Hear O heavens! Give ear O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
“Children I have raised and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner;
the donkey its master’s trough;
Israel does not know,
my people does not understand.”
Woe! Sinning nation,
guilt laden people,
They have forsaken the LORD:
they have turned away from the Holy One of Israel;
they have turned back. . . .
Hear* the word of the LORD, governors of Sodom;
give ear to the teaching of our God, people of Gomorrah. . . .
When you spread out your hands [to pray],
I will turn my eyes from you.
Even though you multiply your prayers,
I am not listening.
It is blood that fills your hands.
[*Hebrew does not recognize a distinction between hearing and doing. If you do not obey a command you do not truly hear it.]
Wash to be clean!
Take away the evil of your deeds from before my eyes.
Stop doing evil; learn to do good. . . .
“Come now, let us argue it out together,” says the LORD.
“Even if your sins were like scarlet,
they could become white like snow.
Even if they were like crimson,
they could be like wool.
If you are willing and listen,
you will eat the best of the land.
But if you refuse and rebel,
the sword will devour you.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
“This passage [18ff] provides a conclusion to the contrast between [religious system] and ethical behavior . . . there is only one intelligent course of action—obedience and submission.”
“. .. what God is asking the people to debate with him is the wisdom of the two alternatives that are left them. Should they continue as they are and be destroyed, or should they obey God and be blessed?”
“God does not contend with us as though he wished to pursue our sins to the utmost. There is hope, but in God’s way, not ours.”
“There is a delicate balance to be maintained here between human freedom and divine sovereignty. On the one hand, it ought not to be said that obedience produces forgiveness. God forgives and cleanses not because he must, but because he wishes to and has made a way for that to be done through the death and resurrection of Christ. But, on the other hand, it is also plain that God does not proclaim forgiveness to those who are unwilling to obey.”
“The primary emphasis in Scripture is upon act. It is not how one feels but what one does that is of primary importance.”
–John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament