In Isaiah 1:10-20, we see another case where the Israelites have turned away from God. The Israelites were still offering sacrifices, but they used them to attempt to manipulate God, so God rejected their worship. God wants worship from a sincere heart. He will not accept the so-called worship of those who mistreat others.
Once again God offered the Israelites redemption from their sins, but He also gave them three instructions:
- Listen and stop. God told the people that He will not tolerate the mixture of temple prayers and idol worship that the people offered to Him. The Israelites wanted the best of both worlds. They sacrificed to the popular idols of the day while offering prayers to God. They tried to cleanse themselves by offering sacrifices, burning incense, saying many prayers, and gathering together in solemn assemblies. Yet their hypocritical and sinful hearts remained. God reminded the people of the first commandment that “you shall have no other Gods before me.”
- God called for a halt to the calling of evil assemblies that were substitutes for the Lord’s day. His commandment to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” was nonnegotiable.
- Cease and desist. God asked for repentance. Repentance and a return to right conduct-by promoting justice in the land-would bring God’s mercy. All three steps are involved in repentance. A sinner must be open to inward cleansing, which is shown by a personal rejection of the past and a public demonstration of change.
God asked the Israelites for positive evidence of repentance. There are five parts of a new life:
- Learn to do good. Even with inward cleansing, old sinful habits have to be unlearned and new habits of righteousness have to be cultivated.
- Seek justice. Personal repentance will lead to a renewal of social conscience.
- Remove oppressors.
- Become an activist on behalf of children who are without fathers because of abandonment, divorce, or death.
- Become an advocate for defenseless women who are most vulnerable to schemes and scams that rob them of their sustenance.
When we fall short of God’s expectations, when we miss the mark, when we go astray, or when we turn our backs on God and what we know is right, we commit sin. We are all afflicted with the disease of sin. As Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:6, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Sin is like a pile of dirty laundry that has been sitting around for some time-it stinks!!!!
As proof that He has not given up on His people, God invites them to talk with Him as intelligent and rational beings. Dialogue builds relationships. Genuine prayer has all of the qualities and characteristics of a deeply meaningful conversation between two people. This image of God and man sitting down together for a good talk is a good example of prayer.
Can we say that we have felt or heard God’s invitation to come to Him? He wants communion with us. He wants to hear from us about what keeps us from communing openly and honestly with Him. He wants to know why we are hurting. He wants to know what is keeping us from giving our lives completely to Him. That’s what He says to each one of us. It’s a miraculous thought indeed that He cares that much about us.
The phrase “reason together” means to “come to a legal decision, debate a case.” God is our judge, and He calls His guilty people to acknowledge their sins before Him. As a judge, God would rather pardon the sins of His people. The image of sin as crimson and scarlet suggests hands full of blood, while the image of snow pictures the removal of sin through forgiveness. The context indicates that this cleansing is contingent upon their changing their sinful ways and obeying God.
As much as He wants His people to repent and turn to Him, He will not force them to return. This is a great insight into God’s character. Even though He has the power to control both the universe and human history, He would not renege on His own creative act. When He made us in His own image, He also gave us freedom of choice and took the risk that we would rebel. If we repent, we will join Him in heaven and take part in the heavenly banquet. If we continue to resist Him, we will suffer eternal consequences.
In Old Testament times, a sinner had to take an unblemished animal to the priest at the temple. In front of the priest, the sinner would grasp the animal with both hands and confess his or her sin. The guilt of the sinner was transferred to the animal. The priest would then give the sinner a knife, and the sinner would kill the animal so that it was obvious the animal died as a result of the sinner’s action.
There is a misconception today that since Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, we are automatically forgiven. That idea is false. We overlook the vital truth that we have to grab the Lamb of God with our hands of faith and confess our sins. Then we have to acknowledge that Jesus was slain for our sins as surely as if we have plunged the knife into His heart. When we do, the Lamb of God becomes our High Priest and offers His own blood on the altar of the Cross on our behalf. God then accepts our sacrifice and we are forgiven.
Being willing to repent means more than saying “God, if you want me to prosper, I’ll prosper.” It means that we apply the force of our wills and determine to receive by faith what God has promised, no matter how impossible the circumstances may seem to be. We have to be willing to act. We have to be prepared to do what God wants us to do. Many Christians want to do just enough to get by. They don’t like responsibility. Those who carry the greatest loads are also the ones who seem to be the most blessed, and that’s because they are willing to do what God asks them to do. Many people want to be successful, but they do not want to do what is necessary to obtain success.
God does not want the empty thoughts and prayers of people who continue to tolerate injustice. God wants us to act to end all forms of injustice, especially those we hear so much about: gun violence, children separated from their parents, and refugees denied justice, to name a few. God wants us to use our hands, feet, and voices in action, because action for justice “fills up” our otherwise empty thoughts and prayers in meaningful ways.
Have you accepted God’s offer of salvation? Or do you say things like, “I’ll think about it,” or “I want to do some fun things first”? Jesus paid the price for you to have your sins forgiven, but you must accept the free gift of eternal life He offers.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 881-882)
- McKenna, D., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 17: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1993; pp. 54-59)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Gloria Copeland, “Get Aggressive!” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jerry Savelle, “Be Willing to be Successful.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Marvin Williams, “God Cleans the Stains.” Retrieved from www.odb.org
- Kathy Adam, “Isaiah 1:10-18.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Anne Graham Lotz, “Wonder of Wonders.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- Harold Sala, Ph.D., “When We Fall Short.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Jack Hibbs, “Come Now.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Hazel W. Merret, “Dumb Excuses.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org