What Does Isaiah 1:3 Mean?

"An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master's manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand."

Isaiah 1:3(NASB)
Picture courtesy of ClipArtPal

Verse of the Day

Of all the prophetic writings, Isaiah is one of the best loved books of the Bible. There are passages within its pages that contain detailed descriptions of Christ's suffering, sorrow, rejection, and death, as well as some beautiful illustrations of God's never-failing grace, His long-suffering mercy towards His people, Israel, and their final repentance and restoration.

However, here in his first few chapters, Isaiah uses some very candid and forthright language to describe God's utter disgust towards His people, and the prophet clearly proclaims a coming judgement on Judah and Jerusalem. Indeed, the Lord, Himself, accuses His errant people of idolatry and systematically sets out His legal case against His disobedient and apostate nation.

The anger of the Lord is such that Isaiah calls on the heaven above and the earth beneath to bear witness to the Lord's accusations against His rebellious people: "Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the LORD speaks," we read. "Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey knows its master's manger, but Israel does not know - My people do not understand."

What a tragic statement to hear such a characterisation about God's chosen, covenanted people. What a sad summary of Israel's demise and disintegration. They had been set apart by God to be a holy people unto Him, whom the Lord had promised to bless abundantly... if they would but obey His voice and honour His name. And they were to be the living tool which the Lord would use to tell the pagan nations the good news of the coming kingdom of God.

Israel are guilty of God's blistering accusations for they were His chosen, covenanted people, and yet they turned their faces away from the Lord and followed after false gods, who were made of wood and stones - and were not gods at all! His severe indictment of His guilty people is deeply troubling: "Israel does not know," was the Lord's plaintive judgement. "God's people do not understand."

It was the sinful condition of the nation that aroused God's flaming anger, for a holy God cannot look upon sin. It was because of Israel's rebellious sin and unbelief that the people stood guilty before the Lord - and it is because of sin that the fallen, Adamic race is spiritually dead in trespasses and sins and at enmity with God. Israel had been given every opportunity to follow the Lord and trust His Word - and yet they did not understand the dire consequences of innate sin and their many sins.

God was Israel's Provider, and He had guided them through the wilderness into the promised land of Canaan. He protected them from their enemies - even when they abused His goodness and blasphemed His holy name. But sadly, they had less understanding of their Creator than the beasts of the field or the birds of the air: "For an ox knows that his owner feeds him, and a little donkey recognises the master who puts hay into her manger," but Israel did not understand Who God really was - how sad.

BUT GOD in His grace looked down on guilty, apostate, defiant Israel, and purposed to send His own, unblemished Son to be the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world. Jesus was sent to be the perfect Lamb, slain before the foundation of the earth - through Whose sacrificial blood their scarlet sins could be wiped away, by faith, and become as white as snow: "Though your sins are red like crimson, they will be like wool," is God's promise to His people Israel - and His promises are 'YES' and 'AMEN' in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the same way the Lord, in His grace, looked down on you and me. While we were yet sinners, God gave His only begotten Son to be the sacrifice for our sin - so that by grace through faith in Him, we might be redeemed, receive eternal life, and be returned into sweet fellowship with our Heavenly Father. And even on those occasions when we are unfaithful - He remains faithful for He cannot deny His Word.

How important to learn this lesson from Israel's failure... that God is not mocked nor will He tolerate the sin of His people. As members of the Body of Christ, we have been given ALL we need for life and godliness... and we have been instructed, in His Word, on how to live a life that pleases God. We are to abide in Him, walk in spirit and truth, die to self, and live for the Lord.

We are to let the Word of truth dwell in us richly and study to show ourselves approved unto God. We are to pray without ceasing, rejoice evermore, give thanks in everything, and love our brothers and sisters in Christ, as we watch for the Lord's soon return. We are to stand firm in the faith and submit to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, day by day, and we are to live our lives looking to Jesus and learning to say, in all things, "THY will, not mine be done."

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for the book of Isaiah and the many truths within its pages. Thank You that You sent Jesus to save Your people from their sins. Thank You that You came to save me and place me into Your heavenly family, by grace through faith in Christ Jesus my Saviour. Keep me from wandering away from the truth of Your Word. Give me an understanding heart and a love for You that grows with every passing day. This I ask in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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