This outline is from Ludlow's book.
A. Introductory discourse (vs. 2-20)
1. The Lord's accusation (2-6)
a. The Lord speaks—Israel has rebelled (2)
b. Animals know their master's crib (food supply) (3)
c. Sinful people! (4)
d. People stricken—every head and heart sick (5)
e. Open sores everywhere are not cared for (6)
2. Immediate judgments (7-15)
f. Strangers consume the land (labor of hands yields nothing) (7)
g. Zion is desolate after the harvest (8)
h. People are like Sodom and Gomorrah (blatant wickedness) (9)
i. Hear the word of the Lord (10)
Pivot point: For what purpose are your sacrifices?
Obedience is better than sacrifice! (See 1 Sam. 15:22.) (11)
i'. Who asked you to come to the Lord? (Haven't you heard?) (12)
h'. The Lord rejects sabbaths, religious assemblies (hiding wickedness) (13)
g'. No more harvest feasts accepted by the Lord (14)
f'. Sinful hands raised in prayer bring no results (15)
3. Promise of pardon (16-20)
e'. People wash themselves clean (16)
d'. Noble learning (head) and justice (heart)—oppression ended (17)
c'. Promise of forgiveness to people (18)
b'. If people follow God, they will eat food of the earth (19)
a'. Rebellious Israel will be devoured—the Lord has spoken (20)
B. Pronouncement upon Israel (21-31)
1. Apostasy (21-24)
u. Jerusalem and wickedness together (21)
v. Watered wine (22)
w. Greed for wealth (23)
x. The Lord will send vengeance on his enemies (24)
2. Restoration (25-27)
y. Wickedness will be purged out (25)
Pivot point: The LORD will restore proper leaders
God will restore to righteousness! (See Jer. 33:7-9.)
z. Jerusalem will be the faithful city again (26)
y'. Repentant ones will be redeemed (27)
3. Judgment (28-31)
x'. The Lord will destroy sinners (28)
w'. Coveting for property (29)
v'. Gardens without water (30)
u'. Selfish ones and their wealth burn together (31)
The Great Arraignment
Ludlow calls the first chapter in Isaiah the "Great Arraignment." (71) The arraignment is divided into four parts.
Accusation: where the Lord describes the charges against Israel. In Isaiah 1:2-6, the Lord describes the ills (sins) of the people.
Immediate judgments: because the people have disobeyed, the Lord will visit them with immediate consequences (Isaiah 1:7-15)
Promise of pardon: conditions of repentance and blessings wherein the basic gospel principles are established (Isaiah 1:16-20)
Final sentencing: those who repent are redeemed and those who do not repent are destroyed (Isaiah 1:21-31)
As I read Isaiah 1 for the first time, one of the most striking verses was verse 7. "Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers." I know this verse warned the Israelites in Isaiah's time and this prophesy was fulfilled when the Assyrians and Babylonians invaded their nation, but I can't help but think this verse might not also apply to us today.
Just today (November 6, 2007), I read an article by Pat Buchanan who cited many shocking facts about our nation's economic state. In 2001, the euro was worth $.83. Today it is worth $1.45. The British pound is over $2 and the Canadian dollar is worth more than the U.S. dollar for the first time in 50 years.
Then he said, "The dollar is plunging because America has been living beyond her means, borrowing $2 billion a day from foreign nations to maintain her standard of living and to sustain the American Imperium." (Opinion by Pat Buchanan November 3, 2007 http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=58476)
I can't help but think that "strangers [are devouring our] country in [our] presence."
One of the accusations the Lord lays on the people is their lack of sincerity. In Isaiah 1:11-15, the Lord tells His people that He is tired of their lack of sincerity. He doesn't want "vain oblations" (Isaiah 1:13) and He is "weary" bearing all the peoples' sacrifices and burnt offerings and assemblies because the people have lost their sincerity.
Perhaps more applicable to us today is Isaiah 1:15 where the Lord says, "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear." Other scriptures have taught us the importance of sincerity in prayer and how the Lord will not listen to insincere prayer.
Alma quoted a prophet by the name of Zenos regarding sincere prayer. "And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity" (Alma 33:11). A search of the scriptures on sincere prayer teaches us that if we do not pray with sincerity, the Lord will no hear our prayers (see Matt. 6:6-15; 3 Nephi 13:5-15; Matt. 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47; Alma 38:13; 3 Nephi 19:24; Moroni 7:48)
Prayer is only a part of our worship. If we are not sincere in all aspects of our worship, then our worship is in vain. We must be sincere in our temple worship and when we partake of the sacrament. We must be sincere when we serve others.
As I read these verses, I could see and feel the Lord's frustration. He doesn't only want us to be baptized and pray and partake of the sacrament for the sake of doing those things … what he really wants is a "broken heart and contrite spirit" … he wants us live the gospel and mean it. We cannot give lip service; we must mean it and live it. We must be sincere.
Repentance and Baptism
A person who has open sores or wounds would not leave them to rot and become infected (see Isaiah 1:6). Rather, we would clean the sore and wounds and anoint them with ointment. So should it be with our sins. We need to wash them from us and allow Christ to heal them. As we repent, we will "cease to do evil" and "learn to do well" (Isaiah 1:15-16).
The remedy to a sick head (Isaiah 1:5) is to learn to do well (Isaiah 1:17). The remedy to a faint heart (Isaiah 1:5) is to seek judgment or justice (or to devote our hearts to justice). We are to serve and help the fatherless and the widow.
One of the greatest scriptures in all books is Isaiah 1:18. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: thought your sins be as scarlet, theyshall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." No other doctrine should be as soothing as that of repentance. We have all sinned and need the Physician. We can always repent no matter the sin.
Failure to repent and turn to the Lord will bring grave consequences. The Lord will purge his people like dross from silver (Isaiah 1:25). The choice is ours. Will we repent or will we suffer the consequences?
Those who do not repent will suffer "destruction" and will be "consumed" and will "burn" and nothing will quench the fire (see Isaiah 1:28-31).