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

When God sent his prophets to proclaim his word to either the northern kingdom, Israel, or the southern kingdom, Judah, their messages generally contained four elements:

A reminder of who their God was, and what he had done for them in the past.
An exposure of their present sin and rebellion.
A call to genuine repentance.
Warnings of the judgement that was about to fall on them.

[As God understood it, and as the New Testament reveals, there was also a fifth element: references to the ultimate salvation that would come in and through the ultimate Saviour, bringing eternal salvation and escape from the final judgement. We will look at these in later studies.]

Their message was grounded in ‘the Law’ – the first five books of the Bible. These recorded the various covenants and the covenant obligations. They spelled out the physical blessings that would follow alignment with the covenant obligations, and the physical curses (judgements) that would follow failure to keep the covenant obligations. The people of Israel, as a whole nation, had committed themselves and their descendants to the covenants. We see from this that God’s judgements are neither arbitrary nor undefined. In implementing judgement God was acting in faithfulness to the covenants.

Note: This study looks at all of the covenants and briefly at their relationship with each other.


The covenant which detailed God’s requirements, the blessings of obedience and the curses (punishments) of disobedience, was the Sinai (Mosaic) Covenant, to which the Israelites had affirmed their agreement on several occasions.

Study these verses.
What commitments were made by the people of Israel?
Exodus 19:7, 8

Exodus 24:3, 7


How long did it last?
Exodus 32:1 – 8


How did the Israelites re-commit to the Covenant?
Joshua 24:2 – 27


What happened after that?
Judges 2:6 – 13


Although there was verbal commitment to the Covenant, that commitment was superficial and temporary. It is evident in Joshua’s challenge that, in direct disregard of the Covenant, the people had carried with them gods from wherever they had been – the gods of their ancestors beyond the river, the gods of Egypt and the gods of the Canaanites through whose lands they had recently passed (24:14, 15). It is the presence of these gods, and the worship of these gods that the Covenant specifically excluded.

As we saw in Study 8, the worship of other gods, the failure to honour only the one true God, was inevitably accompanied by a breakdown of the moral integrity and of the social justice which were also demanded by the covenant.


From the very beginning, enjoying the blessings of the Sinai Covenant was conditional on keeping the commands of that covenant, especially the commands banning idols and the worship of idols.

Check these scriptures. What conditions are specified? And what would result from failure to meet these conditions?
Exodus 19:5,6

Deuteronomy 4:1 – 30




Deuteronomy 4:39, 4; 5:32, 33; 6:3

Deuteronomy 6:13 – 19


Deuteronomy 11:13 – 32


Repeatedly through Deuteronomy the blessings of the Sinai Covenant are stated, and along with them the curses that would follow disobedience. In Deuteronomy 27 and 28 the blessings and curses are stated at length. Chapter 29 reports the renewal of the Covenant.

Read Deuteronomy 29:16 – 28. What do you learn about:

[1] the most important obligation of the Covenant?

[2] the anticipated failure of Israel to keep this command?

[3] the judgement that would result from this failure?

Note that the blessings and curses of the Sinai Covenant, spelled out in detail in Deuteronomy, are almost entirely physical blessings and curses. They are about health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, productivity and barrenness and famine, success and failure. In Deuteronomy 30:11 – 20 Moses put two options before the people: life and prosperity, death and destruction. Life and death, blessings and curses. He exhorted them, ‘Choose life, so that you and your children may live ... for the LORD is your life...’ In choosing gods other than the LORD they would be choosing death. [As in the Genesis 2:17 prohibition.]

B.1 Judah’s failure
Isaiah refers a number of times to Judah’s failure to keep the Covenant obligations which their ancestors had promised that they and their descendants would keep. This failure had persisted right through their history. [This back-story is discussed here.]

The most significant obligation was the worship of the one true God, and him only. It was here that the Israelites, first the northern kingdom, then the southern kingdom, failed. We have looked at this sin, and the sins that flow out from it, in Study 8.

