The State of the Union is an annual address by the President of the United States. The speech reports on the condition of the nation and allows the president to outline his national priorities. The practice stems from a line in the Constitution of the United States which states, “He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The State of the Union Address has become a hallmark of American society. It is a popular way for one person to communicate critical issues not only to the Congress and people of the United States, but also to the people of the world.
Isaiah does something similar in chapter 1 of his lengthy book: 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken. (Is. 1:2 ESV) Isaiah calls a press conference. He invites all in heaven and all on earth to listen. Why? Because he’s about to deliver a State of the Union address which everyone on earth and in heaven needs to hear. It is an address which focuses on the state of the people of Judah, the people of God.
Isaiah’s address covers three areas of life in the nation of Judah. He describes what he’s seen regarding the nation’s security (Is. 1:2-9), the nation’s spirituality (Is. 2:10-20), and the nation’s society (Is. 2:21-26).
Regarding the nation’s security, Isaiah reports that foreign enemies have invaded the land. He tells us in v. 7 that the “country lies desolate” and the “cities are burned with fire” because “foreigners devour your land.” Isaiah describes God’s people as the victim of a savage mugging: The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. (Is. 1:5-6 ESV). When it comes to the nation’s security, Isaiah reports, God’s people suffer wounds. The entire country has been wounded by foreign invaders.
Regarding the nation’s spirituality, Isaiah describes how the country is in the midst of religious revival. Yet, it is a revival which seems to have failed: 11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12″When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen… (Is. 1:11-15 ESV). Spiritually, there has been great devotion—sacrifices in abundance, temple attendance, monthly and weekly observances, and prayers. But it has not gotten through to God. God says he hides his eyes from them and he does not listen to them. His eyes and ears are closed. These are signs of rejection. When it comes to the nation’s spirituality, Isaiah says, God’s people suffer rejection. God wants nothing to do with them. He ignores their pleas. He ignores their religious services. They are rejected by God.
Finally, Isaiah addresses the nation’s society. Here we learn why the nation has struggled so deeply. Here we learn why they suffer wounds and rejection. In v. 23 Isaiah mentions specific things happening in society. One has to do with bribes—the court system is laughable because judges can be paid off. A second has to do with widows. A third has to do with children: They do not bring justice to the fatherless. (Is. 1:23 ESV).
The word “fatherless” means “to be alone” or “bereaved.” When Isaiah thinks of the children of Judah, he thinks immediately of these words: alone; bereaved.
Some of the fatherless were the victims of war. In ancient Israel, men were the most frequent casualties of war. This left wives without husbands and children without fathers. The father and the husband was the one who provided resources for the family and defended the rights of the family. Thus, war left families and children without this. War left them alone and bereaved.
It is possible that some of the fatherless in Judah were the illegitimate offspring of the shrine prostitutes. Many of the pagan religions in the ancient world mixed sex and worship. Inevitably, shrine prostitutes would get pregnant and have babies. These babies had no real family. They were alone and bereaved.
And the nation, Isaiah mourned, “did not bring justice to the fatherless.” The nation ignored these children. The nation neglected these children.
There is even the hint in this text that God’s people have caused these children to suffer in the same way God’s people have been suffering. God’s people have suffered wounds. There is the hint that God’s people have been wounding these children. God’s people have suffered rejection. There is the hint that God’s people have been rejecting these children. These children suffer wounds and rejection because of God’s people.
And that is the cause of the two consequences listed in the earlier part of the text. Because of what’s going on in society with children, the nation’s security and spirituality is at risk. God has wounded his people because they have wounded these fatherless children. God has rejected his people because they have rejected these children.
And that reality leads us to a stunning conclusion: God responds to his people the way they respond to children. God is so enamored with and concerned for the fatherless that he ties his treatment of us to our treatment of them. We ignore children—God ignores us. We wound children—God wounds us.
Ultimately, the chapter is a call for God’s people to treat children the way God treats children. What Isaiah wants most is to change this state of the union. He wants Judah and Jerusalem to repent and start treating these lonely and bereaved children the way God does: 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Is. 1:16-17 ESV) Isaiah moves from general to very specific. General: remove the evil of your deeds, cease to do evil, learn to do good. Specific: seek justice, correct oppression. Most specific: bring justice to the fatherless and plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah urges them and us to respond to children the way God does.
Our mission work in Ukraine is one way in which we are attempting to do just this. Several from Highland recently returned from a trip to Ukraine. Among the many things they did, they served children. They attempted to respond to children the way God does. Cathlyn Tsirgiotis was part of the team. I’ve asked her to share an overview of the trip. After Cathlyn’s overview, we’ll watch a video the team’s service to children in Ukraine.
Highland’s mission efforts in Ukraine—which include the Bila Tserkva Church of Christ, the Ukrainian Education Center, and efforts like this recent trip—are a part of the way in which Highland is seeking to respond to children as God does.
Our work with David Jordan and Agape allows us to do the same in Memphis. As the Executive Director of Agape Child and Family Services and Families in Transition (FIT), David Jordan has dedicated himself to helping the lonely and bereaved children of this city. This summer marks an important anniversary in that effort. It is the tenth anniversary of Families in Transition. There are up to 10,000 homeless persons in Shelby County. One-third of those are women and children. In response to this need, FIT was launched on July 1, 2001. FIT is the only program of its kind in Shelby County serving homeless, pregnant women and their children in transitional housing. FIT has successfully served over 800 homeless, pregnant women and their children in its ten years of service. Much of that is due to the vision and inspiration provided by David Jordan. We’d like to celebrate that anniversary today. Please join me in welcoming David Jordan to Highland and thanking him for his service to the children of Memphis.
David, on behalf of Highland, we’d like present this plaque in recognition of the tenth anniversary of FIT. It reads… Could you share with us how Agape and FIT are showing God’s great love for children?
God’s concern for children is what motivates us to give to next Sunday’s Special Contribution for World and Urban Missions. This contribution supports ministries like the two we’ve just heard from—ministries which share God’s love with children in Ukraine and in Memphis. It also supports Raleigh Community Church of Christ, our work in the Philippines, and our work in Papua New Guinea. It allows us to help Highland families in need and adults and children from the community who come directly to Highland with needs. The goal of $122,000 is about four times our regular weekly contribution. It calls for sacrifice and generosity. I ask you to pray this week and to give in a great way next Sunday for this contribution.
Ultimately, this chapter in Isaiah is a call to respond to children the way God has responded to us. Listen again to the introduction to this chapter: 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. (Is. 1:2 ESV) Isaiah declares that God has been a caring and attentive parent to his people. Spiritually, we were all once fatherless. We were all once lonely. We were all once bereaved. But God became our father—the perfect father. And now he calls us to respond to children the way he responded to us. Giving next Sunday is one way to do just that.
 J. A. Motyer,). Vol. 20: Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (InterVarsity Press, 1999).
 A. C, Myers,The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Eerdmans, 1987), 785.