Isaiah 1:15-20 (NIV)
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood;
16 wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause
of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are
like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth
of the LORD has spoken.
God is calling Judah to account for how they have lived out their lives.
Many people struggle with passages of Scripture, where God is calling people
into account and judging them by their actions. We want the love of God,
which surpasses all understanding, but few of us ever want to sit on the side
of being judged. This sort of thinking is like a child who wants a mothers love,
but never wants her to call us out when we hurt our little brother, steal the
cookie from the cookie jar, or seek to do something which may hurt us.
The judgment of God, like most parental guidance, never comes without grace.
Grace in many Old Testament passages is shown in how God has given
opportunity and warning for people to change their destructive patterns of living. Grace also comes in a promise of renewal and restoration of blessings, as we
realign ourselves to His love, and the love for those who live this life with us.
God never leaves us without guidance of how to live responsibly in our world,
which is found through out the Bible. He gave Israel, as a new nation guidance
in the commandments, with warnings that as long as they loved Him, and cared
for one another things would go well in their land (see Duet. 28). However, the
warning was also given that if they chose to leave God’s love and His direction
of loving others consequences would be faced.
While God judges humanity for their actions and keeps us responsible for how
we live with one another, we must realize that many consequences are the natural
result of how we live in this world. If I choose to treat others around me with
contempt, to take from those who need help, to ignore the hurt and lame, why
should I expect that someone will care for me when I am in need.
One of the saddest days I ever experiences, was in visiting an elderly woman in
a nursing home. She had no other visitors, and I asked her once if she expected
family to come for an upcoming holiday. Her answer stunned me as she said,
‘No. I never have done much for my brothers or sisters, and when my oldest
brother was sick I never visited him. Why should I expect any of them to come
and see me?’
Sadly, this woman understood the natural consequences of living our lives in a
way that pushes people away. She knew God had forgiven her of a past of pain,
but she was able to reason that she now faced the responsibility of her choices.
It was not something she enjoyed, but I was challenged to think about how I try
to live in this world by her words. Do I strive to make good relationships, or do I
burn bridges? We all will have a time of facing the consequence of our living.
May we be sincere in living each and every day with love and concern for all
who are around us.
God came in Isaiah 1 not merely to condemn the sins of the people in judgment,
but to reason with them. He wanted them to take a look at how they were living,
and see the better life. We each have the opportunity of every new day, and the
choice of how we will live. We are nearing the end of another year. May we
consider our ways, and seek to live in God’s love, and carry that love into the
world around us.