Read these verses from Isaiah. What do they say about Israel’s failure to keep the Covenant and the judgement that it has incurred?
2:6 – 9

24:5 – 6

57:3 – 8

Every time Isaiah mentions idolatry, every time he mentions Judah’s rejection of God’s word, every time he refers to the social injustice that prevailed in the land, he is drawing attention to Judah’s failure to remain faithful to the Covenant. Because of that failure, God, in his faithfulness to the Covenant, brings judgement. It is of this impending judgement that he commissioned Isaiah to speak (6:8 – 13).


In Exodus 34, in response to Moses’ request to see God’s face, God revealed himself to Moses with these words:

‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’ – verses 6, 7.

Similarly, God says through Isaiah:

‘Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!’ – 30:18.

But, rather than receive the salvation and rest that issues from faith and repentance –

‘you would have none of it’ – 30:15.

When we consider the on-going nature of Israel’s sin and rebellion, our surprised question is ‘Why did God not act sooner?’ And the answer is ‘because he is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger...’ Time and again God delayed executing judgement, giving opportunity after opportunity for repentance. Similarly, Peter says in 2Peter 3:9, 20 that God in his mercy is delaying the final judgement so that people may come to repentance.

But when sin has maxed out, and when the suffering caused by sin has maxed out, when God has spoken again and again and no one has listened, God acts; God implements the prescribed judgement, which, in relation to Israel and Judah, meant the removal of the physical ‘blessings’ of the Covenant, and the imposition of the physical ‘curses’ of the Covenant.

What do these verses say about this ‘enough is enough’ aspect of God’s sovereignty?
Genesis 6:5 – 7

Genesis 15:16b

Genesis 18:20, 32; 19:13

Deuteronomy 9:4, 5

Had Noah’s contemporaries repented the flood would not have come. Had there been 10 righteous men in Sodom, those cities would not have been destroyed. Had the Canaanites been people of integrity God would not have given their land to the Israelites. But sin causes human suffering, and although God is slow to anger, there comes a point when he says ‘enough is enough’ and sends his judgement.

Now, in Isaiah we read of a similar maxing out of wickedness, a similar ‘enough is enough’ scenario, that rendered God’s judgement imminent and unavoidable.

Study these verses from Isaiah. How do they describe this unrestrained proliferation of sin?
1:5, 6

2:6, 8


9:13 – 18


The northern kingdom, Israel, was idolatrous from the beginning (see 1Kings 9:25 – 33). When God’s judgement came on Israel it was total and final. The southern kingdom, where kings of David’s line reigned, and where there were still some individuals, within the idolatrous nation, whose faith in God was genuine, God’s judgement was both punitive and restorative. Through the judgements/curses God’s intention was to cleanse and restore a remnant of his people.

What do these verses say about this?
1:7 – 9

1:25, 26


10:20 – 23


37:31, 32

In bringing on the destructive judgement God acted in keeping with cursings/woes defined by the Sinai Covenant and the Davidic Covenant for those who forsook the Lord and his word. In preserving a remnant, God acted in keeping with the eternal promises embedded in both the Abrahamic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant – promises focused on the ‘seed of the woman’, the ‘descendant of Abraham’, the lion of Judah, the root of Jesse, and the son of David. A remnant must be preserved so that the Christ could be born. Out of this remnant the Saviour of the world would come.

Even here in this act of judgement God had in mind his eternal plan of salvation for all nations. The spiritual failure of the nation through whom his purposes would be accomplished, could not undo or prevent that accomplishment. Even here in the midst of temporal judgements God’s grace and mercy preserve a faithful remnant. The purging, the judgement, is an expression of God’s grace determined in Christ Jesus before time began.


Throughout Isaiah we find multiple reference to the ‘nations’, sometimes by name, sometimes generally. Isaiah’s message, although especially directed towards Judah, has the world in focus. What Isaiah says has worldwide significance – both in his warnings of God’s judgement and in his messages of salvation. [When we look at Isaiah’s messages about Jesus Christ we will look further at the global relevance of the message of salvation.]

Some of Isaiah’s warnings of God’s judgement are addressed to the surrounding nations (for example, in chapters 10, 13 – 21, 23, 34, 47). We will not be studying these chapters. Note, however, that while the descendants of Jacob had committed themselves to keep the obligations of the Sinai Covenant, all nations, not just Israel, are accountable to the Lord, the Almighty, Sovereign God for the way they live.

