God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.




© Rosemary Bardsley 2024

In describing and commenting on the spiritual condition of Judah, Isaiah gives us insight into our spiritual condition – the default condition and position of every human being that makes salvation necessary.


It is impossible for us to realize just how offensive sin is to God. This is true even for those of us who believe in God, and who know God by knowing his Son, Jesus Christ. Even for those of us who have begun to understand sin through the perspective of the cross. So great is the difference between God and us that we struggle to see sin as God sees it.

Here in Isaiah we find sin described in many different ways as God tries to get Israel to realize what they have done, and what they are doing, in rejecting him.

Think about Isaiah’s descriptions of sin. Which of these is significant for you?

Sin is not knowing or acknowledging our Master [1:3].
Sin is not knowing our true home [1:3].
Sin is turning our backs on God [1:4; 59:13].
Sin is like putrid, open sores [1:6].
Sin is spiritual fornication and harlotry [1:9,10,21; 57:6-8].
Sin is like having hands full of blood [1:15].
Sin is being filled with impurities [1:22,25].
Sin is like diluted wine [1:22].
Sin is arrogance and self-exaltation [2:11-17; 4:9; 5:21].
Sin is trusting in man [2:22; 31:1].
Sin is the inversion of values and priorities [5:20].
Sin is like a raging bushfire [9:18].
Sin is having a covenant with death [28:18].
Sin is believing God is ignorant [29:15,16].
Sin is choosing to live apart from God’s instruction [30:1,2,9; 42:24].
Sin is rejecting the word of God [30:10,11].
Sin is basing one’s life on worthless deception [30:12-14; 59:13-15].
Sin is not calling upon God [43:22; 64:7].
Sin is an expression of spiritual ignorance and foolishness [44:9-20; 45:20].
Sin is quarrelling with one’s Maker [45:9].
Sin is being stubborn-hearted, stiff-necked and hard-headed [46:12; 48:4].
Sin is walking in the dark, with no light [50:10; 60:2].
Sin is having chains around one’s neck [52:2].
Sin is living in fear of idols [57:11].
Sin is not listening and not answering when God calls [65:12; 66:4].

Most of these definitions focus on the one sin from which all ‘sins’ arise: our rejection of God. Whether that rejection of God is expressed in self-reliance or in idolatry or in despising the word of God, it is rejection of God that is the key sin and the root of all individual sins. This rejection of God involves the absence of faith in God. This rejection of God involves a corrupt and distorted concept of God. The true God is not known.

Judah had a heritage of knowing about God – they knew about him as the Creator, they knew about him as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they knew about him as the Redeemer, they knew about him as the ‘I AM’ – the eternal, self-existing One, they knew about him as the Lord Almighty, they knew about him as the Holy One. But they cast all of this aside. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they discarded the truth about God and believed a lie. Hence we read Paul’s indictment against this sin which is foundational to all sins:

‘For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles … They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator … they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God …’ [Romans 1:21-23,25,28].

Hosea, bringing God’s word to a similar situation, said:

‘… my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge …
a people without understanding will come to ruin’ [Hosea 4:6,14].

And here we may begin to understand not only the sinfulness of sin, but also the foolishness of sin: that when we reject God –

We are rejecting the most powerful Being in the universe.
We are rejecting the most glorious Being in the universe.
We are rejecting the most loving Being in the universe.

We are rejecting the Absolute – the One who transcends all else, the One who created all else, the One who sustains all else.

We are rejecting the One on whom we are totally dependent for our existence.
We are rejecting the One on whom our identity and our purpose depends.
We are rejecting the One who clothed us with dignity and honour.

In rejecting God we are also rejecting ourselves. In despising God we are also despising ourselves. Because what we are, our true humanness, is totally dependent on our connection with God.

God exists apart from us: but severed from him, we die.
God exists apart from us: but severed from him we are nothing.
God is the Lord of Glory regardless of what we do: but severed from him we are naked, poor, wretched, blind.

God does not need our praise and our obedience: but we need him.

Salvation is, therefore, sometimes defined in terms of knowing God:

‘… the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea’ [Isaiah 11:9].

‘ … so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he’ [43:10].

‘… this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ [John 17:3].

