Hands Full of Blood

Isaiah 1: 10-15. “Hear the Word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom: give ear unto the Law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.  When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand to tread My courts?  Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with: it is iniquity, even the solemn meetings.  Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me: I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:y our hands are full of blood.”

Isaiah had to know that the words he was given by God would not make him popular.  I think that those who were faithful prophets were men of great courage, then and now.

Of particular disgust to God was the appearance of piety and godliness that overlaid the behavior of His people. There was an overlay of religion that failed to cover the things that God said were an abomination to Him.  It was that hypocrisy that offended Him most of all.

The people were keeping certain elements of the Law. They were observing feasts and sacrifices, and burning their incense, but their hearts were very far away from the truth and the holiness of God.   The conscience of God’s people, then and now, can become so seared that they can practice religion while living in sin, and feel no remorse.

When God says He will turn His eyes away from hands lifted up to Him because those hands are of full of blood, He is not talking only about actual murder.  The word blood is plural here, and points not only to murder but to acts of violence similar to murder, and to bribes which purchased the ruin of widows and orphans (Micah 3:9-11).

God is not fooled by an appearance of godliness. He sees the heart.  He sees our hearts. The appearance of obedience  is meaningless when it comes from a heart of duplicity.

 

Like Sodom and Gomorrah

Isaiah 1:9.  “Except  the Lord of hosts  had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah still lie desolate.  Excavation has shown that these cemetery remains burned from the top down, giving credence to the Bible’s statement of God sending fire down from heaven to consume the cities.

Judah, says Isaiah, has been saved only by a very small remnant  of the faithful from becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah, a strong indictment against those cities, and against the faithless of Judah.

In Rev. 11:8, Jerusalem is described as Sodom.  Ezek. 16:40 tells us that the sins of Sodom were pride, lust, luxury and cruelty, and now both the rulers of Jerusalem and the people under them are guilty of the same behaviors.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the specific reasons God is angry with Judah, in verses 10-15.  It’s quite familiar, really, when compared to America today.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Memories

I’ve been in  quite a contemplative mood this past week.  Not sure why. Maybe because I see my country turning in a direction I never thought it would, no matter who wins this upcoming election.  Anyway, this morning I’ve been thinking about all the Sunday mornings of my life.There’s been a lot of change over the years, but the one constant has always been that church is the focus.

Growing up, Sunday meant Saturday night hair washing, a bath, getting my hair set in what seemed like a hundred tiny pin curls.  There were clothes reserved for Sundays only. Remember Sunday clothes, school clothes, play clothes? I loved my Sunday clothes, especially if I had pretty shoes.We’d get dressed, Mom would brush out the Shirley Temple curls, and then we’d sit quietly and wait. No getting messed up.  No getting dirty. I loved church, and always anticipated seeing friends I didn’t go to school with. Loved the opening exercises, where we sang and had Bible drills, and  usually a flannel graph story. Church itself was a solemn affair back then, but not dull. We just knew we were in a special place. I loved the big pipe organ, and the congregation rising to sing Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. Still give me goose bumps to think about it.

In my teens, I did my own hair.  No more Shirley Temple, believe me.  The “flip” was the in thing for longer hair, and we teased and sprayed. When my hair was shorter, it was less trouble. I went back and forth in length, enjoyed playing around with different styles.  Dad had become the pastor of a little church in southern Minnesota, and I often got to play the piano. Also, I taught little kids, and was involved with my mom and sister in a trio; later, began to do solo work. Youth group was fun in the evenings, and we almost always had company for Sunday dinner.

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College was so different. No more family stuff. It was a leisurely day, and I looked forward to it. For one thing, there would be no work.  I had a cashier job in a grocery store, and back then there weren’t any stores open on Sundays. It was good. Things sure were different 50 years ago!  There was also dating going on, so special care with the hair, the makeup I was just starting to use, and the dress for the day. The preaching was good. The music was always wonderful.

Then I got married, and at first Sunday mornings were fairly easy. But– along came four babies, and Sunday mornings became much more complicated.  I’m a very organized person, and by the time the fourth baby came along, I had it down to a science. We always enjoyed a special breakfast on Sunday, and the kids didn’t get dressed until after we ate! I usually was also making meal preparations while breakfast was under way. Terry was on duty with the church bus ministry, so getting everyone else going was entirely up to me.  Somehow, we were always ready to go in time.  I do remember feeling worn out before we ever got to church, but it was always worth it. The church was big, full of excitement. The music was always great, and the teaching and preaching as well. We had a church family that we loved, Those were very good years at the church we attended.

Well, time passes and things have changed. I’m still up early, because it’s about a 40-minute drive to church now. I don’t fix a big breakfast any more. We’ve changed the way we eat as we’ve grown older. Terry takes care of himself, and I sit here with my bagel and my coffee, relaxing with some good music in the peace and stillness before Terry gets up. It’s just a bit after 7 a.m., and we’ll leave around 8:30.  It’s taken us a little longer to feel completely comfortable in our new church, mostly because of the distance, but that’s getting better all the time.  We’re becoming as much a part of the ministry as we can, and we’re enjoying getting to know people.

