“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.” (Isaiah 1:1)
Isaiah is counted amongst one of the major prophets. That means in biblical study he is given great attention. Let us listen to what he has to say.
No, beloved reader, Isaiah is prophesying to the people in these distance lands. He is speaking, as verse one says, to the local folks. But it is as if he were (or Isaiah who is speaking what the Lord told him) speaking to people who are as sinful and far from God as the the Sodomites and Gomorrah-ites of that time were.
“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 of lambs, or of goats.
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing 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.” (Verses 11 – 15)
In recent days I have made much of laying the scripture passage at the door of modern times. So I will not belabor that point now. Let us instead consider how this must have sounded to the people of Isaiah’s time, especially the priests who were in charge of the “sacrifices” and festivals. There whole line of work, the whole purpose of them entering the priesthood was being condemned and obliterated. I could imagine they were not pleased. And how might the common folk react? How would they feel when all the means and procedures of reconciling and justifying themselves before God were taken away?
But, I think that was the whole point. That offerings of animal flesh and celebrating of festivals would not make up for the sins they committed against each other, and the ways they had flouted God’s laws and commandments. Process and procedure does not clean the mind, heart or spirit.
“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, they 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.” (Verses 16-20)
I had at first thought maybe they did not know what was right and good to do. We in these modern times have the example of Jesus Christ whose life was a model for our own. And maybe the people of Isaiah’s time really didn’t “get it.” Were prophets such as Isaiah paid attention to and heed? How aggressively and zealously should the people of Isaiah’s time be judged? And then I thought, what about we who live in these modern times? Could the same words and exhortations be turned against us? But as I said, I am not going to lay these scriptures at our modern door. Let us allow the words to echo around in the past. Because, sneaky person as I am, I suspect they will echo more there!