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ISAIAH 1:1, 10-20 | TRUE RELIGION

TRUE RELIGION

ISAIAH 1:1, 10-20

AUGUST 7, 2016

 

 

 

TO BE A PROPHET MEANS TO BE A SPOKESMAN, NOT A FORTUNE-TELLER.  PROPHETS TELL IT LIKE IT IS, RATHER THAN PREDICTING THE FUTURE.

 

PROPHETS SPEAK TO THOSE IN THEIR OWN TIME AND PLACE; THUS THE WORDS WITH WHICH THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH BEGINS:

 

“THE VISION OF ISAIAH, SON OF AMOZ, WHICH HE SAW CONCERNING JUDAH AND JERUSALEM IN THE DAYS OF UZZIAH, JOTHAM, AHAZ, AND HEZEKIAH, KINGS OF JUDAH.”

 

YOU SEE PROPHETS SPEAK TO PEOPLE IN THEIR OWN TIME AND PLACE, AND THEY SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER.

 

IT IS TRUE THAT WE HAVE APPLIED THEIR WORDS TO THE FUTURE WORKS OF GOD, IN PARTICULAR, THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S WILL IN SENDING JESUS CHRIST INTO THE WORLD, BUT FOR THE MOST PART, THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS WERE COMMENTATORS ON THEIR OWN TIMES.

 

AND THEY WERE SPOKESMAN FOR GOD.  THEY LOOKED AT THE WORLD THE WAY GOD LOOKS AT THE WORLD, AND THEN SAID WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY.

 

AND WHAT THEY SAID WAS WHAT GOD WOULD SAY IF HE WAS THERE, WHICH HE WAS, IN THE FORM OF THE PROPHETS.

 

THIS SORT OF TRUTH TELLING HAS NEVER BEEN VERY WELCOMED BY PEOPLE AND POWERS AND THEREFORE THE PROPHETS WEREN’T THE KINDS OF PEOPLE FOLKS INVITED HOME TO SUPPER.

 

ONE DAY SOME CITY BOYS FOLLOWED ALONG BEHIND THE PROPHET ELISHA CALLING HIM NAMES.  ELISHA SUMMONED TWO SHE-BEARS DOWN OUT OF THE WOODS, WHO TORE THE 42 CITY BOYS LIMB FROM LIMB.  HE THEN CONTINUED ON HIS WAY TO KEEP AN APPOINTMENT ON MT. CARMEL.

 

THE PROPHET JEREMIAH SHOWED A CLAY POT TO A CROWD OF JUDEANS AND TOLD THEM THAT IT REPRESENTED JUDAH.  THEN HE SMASHED IT TO SMITHEREENS AND TOLD THEM THAT THIS WAS WHAT GOD HAD IN MIND TO DO TO THEM.  HE WAS RIGHT.

 

IN A DREAM THE PROPHET EZEKIEL ATE A COPY OF THE BIBLE TO SHOW HOW THE WORD OF GOD IS AS SWEET AS HONEY.

 

IN THE TIME OF THE PROPHET AMOS, THE ISRAELITES LOOKED FORWARD TO THE DAY WHEN THE LORD WOULD DELIVER THEM FROM ALL THEIR AFFLICTIONS.

 

AMOS TOLD THEM THEY BETTER START LOOKING FORWARD TO SOMETHING ELSE BECAUSE WHEN THAT DAY CAME, GOD WAS GOING TO SETTLE THINGS ALRIGHT – BUT IT WAS THEY WHO WERE GOING TO COME OUT ON THE SHORT END OF THE STICK.

 

IT WASN’T THAT THE PROPHETS WERE A MEAN AND ORNERY BUNCH; IN FACT, IT WAS JUST THE OPPOSITE;

 

IT WAS THAT THEY WERE SO IN LOVE WITH GOD, AND SO IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD, AND COULD SEE WITH A SORT OF SIXTH SENSE, THAT GOD WAS IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD AS WELL…

 

THAT THEY KNEW GOD WOULD NOT SIMPLY LET THE PEOPLE GO ON DOING WHATEVER IT WAS THEY WERE DOING, IF IT WAS GOING TO COST THEM THEIR LIVES, AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS, AND THEIR ETERNAL LIVES TO BOOT.