Sin – rejection of God and all that flows from it - is totally out of order, totally inappropriate. Arising from the lie, not from the truth, it deceives us into believing that it is to our advantage to reject God and to despise his Word. However, the opposite is true: no matter how hard we try we will never destroy or dispose of God. He will survive our sin – but we do not. This foolish attempt of man to get rid of God results in our destruction, not God’s.


If we look at Isaiah’s description of the nation of Judah in their rebellion against God we see, in micro, what God means when he calls the whole human race ‘lost’. This result of the sin we looked at above is a picture of terrible desolation.

What does it mean to be ‘lost’? What is it about the human race that moved the Good Shepherd with such compassion that he came to seek us out and to save ‘the lost’?

Which of Isaiah’s definitions of lostness in chapters 1 & 2 can you identify with?

To be lost is to not know where we belong or to whom we belong [1:3].
To be lost is to have no real understanding of God [1:3].
To be lost is to carry a heavy burden of guilt [1:4].
To be lost is to be left untended in pain and agony [1:5,6].
To be lost is to be utterly desolate and alone [1:7,8].
To be lost is to be deceived by external religion [1:11-14].
To be lost is to be unable to approach God in prayer [1:15].
To be lost is to have abandoned one’s true identity [1:21,22].
To be lost is to be covered with shame [1:29].
To be lost is to be like a garden without water [1:30].
To be lost is to be under God’s judgement [1:31; 2:12-18].

To be ‘lost’ is to be in a desperate condition and an inescapable position. There is no possibility here of our finding ourselves. There is no possibility here of our finding a way of escape.

We are blind [2Corinthians 4:3,4].
We are powerless [Romans 5:6].
Indeed, we do not want to be found [John 3:19].
We do not want to hear the word of God [Isaiah 30:10,11].

So deep and so overpowering is our lostness that we have come to derive our significance and our identity from it. We think that this is who we are. We think that this is all there is. So familiar is our lostness that we feel secure in it. And that is how we will stay.

Unless …

Unless the Sovereign Lord intervenes. Unless God brings grace in the midst of judgement.

In sovereign grace God allowed Adam and Eve to continue to exist, clothed with a covering that he provided [Genesis 3].

In sovereign grace God saved Noah and his family when all else perished [Genesis 6].

In sovereign grace God allowed a remnant to survive his judgement [Isaiah 1:9].

The God of grace, the Good Shepherd, reaches down, comes down. He carries the weak. He saves the lost. He justifies the wicked.

‘He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young’ [Isaiah 40:11].

‘A bruised read he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out’ [42:3].

He comes ‘…to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness’ [42:7].

He says ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak …’ [Ezekiel 34:16].

To be ‘lost’ is such a terrible thing that the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine who are safe and goes out to rescue the one who is lost [Luke 15:4-7]. To be ‘lost’ is such a terrible thing that the restoration of the ‘lost’ is the cause of exultant joy and celebration [Luke 15:7,10, 22-32].

God knows, and the angels of God know, that ‘lost’ is not what we were created for, that ‘lost’ is not what we are meant to be. God knows that to be lost is so horrendous that he sent his only Son to ‘seek and to save the lost’ [Luke 19:10]. The Son knows that to be lost is so dreadful a state that he laid down his life to rescue us [John 10:11].

The whole incarnation event and the crucifixion – these bear witness to the utter desolation, destitution and degradation of being ‘lost’. We do not realise it, but God does. This incarnation, this crucifixion – these are the extent to which God has gone to rescue us. For this joy of rescuing the lost and bringing us home Jesus, the Son of God, endured the shame and the suffering of both the incarnation the crucifixion [Hebrews 2:10; 12:2]. It is such a terrible thing to be lost that in order to rescue and restore us –

‘… it pleased the LORD to bruise him …’ [Isaiah 53:10, KJV].

This divine action of amazing grace, this incredible purpose of God accomplished through the sin-bearing death of his Son, leaves us with no excuse for doubting either the depth, disempowerment and despair of our lostness, or the willingness and readiness of God to save us.

How does Isaiah’s description of Judah’s sin help you to understand how God sees and feels about your sin?


What insights has Isaiah given you about what it means to be ‘lost’?


In what ways is Isaiah’s understanding of sin and lostness relevant for your life as a follower of Christ?


How does Isaiah’s understanding of sin and lostness affect your appreciation of what Jesus Christ has done for you?