Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “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. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart 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. Isaiah 1:2-6
Strong words for a nation to hear. Warren Wiersbe in his commentary on the book of Isaiah says that chapter 1 describes a courtroom scene where God convenes the court and states the charges against his people. Listen to the magnitude of how verse 2 starts out. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth.” What does that sound like? Does it sound like an eloquent lecture being given at your local university? Not hardly. He asks the heavens and the earth to listen. Wasn’t God just warning his people in Judah? Adam Clarke notes in his commentary on this verse:
God is introduced as entering into a public action, or pleading, before the whole world, against his disobedient people. The prophet, as herald or officer to proclaim the summons to the court, calls upon all created beings, celestial and terrestrial, to attend and bear witness to the truth of his plea and the justice of his cause.
There are several places in scripture where God uses this type if proclamation, and while some might argue that this is just the poetic style, I think it is clear that God is publicly proclaiming his case against his people.
God describes Israel as rebellious children, and not only that, he compares them to oxen and donkeys. Again I think we should pay attention to the strength of the words being used (as in verse 1) and take notice of how severe the comparison. Clarke says Israel’s comparison to the beasts is “an amplification of the gross insensibility of the disobedient Jews, by comparing them with the most heavy and stupid of all animals, yet not so insensible as they.” God really is saying that oxen and donkeys are smarter and more obedient that his people. His comparison to these animals cannot be easily waved away, and requires one to step back consider how deep Israel’s sin was. And as we continue on into verse 4, we see he is just getting started. He calls his people a sinful nation, heavy with iniquity, and states that the children are the offspring of evildoers. Now, I think this is a very important point. Because now we are dealing with generational sin – meaning that the children are an extension of what has gone before them.
It says in verse 4 that the children despise the Holy One and are estranged from God. I think it is worth thinking that through. Were the fathers estranged from God? The fathers rebelled and were disobedient, but they were not originally estranged from God. Because of the fathers’ disobedience their children are estranged from God and literally despise him. The fruit of the fathers’ choices have come to bear and you have the result in the children’s lives. I think this is important because it means in only 2 generations a nation can become totally separated from God. Generational obedience as well as disobedience has consequences.
Look now at verse 5, we see an amazing proclamation. God says the whole head (of the nation) is sick, from the sole of the foot to the head there is no soundness. Frankly, if I was going to describe America today, these words would describe its condition. We are very sick. We are sick with sin, sick with immorality, sick with disobedience, and we are sick from the least to the greatest. Doesn’t that sound great! Not at all, but we need to be honest about our own condition. If not, then how can we ever right ourselves with God? We must take on the responsibility to “clean up” our sick nation. If we are well, but our nation is sick, what can we do but bring our Christ to a sick generation. We must do it. God is warning us.