We are absolute sinners, and God will reject the sinner from his presence.
And yet at the same time that he says to his people, “I will reject you”, he also says, I will never forsake you. Listen to these verses: Both using the exact same hebrew word translated “reject” in Isaiah 2:6
1 Sam. 12:22
For the Lord will not forsake (reject) his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
For the Lord will not forsake (reject) his people; he will not abandon his heritage;
How is it that God can keep his word and reject the sinner in his sin, and yet also say that he will never forsake him? Here’s the answer from the lips of Jesus, our Savior:
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!”
Jesus was rejected in our place. Let this sink in! You and I are sinners, together we have become worthless (says Romans 3:12). We are worthy of being eternally and finally rejected in our sins, and yet Jesus was rejected in our place. Jesus, the suffering servant described in such detail later in Isaiah, is our salvation. He is our victory. Jesus is the answer to our struggle with sin, because he was rejected for us.
So how does God see sin? He sees the pervasiveness of our sin (theologians call it “total depravity”). He sees that the sinner must be rejected. And so his very Son was forsaken on the cross in your place. Jesus died so that your sinful self might be forever and completely rejected. Only when you see sin from this perspective will you begin to experience victory over it. In a future post, I want to apply this a bit more and talk about some practical things we can do to see sin from God’s perspective.
This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.