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Isaiah 1:17

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Learn to do well - , To learn here is to become accustomed to, to practice it. To do well stands opposed to all kinds of evil. “Seek judgment.” The word “judgment” - משׁפט mishpâṭ - here means justice. The direction refers particularly to magistrates, and it is evident that the prophet had them particularly in his view in all this discourse. Execute justice between man and man with impartiality. The word “seek” - דרשׁוּ dı̂reshû - means to pursue, to search for, as an object to be gained; to regard, or care for it, as the main thing. Instead of seeking gain, and bribes, and public favor, they were to make it an object of intense interest to do justice.

Relieve - - אשׁרוּ 'asherû - literally, make straight, Or right (margin, righten). The root - אשׁר 'âshar - means to proceed, to walk forward in a direct line; and bears a relation to ישׁר yâshar to be straight. Hence, it often means to be successful or prosperous - to go straight forward to success. In Piel, which is the form used here, it means to cause to go straight; and hence, applied to leaders, judges, and guides, to conduct those under their care in a straight path, anal not in the devices and crooked Ways of sin; Proverbs 23:19:

Hear thou, my son, and he wise,

And guide אשׁר 'asher “make straight”) thine heart in the way.

The oppressed - Him to whom injustice has been done in regard to his character, person, or property; compare the notes at Isaiah 58:6.

Judge the fatherless - Do justice to him - vindicate his cause. Take not advantage of his weak and helpless, condition - his ignorance and want of experience. This charge was particularly necessary on account of the facilities which the guardians of orphans have to defraud or oppress, without danger of detection or punishment. Orphans have no experience. Parents are their natural protectors; and therefore God especially charged on their guardians to befriend and do justice to them; Deuteronomy 24:17: ‹Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor the fatherless, nor take the widow‘s raiment to pledge.‘

Plead for - Contend for her rights. Aid her by vindicating her cause. She is unable to defend herself; she is liable to oppression; and her rights may be taken away by the crafty and designing. It is remarkable that God so often insists on this in the Scriptures, and makes it no small part of religion; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:17; Exodus 22:22: ‹Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.‘ The ancient views of piety on this subject are expressed in the language, and in the conduct of Job. Thus, impiety was said to consist in oppressing the fatherless and widow.

They drive away the donkey of the fatherless,

They take the widow‘s ox for a pledge.

Job 24:3.

He evil-entreateth the barren that beareth not,

And doeth not good to the widow.

Job 24:21.

Job‘s own conduct was an illustration of the elevated and pure views of ancient piety:

When the ear heard me, then it blessed me;

And when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me;

Because I delivered the poor that cried,

And the fatherless,

And him that had none to help him.

The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me;

And I caused the widow‘s heart to leap for joy.

Job 29:11-13.

See also Jeremiah 7:6; Malachi 3:5; James 1:27. Hence, God is himself represented as the vindicator of the rights of the widow and orphan:

A father of the fatherless,

And a judge of the widows,

Is God in his holy habitation.

Psalm 68:5.

Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive;

And let thy widows trust in me.

Jeremiah 49:11.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Not only feel sorrow for the sin committed, but break off the practice. We must be doing, not stand idle. We must be doing the good the Lord our God requires. It is plain that the sacrifices of the law could not atone, even for outward national crimes. But, blessed be God, there is a Fountain opened, in which sinners of every age and rank may be cleansed. Though our sins have been as scarlet and crimson, a deep dye, a double dye, first in the wool of original corruption, and afterwards in the many threads of actual transgression; though we have often dipped into sin, by many backslidings; yet pardoning mercy will take out the stain, Ps 51:7. They should have all the happiness and comfort they could desire. Life and death, good and evil, are set before us. O Lord, incline all of us to live to thy glory.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Relieve the oppressed "Amend that which is corrupted" - חמוץ אשרו asheru chamots . In rendering this obscure phrase I follow Bochart, (Hieroz. Part i., lib. ii., cap. 7), though I am not perfectly satisfied with this explication of it.

