When Isaiah wrote his letter to the Israelites, they were in the midst of rebellion against The Lord. Interestingly enough, however, even in rebellion against The Lord they continued to offer Him sacrifice and religious rituals. The Lord's reaction to this type of service is recorded in verses ten through thirteen of the first chapter. "Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. "The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. "What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? "When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. "Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly."
David Guzik, bible commentator and pastor, says of this passage, "What a sobering thought! We can offer God all kinds of religious rituals and ceremonies, all kinds of religious service, and He may hate it and consider it an abomination! Perhaps, in the midst of all their calamity (described in Isaiah 1:5-9), Judah thought the answer was in religious ceremonies, in their ancient version of "church attendance" and a few dollars in the offering. But if their heart wasn't changed, and humbled, and surrendered to the LORD, it made no difference. Without the right heart, God hated their religious ceremony and service!"
Do you ever find yourself falling into this same trap? How easy it is for us to serve The Lord in action and yet serve ourselves in spirit. Like the Israelites, we can see outward service and religious rituals as being that which pleases The Lord. We would do well in those times to remember the words of Hosea 6, which were later quoted by Christ in Matthew 9 that our Heavenly Father desires mercy, not sacrifice. However, even knowing what our Father desires, we can still seek to meet people's needs without actually serving them and personally showing them the mercy of Christ, even when we are fully capable of doing so.
For example, Matthew 14:15-16 tells of an interesting conversation between Jesus and His disciples. We read that "As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food. Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
The disciples initial reaction to meet the needs of the crowd was to come up with some alternate plan that, in reality, would have accomplished the same objective as serving them. The only difference was that it removed the entire aspect of personally serving them and demonstrating the mercy of Christ to them. In our lives, we can know and understand what peoples needs are and devise some plan that meets those needs, and that is better than doing nothing. However, I would challenge you to have this attitude of Christ: don't tell them to go to the store, you are more than capable of giving them something to eat. When the opportunity to demonstrate the compassion and mercy of Christ to others is put before us, may we seek to personally serve rather than go through the motions of serving without having the spirit of Christ. Serving Christ in this way not only demonstrates Christ to those being served, but to the one serving as well.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.