God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9 - Isaiah 1-4: God Speaks Through Isaiah - Stop Playing the Religious Game

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 1-4

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading begins the last major section of the Old Testament, the Major Prophets. They are called "major" because each book is longer than the 12 "Minor" prophets. Since Isaiah lived during the reign of four kings, this book will be interspersed with the historical narratives of their lives.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

When Judah stops playing the religion game and obeys God, then He will heal their land.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The visions of Isaiah during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah:
God says, "I have decided to give up on Israel. They don't want me anymore.
"Don't go through the motions of religion. Set things right!
"Let's talk—I'll wipe your sins away!"
Isaiah chimes in, "Someday the entire world will worship and serve the God of Peace. Let's do it now!
"Your imitation gods will be destroyed. God will empty Judah. No one will turn it around. Only the righteous will survive.
"Everything that gives you pride will vanish. Then the land will be God's once more."

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Israel has forgotten their god. God will "forget" them.

God's relationship with Israel has always been tenuous. Now, no matter what God does, His Chosen People will not stay faithful to Him. It is a sad moment when God's Chosen People are willing to create a god out of stone, wood, gold, and silver instead of obeying the one who freed them from Egypt. Since Israel has turned their collective backs against God, He will no longer protect them from their enemies.

God does not delight in religious actions. He delights in clean hearts.

God is direct,
Quit your worship charades.
   I can’t stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—
   meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
   You’ve worn me out!
I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
   while you go right on sinning. (1:13-14, The Message)
God wanted them to change their actions:
Go home and wash up.
   Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
   so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
   Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
   Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
   Go to bat for the defenseless. (1:16-17)
I cannot read this without thinking of our weekly Sunday meetings, mid-week meetings, small-group meetings, gospel meetings, VBS, etc., etc., etc. Could God complain that our churches meet for "religious" times but continue sinning? God does not want your church to hold weekly meetings. God wants your church to clean up its collective and individual acts!

God desperately wants to talk.

I love God's message to Israel. He is forcefully against their sin but is equally forceful about His mercy and forgiveness,
If your sins are blood-red,
   they'll be snow-white.
If they're red like crimson,
   they'll be like wool.
If you'll willingly obey,
   you'll feast like kings.
But if you're willful and stubborn,
   you'll die like dogs. (1:18-20)
God is willing to forgive and heal if you are willing to speak and listen.

People from everywhere in the world want to worship God.

To us, this seems normal. People from all over the world worship God every day. However, to Israel, these were surprising words. The god of Abraham was their god and no one else could worship Him. I alluded to this at the reading of Jonah. The reason the entire world will want to worship God is simple: God sets all things right. There will be no need for war when God sets all things right. When the entire world knows God, they will want to worship Him.
What about today? It is here, but not yet. What does that mean? Everyone in the world can worship God; however, not everyone chooses to worship God. At the same time, we, the Chosen People of God, also struggle with the concept that God is for all. Someday, this will happen!

Do you play religious games?

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