Ellen G. White
Messages to Young People, 348

It is not enough for you to avoid the appearance of evil; you must go farther than this; you must “learn to do well.” You must represent Christ to the world. It must be your daily study how you can learn to work the works of God. His followers are to be living epistles, “known and read of all men.” MYP 348.1

You can never secure a good character by merely wishing for it. It can be gained only by labor. Your desires in this direction must be expressed in earnest, honest endeavor and patient toil. By taking advance steps each day up the ladder of progress, you will find yourself at last at the top—a conqueror, yes, more than a conqueror, through Him who has loved you.—The Youth's Instructor, November 5, 1896. MYP 348.2

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Ellen G. White
Education, 141

“Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and Thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.” “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.” Isaiah 1:17; Psalm 41:1, 2; Proverbs 19:17. Ed 141.1

He who makes this investment lays up double treasure. Besides that which, however wisely improved, he must leave at last, he is amassing wealth for eternity,—that treasure of character which is the most valuable possession of earth or heaven. Ed 141.2

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Ellen G. White
Steps to Christ, 39

Confession will not be acceptable to God without sincere repentance and reformation. There must be decided changes in the life; everything offensive to God must be put away. This will be the result of genuine sorrow for sin. The work that we have to do on our part is plainly set before us: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:16, 17. “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.” Ezekiel 33:15. Paul says, speaking of the work of repentance: “Ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:11. SC 39.1

When sin has deadened the moral perceptions, the wrongdoer does not discern the defects of his character nor realize the enormity of the evil he has committed; and unless he yields to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit he remains in partial blindness to his sin. His confessions are not sincere and in earnest. To every acknowledgment of his guilt he adds an apology in excuse of his course, declaring that if it had not been for certain circumstances he would not have done this or that for which he is reproved. SC 40.1

After Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, they were filled with a sense of shame and terror. At first their only thought was how to excuse their sin and escape the dreaded sentence of death. When the Lord inquired concerning their sin, Adam replied, laying the guilt partly upon God and partly upon his companion: “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” The woman put the blame upon the serpent, saying, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Genesis 3:12, 13. Why did You make the serpent? Why did You suffer him to come into Eden? These were the questions implied in her excuse for her sin, thus charging God with the responsibility of their fall. The spirit of self-justification originated in the father of lies and has been exhibited by all the sons and daughters of Adam. Confessions of this order are not inspired by the divine Spirit and will not be acceptable to God. True repentance will lead a man to bear his guilt himself and acknowledge it without deception or hypocrisy. Like the poor publican, not lifting up so much as his eyes unto heaven, he will cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and those who do acknowledge their guilt will be justified, for Jesus will plead His blood in behalf of the repentant soul. SC 40.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, 149-50

These are the words of God to us. The past is contained in the book where all things are written. We cannot blot out the record; but if we choose to learn them, the past will teach us its lessons. As we make it our monitor, we may also make it our friend. As we call to mind that in the past which is disagreeable, let it teach us not to repeat the same error. In the future let nothing be recorded which will cause regret in the by and by. 6T 149.1

We may now avoid a bad showing. Every day we are making our history. Yesterday is beyond our amendment or control; today only is ours. Then let us not grieve the Spirit of God today, for tomorrow we shall not be able to recall what we have done. Today will then be yesterday. 6T 149.2

Let us seek to follow the counsel of God in all things, for He is infinite in wisdom. Though in the past we have come short of doing what we might have done for our children and youth, let us now repent and redeem the time. The Lord says: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword.” Isaiah 1:18-20. The message, “Go forward,” is still to be heard and repeated. The varying circumstances taking place in our world call for labor that will meet these peculiar developments. The Lord has need of men who are spiritually sharp and clear-sighted, men who are certainly receiving manna fresh from heaven. The Holy Spirit works upon the hearts of such men, and God's word flashes light into the mind, revealing to them more than ever before the true wisdom. 6T 149.3

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