Ah, the life of a prophet. Prophets were God’s special messengers, speaking for God, dealing in confrontation with leadership and laymen, pointing out the error in their ways. Prophets were not the most popular sort because people tyipcally do not like to be told these kind of things.
Isaiah was regarded as one of the greatest prophets (if not the greatest) and his writings are the first on the OT. His message was to the nations of Judah and Israel, and to the surrounding pagan nations and the content of his message: judgement.
That’s never an easy message to deliver. However look at God’s message in chapter 1:
4 Oh, what a sinful nation they are! They are loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil and corrupt children who have turned away from the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel, cutting themselves off from his help. 5 Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. 6 You are sick from head to foot – covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds – without any ointments or bandages. 7 Your country lies in ruins, and your cities are burned. As you watch, foreigners plunder your fields and destroy everything they see. 8 Jerusalem stands abandoned like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard or field after the harvest is over. It is as helpless as a city under siege. 9 If the LORD Almighty had not spared a few of us, we would have been wiped out as completely as Sodom and Gomorrah.
Even though the message is difficult, you can still see God’s compassion. You can see that He doesn’t want His people to suffer, to receive punishment, to be covered with bruises and wounds. He wants them to be free and receive all the blessings He planned to lavish upon them as a nation.
But, God is holy and cannot tollerate faithless immorality and idolatry. I find it interesting that even the things these people were told to do – the rituals, the sacrifices, the prescribed feasts and fasting – God finds repulsive. He just wants them to obey.
11“I am sick of your sacrifices,” says the LORD. “Don’t bring me any more burnt offerings! I don’t want the fat from your rams or other animals. I don’t want to see the blood from your offerings of bulls and rams and goats. 12 Why do you keep parading through my courts with your worthless sacrifices? 13 The incense you bring me is a stench in my nostrils! Your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath day, and your special days for fasting – even your most pious meetings – are all sinful and false. I want nothing more to do with them. 14 I hate all your festivals and sacrifices. I cannot stand the sight of them!
What would He have them (us) do? Look at verses 16 – 17:
16 Wash yourselves and be clean! Let me no longer see your evil deeds. Give up your wicked ways. 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.
- Wash yourselves
- Give up your wicked ways
- Learn to do good
- Seek justice
- Help the oppressed
- Defend the orphan
- Fight for the rights of widows
Can you hear the compassion in these verses? I love the next two verses:
18 “Come now, let us argue this out,” says the LORD. “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool. 19 If you will only obey me and let me help you, then you will have plenty to eat.
God can make us as clean as freshly fallen snow. What a word picture. That is how God wants us – and He can do it – but it requires something on our parts: obedience. This chapter keeps reminding me of the words in I Samuel 15:22:
22 But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.
Lord, thank You for Your Word. Help us to listen to You and just plain obey, rather than getting so caught up in ritual and sacrifice, only to continue in our selfish, sinful ways. Clean us out, Lord, and make us clean as freshly fallen snow. -amen