When we look at God’s judgement and the nations, we some interesting facts:

That just as God used Israel as the instrument of his judgement on the inhabitants of Canaan, so also God used the nations (including their arrogance, their aggression, their quest for regional dominance) as the agents of his judgement upon Israel and Judah (and upon other nations).

That God also used nations as agents of deliverance for his people.

That God, not these nations, was in control; they were not free agents; they could go only as far as he determined. Regardless of what they thought about themselves and their ‘gods’, it is God, the LORD Almighty, who is the God of all the earth. The nations, and their gods, are less than nothing compared to him – see Section E in this study.

That these nations also were judged, and brought to an end, by God.

What do these verses say about the nations as God’s instruments – his agents used by him to bring about his purposes?
5:26 – 30

7:17 – 20

8:4 – 7

10:5 – 6

13:4, 5

41:1 – 4, 25

44:28 – 45: 6

46:10, 11

[This sovereign authority of God over all the nations is foundational to biblical theology: it is seen, for example, in the following New Testament verses – John 19:11; Acts 2:23; Romans 8:28 and foundational to biblical Christology – Ephesians 1:20 – 22; Philippians 2:9 – 11; Colossians 1:16; 2:10; Revelation 19:16.]


In Romans 1 there are three particularly frightening verses [24, 26 and 28]. In each of these we read that ‘God gave them over …’. Persistent and unrepentant human rejection of God and of his self-revelation in nature and in his Word eventually results in God giving us over to the godless life we have chosen and to the inevitable impacts of that choice.

What happens when God, in his mercy, acts in temporal judgement is evident in Isaiah 3:

Physical survival is in jeopardy [verse 1]
Political and social leadership deteriorates [verse 3-7]
Sin becomes overt, deliberate and unashamed [verse 8,9,16]
God’s order of responsibility is discarded [verse 12]
Social justice disappears [verse 14,15].

But the most devastating aspect of God giving us what we want is the removal of his Word, or of the understanding of his Word.

In Isaiah 6:9, 10, God instructed Isaiah:

‘Go and tell this people:
“Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.”
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’

In Isaiah 28:9 – 15 Isaiah described the people’s refusal to listen to God’s truth, and their trust in a lie rather than in the truth of God. He warned them that as a result of this rejection of God’s word God would send them incomprehensible messages, spoken in strange languages.

In Isaiah 29:9-14 we read of deep spiritual ignorance brought on as the judgement of God:

‘The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep:
He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);
he has covered your heads (the seers). …
Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.’

Amos put it even more clearly when he said to the northern kingdom:

‘”The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land –
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it’ [8:11,12].

Jesus himself quoted Isaiah 6:9,10 when he explained why he taught in parables [Matthew 13:10-15].

In the absence of knowledge of the truth about God all manner of human ideas, whether individual or collective, take over our minds and our hearts, and we embrace these human ideas as if they were the word of God. This is particularly stated in Jeremiah, when he, like Isaiah, spoke to Judah:

‘A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy lies … and my people love it this way’ [Jeremiah 5:30, 31].

‘How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name …’ [Jeremiah 23:26, 27; read verses 25-32].

We do not have to look very far in our world today to see these flow-on impacts of human rejection of God. Secular humanism and evolutionism with their denial of God’s existence have hi-jacked human minds and human hearts. The hopelessness and meaninglessness that have resulted are expressed in the postmodern mindset of relativity and despair. Within this mindset moral definitions have dissolved – sin is blatant and shameless, respect for human life has diminished, leadership figures lack dignity – and substitutes for God’s truth are multiplied.

Why? Why does God give people over to this terrible outworking of their choice to reject him and his Word?

God is ever the God of grace, the God of love. That love, that grace are right here in this most devastating expression of temporal judgement, has this end in view – to bring us to the realization that life without him is not at all what we thought it would be, and thus to bring us to our knees before him acknowledging him in penitence and faith. Like the waiting father in Jesus’ parable, God lets us go only to finally motivate and joyfully welcome our return. Driven back to God by this drastic temporal judgement those who respond by acknowledging him, the one true God, escape the ultimate, permanent, eternal judgement.

Thus we find the prophets’ repeated challenge is: ‘Return...’ ‘Turn ...’ as God calls his people back to faith, back to himself, back to life.