Isaiah 1.10,16-20; Psalm 49; Matthew 23.1-12
The book of Isaiah as we have it in our Bibles is a pasted-together compilation of the writings of at least two, and probably four or more prophets who lived across two centuries.
The original, 8th-Century, Isaiah, to whose reputation later prophets evidently attached themselves, was a member of the hereditary Temple priesthood, a man of lofty vision with a surpassing sense of the transcendence of God. He displayed an acute awareness of the consequence of sin to the relationship between God and human beings. Despite his connexion to the Temple, though, he concentrates not simply on ritual violations but rather understood sin as pervading the inequalities of social life. He is fearless in his denunciations: ‘A sinful nation, a people weighed down with guilt, a breed of wrong-doers, perverted son.’ [1.4] is his description of his country. (A rabbinic tradition has it that Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half as a punishment for Isaiah’s reproofs of the nation.)
Equally, though, Isaiah sees God’s offer of forgiveness: ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’ The prophet sees a coming age in which a remnant of the people who survive the fall of the nation of Judah will survive to rebuild peace and justice.