[Adapted from notes I took on a timely message from a speaker many years ago]
I want to share with our readers about one of the most important words in the Bible. It is that little three letter word “sin.” It is found more than four hundred times in Scripture. Now pronounce that word carefully. Can you not hear the hissing sound of that old serpent, the Devil. Sin began in the garden, where Adam disobeyed God’s ban from eating from the forbidden tree. There, we discover that prior to man’s fall, sin existed in the form of the tempting serpent Satan who was cast out of Heaven because of pride. Notice that the middle letter of sin is “I.” When self becomes the center of a person’s attention and affection, sin is the inevitable result. But when self becomes nothing, the “I” is replaced with an “o” and “sin” is replaced with the word “Son.”
Although Isaiah was burdened with the sad spiritual state of Judah, he realized that all sin is personal, and it is only when “I” becomes nothing could the Son ever become real to the people. The prophet begins his book with a caustic rebuke of Judah’s backsliding and a massive call to repentance. He names the sins of the people, emphasizing personal guilt. Even the categories of these sins could begin with that same tragic letter “I.” This study would be the most profitable if you have your Bible opened to Isaiah 1:1-9 where he names these sins.
- Ingratitude (Isaiah 1:2). One of the most astonishing revelations in the Bible is the persistent rebellion and ingratitude of God’s people. The basic ingredient of ingratitude is the same basic ingredient of all sin – self. Self can never be grateful. Think of Israel as a collective group ruled by their ego, self, and then watch gratitude disappear.
Israel’s gratitude for bread while in Egypt turned to bitterness when slavery was imposed. Later gratitude for freedom became murmuring when bread became scarce. Gratitude for being in the Promised Land developed into disobedience when the Israelites faced the giants and obstacles in the land. Thankfulness for God’s leadership became demands for a king “like the other nations” had. Appreciation for military strength became moral weakness when heathen armies overthrew Jerusalem. Gratefulness for God’s presence turned to pessimism and dependency during the days of captivity. And finally, gratitude for the promised Messiah resulted in murder when the kingdom was declared to be a realm of love instead of a political force.
The more God tried to do for the Israelites, the more ungrateful they became. In our own land of plenty, there is less gratitude than ever. Even Thanksgiving has become a national party of feasting, drinking, and sports. Teenagers who now possess a substantial portion of the nation’s wealth seem devoid of satisfaction and contentment. Blest as a nation with every material blessing, culture, education, and spiritual development, we are in a rebellious march of thanklessness toward the God who has given us everything we have. And self, the big “I,” is in the middle of our sin.
- Ignorance (Isaiah 1:3). In Judah’s case, it was not natural ignorance but willful ignorance. The people had gained vast knowledge from their leaders, but they had not begun to know God because they had no fear of Him. Judah rejected the faith that their ancestor Abraham had known. Psalm 111:10 reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The vast scientific technology of our age has almost eliminated our need for faith. Our knowledge of God decreases as our knowledge of this world increases. Pride and ambition have kept the big “I” reigning.
- Iniquity (Isaiah 1:4). God’s people were no longer careful to hide their sins, instead they willingly and unashamedly moved into pagan wickedness. They agreed with the old saying that “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Their identity as a righteous nation was quickly ending. Children were growing up without any conscience about breaking God’s laws.
Without being overly pessimistic, we cannot deny that our own nation today resembles the sin-ridden country of Israel in Isaiah’s time. The crime rate, political scandals, riots, and lawlessness are increasing so rapidly that statistics become obsolete in a month’s time. Behind every act of indecency and dishonesty, whether recorded as a police statistic or not, is the big “I.”
Condoning sin in our own lives resembles getting used to our own image in a mirror. Since it is us, it is not so bad; so, we keep right on sinning not realizing that we are contributors to and part of our national condition. Israel was saved from utter desolation by a faithful few (Cf. Isaiah 1:9). Beloved, are you willing to let God’s Son replace your sin and become one of the Master minorities, one of the faithful “remnant” that may yet rescue our beloved land?