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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Isa 1; The City of Harlotry

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Portraits of Christ
“The City of Harlotry” – Isaiah 1

God foresaw Israel’s harlotry yet married her.

  1. God foresaw Israel’s harlotry before they entered the land of Promise.
    • “And the LORD said to Moses: ‘Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.’”(Deuteronomy 31:16-18)
  2. God foresaw Israel’s harlotry in the days of Isaiah yet offered her hope.
    • “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the LORD has called you…like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, Like a youthful wife when you were refused, says your God. ‘For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer.’” (Isaiah 54:4-8)
    • “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

God calls spiritual infidelity “harlotry.”

  1. Harlotry is God’s language describing the infidelity of His covenant-breaking people.
    • It is intended to shock and sting His people back to Him.
    • By using this kind of language He was emphasizing their spiritual infidelity.
    • They prided themselves on being above sexual sin, yet they needed to realize their breaking of the law as spiritual harlotry.
  2. Spiritual infidelity has different faces.
    • Adultery was intentional, spiritual infidelity in marriage.
    • Harlotry had two expressions:
      • Prostitution was intentional, spiritual degrading infidelity for profit.
      • Harlotry was intentional, spiritual degrading infidelity without profit.
  3. God’s people slowly backslid into blatant disregard of their covenant vows.
    • “And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense, says the LORD.”
    • Then the LORD said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel, says the LORD; I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity that you have transgressed against the LORD your God, And have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the LORD. ‘Return, O backsliding children,’ says the LORD; ‘for I am married to you.’” (Jeremiah 3:6-14)

God appointed Isaiah to cry out against Jerusalem’s harlotry.

  1. Isaiah was like a prosecuting attorney against God’s unfaithful Bride.
    • His name was symbolic—“Yahweh Saves”
    • He was sent to pronounce salvation from God’s wrath. (Isaiah 57:3-6)
    • “But come here, You sons of the sorceress, You offspring of the adulterer and the harlot! Whom do you ridicule? Against whom do you make a wide mouth And stick out the tongue? Are you not children of transgression, Offspring of falsehood, inflaming yourselves with gods under every green tree, Slaying the children in the valleys, Under the clefts of the rocks? Among the smooth stones of the stream is your portion; They are your lot! Even to them you have poured a drink offering, You have offered a grain offering. Should I receive comfort in these?”
    • He served as a prophet for at least 58 years during the reign of four Judean kings.
    • He was a contemporary of Hosea, Micah, and Amos.
    • Isaiah was probably sawn in two by King Manassah for his faith. (Hebrews 11:37)
    • Most of his prophetic focus was upon Judah and especially Jerusalem.
    • Early on Judah enjoyed economic and political prosperity under the rule of King Uzziah.
    • She couldn’t handle her success and began to prostitute herself in many ways to other nations, values and gods.
    • Jerusalem, once the city of righteousness, became a city of spiritual harlotry.
  2. Isaiah’s opening vision was an indictment against Judah for her stubborn rebellious ways Isaiah called heaven and earth to be his witnesses against Judah. (Isaiah 1:2-4)
    • God was charging them with multiple counts of sin.
    • Even the clumsy ox and the stubborn donkey had more understanding than they.
    • They were a sinful nation of rebellious children who had forsaken the Lord and become a brood of evildoers loaded with guilt and given to corruption (usually sexual sin).
    • They spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.

    Isaiah warned Judah of impending wrath unless they repented. (Isaiah 1:5-9)

    • He foresaw them becoming like a wounded soldier afflicted from head to toe with no one to heal them.
    • The countryside would become desolate, burned, stripped and laid waste by invading armies.
    • If God didn’t preserve a remnant, it would end up like Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Isaiah expressed God’s utter distaste for Jerusalem’s religious pretense. (Isaiah 1:10-15)

    • He calls Jerusalem to “Hear the Word of the Lord”—a word of judgment.
    • God refers to Judah’s and Jerusalem’s leaders like those of Sodom and Gomorrah.
    • They prided themselves for offering a multitude of sacrifices to atone for their sins, however they were presented to God without faith and repentance.
    • God said he found no pleasure in their sacrifices because they were not from the heart but were spiritual payoffs to continue in their own sinful ways.
    • They trampled the courts of His Temple in record attendance brining meaningless sacrifices.
    • Their prayers were like aputrid incense lofting up to the sky.
    • God hated their big religious feasts and festivals because they became occasions for evil not worship.
    • He became burdened and weary from all their religiosity without faith and repentance.
    • God was hiding His eyes and would not hear their prayers when they reached out for help because they considered God as their benevolent helper and not their holy God.
    • When they came to worship there was blood on their hands—the blood of lambs and bulls, but it was nauseating to God.
    • Their hands were also stained with the blood of their works.
    • Their works betrayed the absence of true faith. (James 2:10-13, 18, 26)
    • “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.’”
    • The great disconnect for Judah was keeping the observable laws, while denying the unkeepable unobservable laws of the heart.

    Isaiah called Judah to repent of her works of injustice, which were breaking their covenant vows to love God and their neighbor as themselves. (Isaiah 1:16-23)

    • They were urged to seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow.
    • Isaiah called Judah to reason or plead her case before God if she were brazen enough to try.
    • Though her sins were like scarlet, He would make them white as snow if she were willing and obedient.
    • If they continue in their rebelliousness they would be devoured by the sword.
    • Jerusalem, the city once faithful and just, had become a harlot and murderer.
    • All she treasured would tarnish and become dross.
    • Their rulers in the courts of the Temple were rebels and companions of thieves.
    • They loved bribes and chased after gifts like a harlot pandering herself for gain.
  3. Isaiah’s vision of Jerusalem is like the apostate church at the end of the age.
    • She prided herself on religious activity but lived like the culture around her.
    • She thought herself pious yet neglected to love and care for others.
    • She sought gifts and bribes to satisfy her greed and materialistic passion.
    • These are some of the same characteristics of the church in the last days.
    • “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
    • Only God could turn around a city of harlotry to become a city of righteousness.
    • Only God can turn around a rich yet poor church to become spiritually rich and compassionate for the poor.
    • Misplaced passion eventually corrupts both body, soul and heart.

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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