The thing that has been the glue down through the years has always been the Word preached faithfully, taught faithfully. The love of God, the dedication to His Word, has united people who share out faith with us all through the years.  It’s a great heritage.

I love Sunday morning.

A Besieged City

Isaiah 1:7-8. “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.”

In these two verses, Isaiah no longer uses metaphors. He changes to direct language which recalls the punishment threatened to Israel in Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:49-52; 29:22-23. which had come to pass. The land had been abundantly productive under Uzziah, King of Judah (II Chron. 26:10), but now wickedness was so prevalent that  Is. 9:18 describes it as “burning like a fire.”

In verse 8, Israel is pictured not as a nurturing, protective mother. Instead  she is described as a daughter, and the description is expressive of the tenderness that God had felt toward Israel, as a mother for her young daughter. Now, Jerusalem’s population was depleted. The city, once beautiful, had become nothing more than a hut or a shack in a vineyard, a booth or hammock for a garden-keeper to use to scare animals away.  It was a besieged city, isolated and in great difficulty.

Sick from the Head to the Feet

Isaiah 1:5-6. “Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it: but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”

The whole head is sick. The head controls the behavior and the heart, or emotions.  If the head is sick, the whole body  is affected.  All the way from the soles of the feet to the head, the whole body is sick, rotting, untreated, bruised and covered with open wounds.

Israel’s thinking, as a nation, had turned to the worship of idols and the forsaking of Jehovah. As a result, the kingdoms were falling apart. There was constant warfare. The people were living in ignorance of God’s Word, and participating in all the  evil of the surrounding nations.

The question Isaiah asks in verse 5 is, “How long are you going to continue to heap punishment unto yourselves?”

Yesterday I was talking with a client about the reality of natural consequences. It is a law of physics that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we choose to abuse alcohol, for instance, we reap the consequence of a diseased brain and liver, just for starters.  If we play around with illegal drugs, or abuse prescription drugs, we reap possible overdose, resulting in debility or death.Then people often say, “How could God let this happen?” The answer is simple:  God wasn’t involved! The person who became addicted is the person who made the choice to begin the process, and that person receives the natural consequence of his behavior.

It’s not God’s fault.

It’s not God’s fault that America is in such a perilous place today.  It is our own fault. We’ve legislated Him out of just about everything, and insisted on teaching the tenets of a religion that sees America as The Great Satan.  Why do they see us that way? They will tell you all sorts of “reasons,” but the truth is that they hate the God of Israel upon Whom this nation was founded. They are gleeful when they see us forsaking God. We are sick from the head to the bottoms of our feet.

It is impossible to forsake God and expect no consequences to ensue.

Sinful Nation

Isaiah 1: 4. “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters:  they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

The prophets were those who conveyed God’s Word to His people.  Today we have the complete written Word, and we still have some preachers who don’t hesitate to preach God’s Word in its fullness. Either way, there was, and is, no excuse.

Think about being “weighed down with iniquity.”  If you’ve ever had to carry something that was much to heavy for you, then try to remember how the task consumed you and left you trembling when you finally could put it down.  That’s what God is describing here, only Israel was not yet ready to put down its iniquity. The load continued to grow, because they had abandoned the Lord.  Abandoned.  Turned their backs, walked away from, left Him alone.  An even stronger word:  They had despised Him!   The KJV has it that they had provoked Him, and “gone away backward.” They were backslidden. They had made a conscious choice to reject the Holy One of Israel.

You can compare and contrast this verse with Exodus 19:6; Deut. 13:2; Is. 41:8; and
Deut. 14:1.

Then go to I Peter 2:9 and read:  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people:  that ye should shew forth  the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

That verse was written to believers.  All believers, Jew or Gentile.  How are we comparing with the Israel of Isaiah 1:4?  Aren’t we in exactly that same place?  If you doubt it, look at some video clips of the RNC.  Look at who we have to choose between to be our next President.

We are indeed weighed down with iniquity!

God Speaks

Isaiah 1:2-3. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken. I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”

When God spoke to His prophets, it was then their job to tell the people what God had said. These two verses mark the beginning of God’s message to Israel and Judah. It is a summary of where they have left Him, and how they have wronged Him.

God used images here that we all can understand.   Any parent understands the picture of children they have nourished and loved, and then having those children turn away from them.  Even dumb animals, like an ox or a donkey, recognize their masters and return to the stall or the crib.  That’s where their shelter and safety lie, and it’s where they are fed and cared for.

People, however, will turn away from a loving parent. The rebellion in the hearts of all mankind leads us away from the shelter, care, and nourishment of the parent.  We will see this theme repeated many times throughout the book.

Here are some verses for you to look up that relate to this beginning of Isaiah’s prophecies:

Isa. 1:2-23; Is. 41:12; 42:1; 48:1; Jer. 2:1; Hosea 4:1;Hos. 6:4; Amos 3:1; Micah 6:11;  Jer. 25; Hos. 11; Mal. 3; Rom. 10-11.

Doing all this cross-referencing may seem tedious at first, but I promise you that it will help you understand more clearly as we see the consistency of God’s message through all the prophets. Also, you will be thrilled and excited to see prophecies that have been fulfilled, and to understand which prophecies are in the far future.

Isaiah is an exciting book.