 

IF THE PROPHETS DIDN’T LOVE GOD, AND LOVE THE WORLD SO MUCH, AND KNEW HOW MUCH GOD LOVED IT, THEY PROBABLY WOULDN’T BOTHER TO TELL THE WORLD IT’S GOING TO HELL.  THEY’D JUST LET IT GO.

 

BUT THAT’S NOT THE WAY GOD DOES THINGS; NOT THE WAY GOD’S PROPHETS DO THINGS.

 

SO GOD SENT PROPHETS TO TELL THE PEOPLE, AND THE POWERS THAT BE, WHAT IT WAS THAT GOD REALLY WANTED, HOPING AGAINST HOPE, THAT THEY WOULD LISTEN.

 

AND THE PEOPLE DID LISTEN… SOMETIMES… AND THEY DID LISTEN… FOR A WHILE… AND THEY WOULD CHANGE THEIR WAYS AND THINGS WOULD GET BETTER, AND THEY WOULD GET BETTER, AND THE WORLD WOULD GET BETTER, FOR A WHILE…

 

BEFORE THEY WENT BACK TO DOING THE SAME KINDS OF THINGS THAT GOT THEM INTO TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

 

THIS IS WHY GOD HAD TO KEEP SENDING MORE AND MORE PROPHETS, AND WHY, ULTIMATELY, GOD SENT HIS OWN SON, TO WIN THE PEOPLE OVER.

 

JESUS EVEN TELLS A PARABLE ABOUT ALL OF THIS – THE PARABLE OF THE WICKED TENANTS (MATTHEW 21:33-46) – IT’S WORTH READING; LOOK IT UP.

 

SO BACK TO OUR PROPHET ISAIAH, FOR THIS MORNING, AND TO HIS PROPHECY SPECIFICALLY ABOUT RELIGION, AND THE PEOPLE’S WORSHIP.

 

ISAIAH IMMEDIATELY ENDEARS HIMSELF TO THE PEOPLE (AND I MEAN THAT SARCASTICALLY) BY COMPARING THEM TO THE TWO WORST CITIES IN THEIR HISTORY, SODOM AND GOMORRAH!

 

THEN ISAIAH ATTACKS THEIR WORSHIP SERVICES.

 

I DOUBT MOST OF US COULD PROBABLY HAVE STOMACHED MUCH OF THE TEMPLE WORSHIP IN THE TIME OF ISAIAH.

 

IT WAS PART PRAYER AND PART SLAUGHTERHOUSE.

PART WORSHIP AND PART BUTCHER SHOP.

PART PRAYER AND PART IMMOLATION.

 

PETA AND THE ASPCA WOULD HAVE BEEN ALL OVER IT!

 

IF YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE A BIBLE DICTIONARY, COMMENTARY, OR ACCESS TO THE INTERNET, LOOK UP SACRIFICE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, AND READ ABOUT.

 

ISAIAH GIVES US BUT A GLIMPSE OF WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT IN THIS MORNING’S PASSAGE, BUT IT’S ENOUGH FOR US TO GET THE IDEA.

 

GOD SPEAKS THROUGH ISAIAH:

 

“WHAT TO ME IS THE MULTITUDE OF YOUR SACRIFICES? SAYS THE LORD.  I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF BURNT OFFERINGS OF RAMS AND THE FAT OF FED BEASTS; I DO NOT DELIGHT IN THE BLOOD OF BULLS, OR LAMBS, OR GOATS.

 

WHEN YOU APPEAR BEFORE ME, WHO ASKED THIS FROM YOUR HAND?”

 

(WHICH WOULD SEEM TO SUGGEST THAT IT WAS THE PRIESTS AND THE PEOPLE WHO HAD DREAMED ALL OF THIS UP OR BORROWED IT FROM THEIR HEATHEN NEIGHBORS, AND NOT SO MUCH GOD’S IDEA.)

 

BACK TO ISAIAH: “TRAMPLE MY COURTS NO MORE; BRINGING OFFERINGS IS FUTILE; INCENSE IS AN ABOMINATION TO ME.”  (EVIDENTLY EVEN GOD COULDN’T STAND THE SMELL OF THE STUFF!)

 

“NEW MOON AND SABBATH AND CALLING CONVOCATION – I CANNOT ENDURE YOUR ASSEMBLIES WITH INIQUITY.  YOUR NEW MOONS AND YOUR APPOINTED FESTIVALS MY SOUL HATES; THEY HAVE BECOME A BURDEN TO ME, I AM WEARY OF THEM.

 

WHEN YOU STRETCH OUT YOUR HANDS, I WILL HIDE MY EYES FROM YOU; EVEN THOUGH YOU MAKE MANY PRAYERS, I WILL NOT LISTEN; YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD.

 

THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HAS SPOKEN.”

 

IN OTHER WORDS, PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING ABOUT HOW THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH WERE WORSHIPPING, AT THE DIRECTION OF THE PRIESTS, ISAIAH SAYS, GOD CANNOT STAND.

 

WITH VERY LITTLE TWEAKING OF THE WORDING, A LITTLE MODERNIZATION OF THE SERVICE ITSELF, WE COULD SEE HOW GOD MIGHT STILL FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT OUR WORSHIP TODAY.

 

“WHAT TO ME IS YOUR MULTITUDE OF REPETITIOUS PRAISE CHORUSES AND BIG SCREENS?  I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR SWAYING ARMS AND HAND RAISING.

 

I LOATHE YOUR PRAISE BANDS AND STIFF NECKED CHOIRS; YOUR DRONING PREACHERS AND STILTED READINGS I TURN MY EAR FROM.

 

I DO NOT DELIGHT IN YOUR PRAYER BOOKS, AFFIRMATIONS OF FAITH, AND RESPONSIVE READINGS.

 

YOUR INCENSE BURNS MY NOSTRILS; YOUR ENDLESS HOLIDAYS, SPECIAL OFFERINGS, AND ANNUAL OBSERVANCES, BORE ME TO DEATH.

 

YOUR DASHBOARD IDOLS, BINGO GAMES, AND POT-LUCK SUPPERS, YOUR YARD SALES AND BAKE SALES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD I DETEST.

 

THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HAS SPOKEN.”

 

FOR THE MOST PART, THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS DIDN’T JUST SAY WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THINGS, WITH THE PEOPLE, WITH THEIR BEHAVIOR, AND WITH THEIR WORSHIP;

 

THEY ALSO GAVE THE PEOPLE SOME IDEA OF WHAT GOD WAS REALLY AFTER, JUST AS ISAIAH DOES HERE THIS MORNING.

 

AFTER LAMBASTING THEM FOR THEIR IDEAS OF WHAT WORSHIPPING GOD, OF WHAT IT MEANS TO LOVE GOD, AND SERVE GOD, AND PLEASE GOD WERE ALL WRONG, ISAIAH DOES TELL THEM WHAT WOULD PLEASE GOD.

 

“WASH YOURSELVES; MAKE YOURSELVES CLEAN; REMOVE THE EVIL OF YOUR DOINGS FROM BEFORE MY EYES; CEASE TO DO EVIL, LEARN TO DO GOOD;

 

SEEK JUSTICE, RESCUE THE OPPRESSED, DEFEND THE ORPHAN, PLEAD FOR THE WIDOW.

 

COME NOW, LET US ARGUE IT OUT, SAYS THE LORD: THOUGH YOUR SINS ARE LIKE SCARLET, THEY SHALL BE LIKE SNOW; THOUGH THEY ARE RED LIKE CRIMSON, THE SHALL BECOME LIKE WOOL.

 

IF YOU ARE WILLING AND OBEDIENT, YOU SHALL EAT THE GOOD OF THE LAND; BUT IF YOU REFUSE AND REBEL, YOU SHALL BE DEVOURED BY THE SWORD;

 

FOR THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HAS SPOKEN.”

 

YOU SEE, JUST AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF ISAIAH, AND THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH, AND THE KINGS OF JUDAH, UZZIAH, JOTHAM, AHAZ, AND HEZEKIAH, IT IS TODAY.

 

SOME PEOPLE DEFINE SPIRITUALITY IN PERSONAL MORAL TERMS, WHILE OTHERS SEE IT AS A MATTER OF WORKING FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.

 

SOME SEE THE PROBLEMS, AND THE SOLUTIONS, TO LIFE’S ILLS IN PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, AND DOING THE RIGHT THINGS AS INDIVIDUALS;

 

WHILE OTHERS TEND TO PLACE THE BLAME ON SOCIETY, IT’S STRUCTURES AND INEQUITIES, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BELIEVING THAT IF THEY WERE IMPROVED, LIFE WOULD IMPROVE FOR EVERYONE;

 

BUT THE TRUTH IS, IT IS BOTH.

 

IT IS NEVER AN EITHER/OR PREMISE, BUT ALWAYS A BOTH/AND PREMISE.

 

AND THE PROPHET ISAIAH, SPOKESMAN FOR GOD, CLEARLY DESCRIBES HOW IT IS BOTH, IN OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING – HOW IT HAS TO DO WITH BOTH OUR PERSONAL SINFULNESS AND RESPONSIBILITY, AND HOW IT IS WE CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER.

 

THIS IS OUR TRUE RELIGION.

THIS IS OUR TRUE WORSHIP OF ALMIGHTY GOD.

 

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CARING FOR EACH OTHER.

 

THIS, IN TURN, BEGS ANOTHER SET OF QUESTIONS FOR US:

 

HOW ARE WE, PERSONALLY, DOING WITH PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CARING FOR OTHERS?

 

AND

HOW IS OUR CHURCH DOING WITH HELPING US BE PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE AND WITH SEEKING JUSTICE AND ENCOURAGING THE OPPRESSED IN OUR COMMUNITY?

 

SOMEONE HAS SAID, “JUSTICE IS FINDING OUT WHAT BELONGS TO WHOM AND RETURNING IT TO THEM.”

 

SOMEONE ELSE HAS SAID, “JUSTICE IS THE ACT OF INSTITUTING LOVE FOR THOSE YOU DON’T KNOW.”

 

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE IT?

 

ISAIAH, AND THE OTHER PROPHETS AS WELL, ARE PRETTY HARD HITTING.  THEIR MESSAGES ARE FILLED WITH SHOCK AND AWE.

 

HOW DO WE KNOW WHEN IT IS TIME TO USE SHOCK TREATMENT AS THEY DO;

 

OR A GENTLE WORD WITHOUT SKIRTING THE MAIN ISSUE AS JESUS WAS SO GOOD AT DOING WITH THOSE HE ENCOUNTERED?

 

ONE THING SEEMS CERTAIN – WHAT WE THINK GOD WANTS FROM US, AND WHAT GOD ACTUALLY WANTS FROM US, MAY NOT ALWAYS BE THE SAME THING.

 

WE ARE WISE TO LISTEN TO THE WISDOM OF THE PROPHETS; AND EVEN WISER WHEN WE TAKE THEIR WORDS TO HEART, AND MAKE THE KINDS OF CHANGES IN OURSELVES, AND IN OUR SOCIETY, GOD SEEMS TO DESIRE OF US, AND FOR US.

 

THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS FOR GOD TO “HAVE SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE SENT HIS ONLY SON…”

 

IT IS ALSO WHAT IT MEANS FOR US TO “LOVE THE LORD OUR GOD WITH ALL OUR HEART, MIND, SOUL, AND STRENGTH, AND OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES.”

 

LOVE IS OUR TRUE RELIGION.

 

LOVE OF SELF – MAKING US BETTER; LOVE FOR OTHERS – MAKING SOCIETY BETTER; LOVE FOR GOD – MAKING ALL OF CREATION BETTER.

 

THIS IS OUR TRUE RELIGION.  THIS IS WHAT PLEASES GOD.

 

 

 

 

 

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