My Bible read-through has brought me into Isaiah and while the plan I am using reaches into other books as they chronologically pertain to where I am at, I expect Isaiah's 66 chapters of deep intellectual insight to teach us much in the weeks ahead.
Chapter 1 shoots straight out of the gate addressing Judah's sin and corruption. Yet in the midst of the message written for a wayward people then we see a resounding message of hope for salvation and renewed life for us now.
God tells them, through Issiah, He is tiered of their waywardness. So much so, He states:
Bring no more vain offerings...
Vain: thinking of self. They aren't thinking of God in what they do as much as they are thinking of themselves. It they were anything like us today, it might look something like this: This will make me look good. This will show I am a good Christian. I wonder if I will get a reward for this. I bet so-and-so doesn't do this, but I do so I am better then them. This should get me favor with God or others. The list could go on. You get the idea. God calls these things an abomination (v13b), he hates these "shallow acts" (v14a) he considers their acts a burden, making Him weary (v14b). Essentially, they do religious things but their heart is not in it... at least not for the right reasons. The result? He won't listen to the Israelites anymore.
Yet, in the midst of their waywardness, God is good to provide a way out.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes.
cease to do evil
learn to do good
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widows cause
This last passage coincides with the book of James:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Other then the obvious tie-in between Isaiah and James, that last part also stands out to me as echoing Isaiah's message to the believers of his time.
to keep oneself unstained by the world
Stains leave a mark and don't wash out.
Not to ignore the justice and helping others aspect of these corresponding messages here, but I want to get strait to this point of spiritual cleansing because helping others without it puts us right back to God's statement in Isaiah 1:13. One can't truly help if their heart isn't right. With an uncleaned, improperly directed heart, all help becomes religiousness and verses 13-14 are pretty expressive of how God feels about that!
To start, let's recognize that spiritual cleansing may be instantaneous but learning good maintenance is a process. As Christians, we invite Christ into our hearts and we are initially cleansed by the Holy Spirit. This cleansing should compel us to cease evil and learn to do good. So while choosing to do evil should stop immediately (hence the word "cease") doing good is a learning process.
Also, it is interesting to note how, in Isaiah 1:16, the repenter has to do the work. Much like in Moses' time; the 10 commandments and other laws were a list of what man had to do. Moses caps the list with this command:
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Yet, flash-forward to Jesus' time and there is a slight change in phraseology seen in each of the gospels when Jesus tells his disciples:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
The work of keeping ourselves pure changes from the outside-in to the inside-out. Our main job? Remain unstained. Once we accept Christ, our sins are washed away. We are clean as fresh white sheets. We ought to keep ourselves that way. Yes, it is a process. We must regularly take steps to avoid previous bad choices and deliberate sin. Scripture tells us we all sin... we can't go a day without messing up. However, we often don't realize it. A skim through the well over 300 'laws' God spoke through Moses would find us all continually convicted. Those laws existed to show us we can't do it on our own, no matter how hard we try.
However, there are known indiscretions we choose to ignore because we think it isn't a big deal or we just want to fit in. But it is a big deal. Jesus said we ought to be a light, that others might see God through us. He called us to be salt; preserving what is good and bringing flavor to the world around us, that others might see God through us. Our deliberate transgressions defile that possibility. Even our condoning of other's indiscretions gives the appearance of sin and destroys our testimony as well. Will we mess up? Yes. It is the sins we choose to continue to walk in or condone which bring the greatest threat. But the things we miss, the marks we try to hit and just fall short... well, I always love to rest on Paul's words to the believers in Philippi:
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Salvation is a process we ought to be working on. By God's grace, the Holy Spirit works through us to guide us and teach us and grow us.
This week I saw that I don't need to be perfect to help others, to be used by God. I do, however, need to be certain my heart is in the right place and as my salvation is being worked out, God desires to work through me and reach others.
I pray you come to see salvation as a process you can find strength in God to work out... to follow his lead in all aspects of your life from rooting out un-confessed or ignored sin to finding a place to share his love and glory with others simply to see Him glorified.
Scripture references from BibleGateway.com ESV Bible. Visit Bible Gateway for more resources in Bible Study and spiritual growth.