Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Isaiah 1:11-19

11 “What are all your sacrifices to me?” asks the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who requires this from you— this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies—I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. 14 I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to me; I am tired of putting up with them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. 16 “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from my sight. Stop doing evil. 17 Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. 18 “Come, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.

The Original Intent

1) Even though God had instituted sacrifices and festivals, why was He now tired of them? (verses 11-14)

In the Old Testament, sacrifices were offered for the atonement of unintended sin; to show devotion to God; recognition for God’s goodness; thanksgiving and fellowship; cleansing from defilement, and to make restitution.

There were five sacrifices:
the burnt offering, grain offering, fellowship offering, sin offering, and guilt offering. The burnt, grain, and fellowship (sometimes called peace) offerings were voluntary, while the sin and guilt offerings were compulsory.

God could not allow sin because of His holiness and therefore sin must be punished. The sacrifices were a means of maintaining worship and fellowship with Him so Israelites could enjoy relationship with Yahweh. On the other hand, there were intentional sins that had no sacrifice available. Intentional sins were pre-meditated sins such as adultery or murder or even lying.

Check out Proverbs 6:16-19 for a list of these sins the Lord hates. Sacrifices could not atone for deliberate sins of arrogance that insisted on their way over God’s clear path of righteousness. This highlights the seriousness of sin against God! 

People who sinned intentionally were at the mercy of God. While there are a few instances in Scripture (Numbers 5:5-10Leviticus 19:20-22) where a clear intentional sin could be covered by a guilt offering, these were rare exceptions. In general, the Law did not provide for forgiveness for premeditated, intentional sin. The only available option was God’s grace. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, God removed all sins, intentional or otherwise with a sacrifice. 

Take King David for example. After Nathan confronted David about his sin of adultery and murder, David lamented in Psalm 51:16-17“You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.” David’s sins were deliberate, and he knew offering a sacrifice would be futile. David knew God wanted a truly repentant heart. Even in all other sacrifices within the system God had set up for Israel, He most wanted their hearts of repentance and worship. He designed the system to provide a visual representation of the high price tag associated with sin, which is always death. (Romans 6:23)

The Everyday Application

1) Even though God had instituted sacrifices and festivals, why was He now tired of them? (verses 11-14)

The sacrifices and festivals in the Old Testament were God’s design for His chosen people, despite their sinful ways, to approach Him in worship and maintain the covenant relationship. However, the people missed the heart of God and His desire for relationship with them, which led them to performing sacrifices as mere ceremonies completed out of duty rather than from a heart broken over sin.

This is why God said, “I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. (…) Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to Me.” (verses 11-13)

It is not much different today. Many people attend church out of duty, but few practice true heart surrender to the Holy Spirit in everyday life. God wants our worship to be pure, true, and from our hearts. 

I remember having a conversation with a close relative who told me their church had a special collection to purchase a television for their pastor. The way my relative spoke about this pastor gave the impression they actually worship him more than God. While there is nothing wrong with parishioners showing appreciation to their pastors, they must be careful not to idolize and worship them. Our loyalty lies with Jesus, not man.

Jesus told us we must remain in Him because we cannot do anything without Him. (John 15:4-5) He desires our whole hearts. In similar verbiage to what Isaiah recorded in verses 11-13, Jesus cleared the temple of Jews who appeared to be worshipping God, but their hearts were actually far from God. “He (Jesus) went into the temple and began to throw out those who were selling, and He said, “It is written, my house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”” (Luke 19:46-47)

The Original Intent

2) Why does the prophet Isaiah call Israel to pursue justice and look after the vulnerable in society? (verse 17)

God explicitly commanded His people to treat the fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner justly (Deuteronomy 24:17) God calls Himself “a father to the fatherless, and a defender of widows.” (Psalm 68:5) 

Widows and orphans were particularly vulnerable in ancient culture. Without the husband or father present, supporting themselves became difficult. Widows and their families became essentially homeless. Sometimes widows were even abused. (NIV Cultural Background Study Bible).

Judah’s disobedience to God included neglect of the vulnerable and God, through the prophet Isaiah as His mouthpiece, implored them to once again heed God’s covenant law and do right by these members of society.

The Everyday Application

2) Why does the prophet Isaiah call Israel to pursue justice and look after the vulnerable in society? (verse 17)

True religion is about caring for the poor and helpless and living a godly life. (James 1:27) I am currently caring for my aging mother who has dementia, as well as an autistic brother. My mother depends on me and trusts me to do what is right for her and my brother. There is no way I can take advantage of their disabilities for my gain. If I do so, I will be sinning against God, who is their Defender. (Psalm 68:5) 

There are times I must put my life on hold for them, but it is not about me. John 15:13-14 states, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do what I command you”. 

I am doing what the Lord commanded me to do by showing love to Him, my mother, and my brother, in doing what is necessary for them despite the challenges and inconveniences to me.

All who claim to follow Christ have an obligation to pursue justice and care for the vulnerable around us because this is God’s heart.

The Original Intent

3) After all of Israel’s iniquities, why would God still want to settle things with them? (verse 18)

From the time God created mankind, He intended to have a relationship with him. When sin came into the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, this separated man from God. However, God immediately began work on restoring that relationship. (see Genesis 3:15) 

The Lord set apart Israel to be His people (Leviticus 20:26), to be different. They were to be an example, by not engaging in the horrendous rituals and practices of the nations around them. They were to mirror God’s righteousness and holiness by living as an example of His heart and character in the world.

Unfortunately, Israel sinned against the Lord repeatedly; they could not keep themselves righteous. However, God, because he loved Israel so much, sent prophets like Isaiah to speak to them in the hopes they would repent. Once they repented, He would forgive their sins and restore their relationship.

Israel’s constant disobedience helps us see that, on our own strength, we absolutely cannot be holy like God. We need God to be holy for us and then offer His righteousness to us in exchange for our sin. This is why Jesus came, to do exactly this!

The Everyday Application

3) After all of Israel’s iniquities, why would God still want to settle things with them? (verse 18)

The Bible tells us, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16) This divine love is why God wants reconciliation between us, who are sinful, and Himself, who is holy. He wants to restore the relationship broken by sin so we can be with Him in eternity and connected to Him through His Spirit in this life.

Jesus became sin for us in taking on our punishment (death and separation from God) so that, in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) 

Let us love Jesus and commit to having a true relationship with Him. It is only through Jesus we can live a purposeful life. It may not always be an easy life, but one well worth it in the end.

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