The prophet Isaiah is the most quoted prophet in the New Testament. We find the prophet referring to the birth of a child to a virgin (young woman) which then Luke takes and turns it into the classic Christmas story. This is later on in Isaiah but significant for this time of year. Isaiah is used often for both Advent and Lent because it is a book which speaks about waiting for the coming of Christ who will free and liberate us from our current condition. Isaiah was written in a time in the history of Israel when things were pretty bad. The people had been taken into captivity and were slaves in Babylon. Isaiah speaks out of that context and addresses the nation of Israel in order to restore their relationship to God which must have been fractured. Their current state was proof of that fracture.
There is much upon which we can focus. I would like to focus on vs.16 and 17 which tells the people of Israel that they need to focus, even while they are in captivity, upon making sure that they “must cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.” Often when we find ourselves in times of crisis we don’t do a real good job in looking outward to those who might need help. We tend to circle the wagons and try to make sure that our families, our loved ones, the ones that we know and “care about” are taken care of. But here Isaiah states that it is in times such as these that the most vulnerable of our society will be overlooked and trampled upon. Do not let it happen.
As a result of that message I have always made it a point to make sure that any church in which I serve our focus and emphasis would never be to make ourselves great, but rather to reach out to the least of these and strengthen them and lift them up. When we try to make ourselves great, then the desires of God will be overlooked. When we try to rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow, then I think we will find God’s blessings continue to fall upon us. When we try to focus on ourselves then I believe God’s hand is removed from us. This is a great first chapter to introduce Isaiah because this will be a continual emphasis.