During the Vietnam war crisis, LBJ used part of Isaiah 1:8 with the protestors who were against the USA’s involvement. With the division among the people of faith, I thought I could use the same verse now. But that’s the problem when using just a half a verse–you don’t have the right context. It’s not talking about about listening to each others’ viewpoint, as a kindly arbitrator, trying to be objective and compromising. It’s talking about sin and how the LORD can settle the legal matter of our sins through cleansing. As you read past the verse and even past the chapter, you’ll see the theme.
And then when I went into the Hebrew verb for “reason”, I found that God wasn’t trying to reason with anyone. The verb is yakakh. It is used in the niphal form which means to correct or rebuke. In everyday parlance, that means God is telling people that they are plain wrong. It’s not up for discussion.
To see what the verb means, let’s see how Isaiah uses this verb.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
Perhaps the LORD your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, sent to mock the living God, and perhaps he will rebuke the words that the LORD your God has heard. So lift up a prayer for the remnant that still survives in this city.”
Who cause a person to be indicted by a word, And ensnare him who adjudicates at the gate, And defraud the one in the right with meaningless arguments.
I think that the psalmist in Psalm 141:5 gives us the best way to use this verb, but it may be lost in the KJV:
Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.
Let’s look at another translation to get the sense of it in modern thought:
Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. But I pray constantly against the wicked and their deeds.