The Nature of Sin


© Rosemary Bardsley 2023

As we have already seen, Isaiah has much to say about who God is.

He identifies God as the Holy One – the only God.
He identifies God as the LORD Almighty – the all-powerful, eternal self-existent One.
He identifies God as the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.
He identifies God as the only Saviour, the Redeemer.

From the pages of Isaiah our knowledge of God is greatly enriched as we see his sheer authority and power and glory. There is no one like him. He has no equals.

But Isaiah also identifies the sin of Israel.

And here is an important truth: that our understanding of ‘sin’ largely runs parallel to our understanding of ‘God’. If our concept of God is small, then our concept of sin will be small. The bigger God is the more we realize how horrendous sin is. The more we know how important and powerful and wonderful God is, then the more inappropriate the rejection of God and his Word is.

To reject an imaginary god is nothing.
To reject one among many ‘gods’ is a small thing.

But to reject the God who alone is God is an enormous thing.
And to replace the God who created us with a ‘god’ we created for ourselves is an enormous thing.

Isaiah adds even deeper levels of the inappropriateness of Israel’s sin:

To discard the God who had deliberately revealed himself is a horrendous thing.
To reject the God who had miraculously redeemed and preserved them is a horrendous thing.
To reject the God who had acted with mercy and compassion is also a horrendous thing.

And this adds a further aspect:

That our understanding of how sinful sin is parallels our understanding of what God has done. If we have minimal belief in the actions of God, then our perception of the seriousness of sin will also be minimal.

Having discarded God – who he is and what he has done – Israel had also discarded God’s values and standards. This flow-on from the rejection of God is also evident in many countries today which were previously known as ‘Christian’ countries. Isaiah’s message, which could be seen as merely ancient history, is of acute relevance to Christians today, particularly Christians who are being tempted to join their culture in its rejection of the true God and his moral laws.


The foundational sin is rejection of God. It is out of this rejection of God that all other sins arise. They all express this fundamental rejection.

The first sin, recorded in Genesis 3, is evidence of this rejection. There Adam and Eve rebelled against God and his word, choosing to make their own decision about what to do and what not to do instead of trusting God and God’s one prohibitive command.

From these references in Isaiah identify a similar rejection of God and his word:







Isaiah begins with a call to the heavens and the earth to listen to what God has to say about his nation, Israel – ‘Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!’ –

Israel was raised up by God, but they rebelled against him.
They do not know him; they lack understanding.
Their sin, their guilt, their evil, their corruption are evident.
They have forsaken him, the LORD.
They have turned their backs on him, their Holy One. [1:2-4]

Not only have they rejected God himself, they have also:

Rejected his law, even though he is the LORD Almighty.
They have spurned his word, even though he is the Holy One of Israel. [5:24]

But it is even worse than that. Not only have they rejected God’s word, they actively and deliberately do not want to hear it. They would rather hear pleasant untruths than the word of God.

They are rebellious, deceitful, and unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction.
They tell the seers and prophets to stop telling them God’s message.
They tell them to stop confronting them with the Holy One of Israel.
They have thus rejected the truth and relied on oppression and deceit - 30:9 – 12.

And, having rejected the word of God, they embraced lies made up by their own hearts.

What do these verses say about these substitute messages?
9:15, 16




Discussion questions:
What lessons can you learn from this about right and wrong attitudes to the word of God?


How would you recognize a substitute message today?


What are some substitute messages being taught today?


How can you protect yourself against being deceived by substitute messages?


A.1 Misplaced trust
From time to time Isaiah mentions Judah’s tendency, in the absence of true faith in God, to put their trust in humans. This misplaced trust had two aspects: [1] an arrogant self-confidence in their own human wisdom and strength, and [2] a running to other nations for help against a threatening enemy, rather than turning to God.

What do you learn about this misplaced trust in these verses?
2:11 – 17, 22


30:1 – 7


31:1 - 3



Having rejected the one true God, Israel worshipped idols in his place. It is this substitution of man-made gods that drew the most scathing condemnation from God, via the prophets.

Study these references and answer these questions:
What is said about idols?
How are idols contrasted to the true God?
How is the inappropriateness of worshipping idols depicted?

2:8, 18, 20:












Not many of us today are tempted to worship physical idols, but we all need to ask ourselves an important question: Is my concept of God the same as the concept of God that he has revealed in the Bible? Or, have I put a substitute concept of God in his place – believing in my own idea of ‘god’ rather than believing what he has said about himself? And, importantly – Is my concept of God identical to the concept of God revealed in his Son, Jesus Christ? Am I worshipping, am I following, the real God, or a ‘god’ created by my imagination?



Isaiah does not say much about it, but concurrent with engaging in idolatry the people of Israel also engaged in occult practices.

Check these references. What occult practices do they refer to?

3:2, 3




What does God say about these practices? Check Deuteronomy 18:9 – 13?



Discussion points:
[1] How does engaging with the occult demonstrate a lack of faith in God and his word?


[2] In what ways are God’s commands against occult practices relevant to Christians today?



A casual observer could have been deceived into thinking that the Israelites remained faithful to God. The rituals prescribed by the Law of Moses were maintained. Sacrifices, priests, sacred assemblies – all seemed to be going on as normal. But God saw beyond the outward observances to the heart, and what he saw there evoked his anger. The lack of integrity in their worship of God was demonstrated in their lack of compassion for the poor and needy.

Check these verses. What does God think about the superficial external observances of the historic religion?
1:10 – 15




58:1 - 14




Rejection of God and his word almost automatically results wrong attitudes towards self and others. Having discarded God, the high value and dignity that God has endowed on humans was also discarded.

Check these references. What kinds of sins against self and others are involved?
1:21 – 23



2:10 – 18; 3:16, 17




5:11, 22




10:1, 2


59:3 – 8


As you read through Isaiah, be alert for more references to this kind of sin that, in rejecting God, gives itself the freedom to treat human beings with contempt or disrespect.


We must be careful not to minimize the sin of Judah. It was widespread and it was overt – a blatant, on-going, unrepentant rejection of God and of his word. Isaiah summed it up this way:

‘Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling;
their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence.
The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it.
Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.’ – 3:8,9.


Consider the several aspects of sin identified in Isaiah, and ask:

[1] To what extent are these sins part of my own life, my church and my culture?

[2] What am I going to do in response?


The sin of rejecting God and/or his word:

The sin of idolatry:

The sin of engaging in occult practices:

The sin of hypocritical worship:

Sins that demonstrate disrespect for myself and others: