Scripture: Isaiah 1:10-20
GOD’S MESSAGE TO AN APOSTATE ISRAEL –
FIRST, what is APOSTASY?
Biblical Definition:  The word itself–Greek WD. “apostasic”; renouncing or dissociating oneself from a particular religion or certain religious beliefs and doctrines.  APOSTASY can also be considered an “abandonment or defiance of what was previously held to be true and practical, rebelling against those same beliefs and practices.  Someone or some group who does this are considered “apostate” [See Footnote [i] ].
That said, this Bible Study in THE BOOK OF ISAIAH, Chapter One, concerns the great prophet who brings God’s message to an apostate Israel; for Israel had fallen into SIN as a nation.
RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES –
ISRAEL was continuing in all of the religious practices, yet God was unimpressed, because He knew their HEARTS were not truly motivated out of LOVE for Him, but out of their own “sinful desires.”
AN IMPORTANT NOTE: When God, in my opinion, sarcastically used the term “Your” New Moon Festivals [which was a worship service], instead of “My” New Moons, He was basically saying, “This worship is obviously all for YOU, because it is doing NOTHING for ME” (vs. 14).
“Your New Moon festivals and your [hypocritical] appointed feasts My soul hates. They are an oppressive burden to Me; I am weary of hearing them.”
I believe this is a timely message for today’s church, because many people are ‘going to church’ for all the wrong reasons. There, I said it!
Our churches today have become preoccupied with “OUR” worship; with little to no emphasis on “HIS” worship.
GOD WILL NOT ACCEPT THIS TYPE OF WORSHIP!
GOD’S APPEAL –
The LORD commands ALL PEOPLE TO HEAR HIS INSTRUCTIONS – (vs. 10):
“Hear [O Jerusalem] the word of the LORD, your rulers or judges of [another] Sodom! Give ear to the law and the teaching of our God, you people of [another] Gomorrah!”
God’s appeal went out to everyone–lowest to highest rank–He meant to get the attention of both ‘prince’ and ‘pauper.’
The Rulers of the Nation…
God first addresses the rulers, or those in charge. In the United States, that would be the President, Congress, Supreme Court Judges, Governors, Mayors, and yes…even church leaders.
God said you have become like the RULERS OF SODOM.
GOD then addressed the people–the “religious” community, as the people of Gomorrah.
To say that the people of ISRAEL had become liken to the people of Sodom & Gomorrah is a stinging condemnation of a nation of people. This is because these cities represented the very embodiment of “sinfulness.” This might have been God’s way of saying, ‘Look, I don’t care who you are socially or politically, or even how long you’ve been going to church–none of these excuse your sinful behavior.’
Everyone from the pastor to the drug dealer, from the bible teacher to the pimp on your streets, needs to LISTEN to God’s Word.
The LORD explains why He is so upset (vs. 11-15):
 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me [unless they are the offering of the heart]? says the Lord. I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts [without obedience]; and I do not delight in the blood of bulls or lambs or of he-goats [without righteousness].
 When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you that your [unholy feet] trample My courts?
 Bring no more offerings of vanity (emptiness, falsity, vain-glory, and futility); [your hollow offering of] incense is an abomination to Me; the New Moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure–[it is] iniquity and profanation, even the solemn meeting.
 Your New Moon festivals and your [hypocritical] appointed feasts My soul hates. They are an oppressive burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.
 And when you spread forth your hands [in prayer, imploring help], I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
God will NOT ACCEPT meaningless SACRIFICE (verse 11)–
I have written in the margin of my Bible, next to the verses, ‘SACRIFICE is something given that comes with a cost.’
“No COST…No Sacrifice!
The Israelites were going on with their SACRIFICES as usual, without REPENTANCE without accompanying them.
God would much rather us to be OBEDIENT to His word, than live a life of sin trying to buy His forgiveness through some SACRIFICE.
READING in 1 Samuel 15:22:
“Has the LORD as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
TRUE WORSHIP –
True worship comes when we offer our bodies as a ‘living sacrifice,’ meaning that we WORSHIP GOD both in and out of church on Sundays. Yes, it is going to “cost” us something.
A Sacrifice of Praise…
When a sacrifice is given from a DISOBEDIENT HEART…there is no cost; a meaningless sacrifice.
