Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the instruction of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
“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.
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
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.
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!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
“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.
If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land.
(Is. 1:10-19 NIV)
By Bob Docter –
Come now, let’s discuss this.
Isaiah was a hard guy whom God chose to announce what needs to be done. We’re never going to stop all the unjust and self-satisfied acts in this world. One group of people seem to believe that terminal punishment (murder) will stamp out what are perceived by them as unholy behavior. There is a better way, but it requires them to get the message. We must be willing and obedient.
The people of Israel, whom God loved deeply and punished severely, had had a rich history at this point. The memory spaces of their brains were locked in on certain rites and practices that they continued to follow. Their problem was forgetting the meaning behind the practice. They knew they needed to be devout. Unfortunately, their devotion centered on practice not purpose.
Some of them, possibly needing to feel close to something spiritually, went up on some hilltops and built their own gods. Other “shrines” of the same caliber erupted in valleys by flowing rivers. It made them feel good. Who knows what they believed.
Belief does not reside within our emotional system. We don’t feel belief. It is a cognitive process based on thought and guided by faith. To be sure, strong belief often stimulates feeling—sometimes guilt, sometimes despair, sometimes peace and joy. We enjoy those feelings and seek to find ways to replicate them. When our goal is to experience the feeling rather than practice the belief, we are “simply going through the motions of worshipping God.”
I always try to contrast Scripture passages I read with my own behavior and with common practices of The Salvation Army these days.
As the Lord said: Come now, let us reason together (Is. 1:18a).
Let’s think about what we’re doing. Today, and every day, let’s examine the purposes of our practices and explore whether or not we are simply going through the motions that result in “meaningless offerings.”