Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Isaiah 1: 10-15

God Has Had Enough
 10 Hear the word of the LORD,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.
11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the LORD.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.

I've said this before on these pages: There is a reason why the first Commandment is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3, King James Version) Because it goes with the "foremost" Commandment that Jesus gave us: "'...Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'" (Mark 12:30) When God comes down hard on His people, bearing His wrath, it is often in regard to the lack of obedience in following the first and foremost Commandments. Judah was as guilty as Israel in finding ways to dishonor God through worship, except it may not read like it. 

Verse 10 clues us in that Judah and Jerusalem are not held in high regard, as Isaiah continues to reference them (as in last week's post) as Sodom and Gomorrah. "Listen up! Wise up!" he says. From here, God begins His list of everything He can't stand about the worship of His people. Let's highlight the components mentioned:

  • Sacrifices (verse 11)--Not only did Judah sacrifice, but they offered "multiplied" sacrifices. We even learn, as we continue on, that these sacrifices include the fat of "fed" animals;
  • Presence in the Temple courts for worship (verse 12);
  • Incense offering (verse 13);
  • New Moon and Sabbath festivals and feasts (verse 13 and 14);
  • Solemn assemblies (verse 13);
  • Spreading hands out in prayer and multiplied prayers (verse 15).

These are the things the people were doing. When looking at this list and referencing God's Word through the law of Moses, you can't fault Judah for not doing the right things. These were all things approved by God. If anything, it looks as though Judah is over the top with their efforts, offering more than the required.

But, obviously, our passage in Isaiah is not saying that Judah stood favorably in the eyes of God.

  • "What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” 
  • "I have had enough...."
  • "I take no pleasure in...."
  • "Who requires of you this trampling...."
  • "Bring your worthless offerings no longer"
    "Incense is an abomination...."
  • "I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly." 
  • "I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts...I am weary of bearing them."
  • "I will hide My eyes from you...."
  • "I will not listen....."

Clearly, something is missing. A big something:

"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me [unless they are the offering of the heart]? says the Lord. I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts [without obedience]; and I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs or of he-goats [without righteousness]."
--vs. 11, Amplified Bible

Sacrifices were certainly a part of what Judah was to do in their relationship with God. This was part of the demonstration of their faith and the way to be made right again in a formal, visual act of confession and repentance. But, as The Reformation Study Bible says, "Although God had ordered them to be performed, they were of no value without obedience from the heart."

Verse 13 in the King James' says, "Bring no more vain oblations." There was an attitude of the heart that was to come with the bringing of a sacrifice or offering. A humility. An understanding and honoring of God for who He was. God's beef with Judah is their heartlessness. Their emptiness. Their ritual. Today, this is one of the reasons giving religion its bad rap.

I'm blessed with being in a sharp Bible study group that is tackling Beth Moore's study of James right now. Jesus' half-brother, leader of the Jerusalem Council, a Christian Jew through and through, James pronounces the trouble with religion in his epistle: "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless." (James 1:26) Judah could walk the walk and probably proudly talked it up a good bit. But the people had deceived themselves in their hearts. They were devoted to the ritual and not to the Deity. Their religion had no value.

"Their hearts were empty of true devotion. They came to appear before God (Isa. 1:12), to be seen before him (so the margin reads it); they rested in the outside of the duties; they looked no further than to be seen of men, and went no further than that which men see."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
The "vain oblations" uttered and embodied by the Pharisees in prayer did not escape Jesus' teaching either:
"...For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
--Luke 18: 14b

Judah had lost its love for God. Intentional and yet completely wayward, outward. Even those of us who may call ourselves 'Christians' need to come terms with the fact that we are quite 'religious'--at least, on paper. Of what value is our religion today? If we understand God's Word in Isaiah, and Jesus' fulfillment of the law and the prophets, we should put love as a banner above all--love being obedience to the only One who can save us. What we do in showing our love has to come out of the Love that was placed in our hearts to begin with.

"But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."
--Isaiah 59:2

God lays out an action plan.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 1: 16-20

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).