God will not endure (put up with) both SIN & WORSHIP (vs. 13b.):
“I cannot endure–[it is] iniquity (sin) and profanation…”
The Israelites were being the equivalent of ‘Sunday Christians’ worshipping on the Day of Worship…then living like the devil on the other days of the week.
Living a SINFUL LIFE & A WORSHIPFUL LIFE is an oxymoron; impossible because it is contradictory!
Sometimes we carry sin into worship with us: The girl or guy standing next to you? The more-than-revealing pictures/videos on your computer?
Many times we think God doesn’t know our TRUE HEART. We think if we “CAMOUFLAGE”–hide the heart (the inner man/woman…mind, understanding, attitudes), God will never know.
READ 1 Samuel 16:7:
But the lord SAID TO SAMUEL, “Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
GOD WILL NOT HEAR PRAYERS WITH IMPURE MOTIVES (v. 15-16):
“When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way, No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know what? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act!” (The MESSAGE bible-MSG).
‘hands wide’ was the position of PRAYER for the Israelites.
A LIFE that is not in harmony with GOD, usually produce prayers of the same merit.
JAMES 4:3: “[Or] you do not ask… and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.”
“Faking it till you make it” in WORSHIP & PRAYER won’t work!
When the bible says, “Your hands are full of blood (“bloody” – MSG), it’s a metaphor for being guilty. It is like saying, “you’ve been caught red handed.”
We may FOOL everyone in church, but if we FAKE our WORSHIP, remember…GOD sees us for who we really are–has caught us red handed, if our HEARTS are set on ourselves and not on Him.
God, like a loving parent, doesn’t leave His people without PROVISION.
The LORD offers a solution (vs. 16-17):
 Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes! Cease to do evil.  Learn to do right! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, and correct the oppressor. Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Amplified Bible – AMP).
He says we can become CLEAN by being washed in repentance.
BAPTISM symbolizes the washing away of our SIN through REPENTANCE:
“And baptism, which is a figure [of their deliverance], does now save you [from inward questionings and fears], not by the removing of outward body filth [bathing], but by [providing you with] the answer of a good and clear conscience (inward cleanness and peace) before God [because you are demonstrating what you believe to be yours] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
Peter says, “it’s not what the water does on the outside, but what God does on the inside.”
He gives the RESULTS of a good washing. He says that those who REPENT should…
- LEARN TO DO GOOD. [you won’t automatically be perfectly good, but willing to learn].
- SEEK JUSTICE. [Stand for what is right].
- REBUKE THE OPPRESSOR. [Stand against what is wrong].
- DEFEND THE FATHERLESS. [Be there for those who do not have].
- PLEAD FOR THE WIDOW. [Be an advocate for those who have lost].
THE LORD offers a PROMISE (vs. 18-20):
 Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;  But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
“Reason together”, means to come to a ‘legal decision’. [See footnote [ii] ]
God isn’t compromising SIN. He is offering a PARDON from judgment for those who would turn from it.
He is not denying the Israelite’s sinfulness, but instead He is offering forgiveness based on the PAYMENT that would be made by His Son Jesus.
God is saying, “If you come to Me in OBEDIENCE and REPENTANCE, My Son will pay for all of your sins.”
When you do come in Obedience, you’ll receive the PROMISE of eternal life. If you refuse to come and rebel against God, you in turn, will receive eternal judgment.
THIS IS GOD’S ‘LEGAL CONTRACT’ :
‘Come to Him in FAITH & REPENTANCE and He will grant you eternal life in heaven–Refuse and reject Him, and you will receive eternal death in hell.’
We have His LEGAL CONTRACT: HIS HOLY WORD–which gives us this PROMISE.
Once we have been WASHED white as snow, we can offer up our PRAISE, our SACRIFICE with PURE HEARTS…and know that God will accept our worship.
When Does God REFUSE Our Worship?
When it is NOT about Him but it is all about us!
FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:
Footnote [i] : Christian Crier, “Apostasy Defined” by Jack Wellman – Footnote [ii] : Isaiah 1:18 Bible Hub – Cambridge Bible.
Photo Credits: Google Images and “Trust in the Lord”.
Bible Translations: The Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.