DESOLATION WITH DIM HOPE
Immanuel, God with us, I rejoice in You today and look forward to reading Your Word and learning new truth about You.
Read ISAIAH 1:1–20
1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
A Rebellious Nation
2 Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
4 Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.
5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.
7 Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
8 Daughter Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
like a city under siege.
9 Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the instruction of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
- Isaiah 1:17 Or justice. / Correct the oppressor
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions.’1
When Isaiah wrote, Israel, God’s chosen people, were having a real rough time. Their response, not given here but clear elsewhere,2 was much as ours might have been; ‘It’s not fair, it’s not my fault, I’m offering all the right sacrifices, so I deserve better; God owes me, why is He allowing this, why isn’t He doing something about it?’ But Isaiah doesn’t let them get away with that. His book is full of glimpses of possible hope, but that hope can become a reality for them only if they first accept the realities of their own sin and their own responsibility. His imagery is vivid and fierce: they are worse than oxen or donkeys, they have turned their backs on God, and they are behaving like Sodom and Gomorrah; justice, compassion, righteousness, and holiness have gone out of the window. They think that if they are seen to be religious, with lots of sacrifices, ceremonies, celebrations, and public prayers, then that is all God should expect from them. They think they are behaving as God’s people should!
Isaiah doesn’t pull any punches! Far from appreciating their religiosity, God hates it. This doesn’t mean Isaiah thinks that religious services shouldn’t beheld, but unless they honestly reflect a life worshipping God through showing the justice, compassion, and holiness seen in God’s own nature, then it is just hypocritical nonsense. It is something of a relief to reach verse 16 and begin to see the possibility of forgiveness and renewal – but this is entirely dependent on them. Without a wholesale change in attitude and behavior, their current troubles will only worsen. The New Testament makes it clear that we are freely forgiven by God’s grace, because of the work of Jesus, but that brings an expectation of, not exemption from, our responsibility to reflect God’s justice and compassion.
Lord, help me live every day for and with You, so that the services I take part in at church reflect and don’t replace the worship of my whole life.
Merciful Father, I take ownership of my sins and release them to Your forgiving grace. I long to know You in more than just empty rituals.
1 Ps 51:1 2 Isa 40:27
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