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

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1 - Isaiah 64-66: God Accepts Authentic Worship from the World

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 64-66

The Message

English Standard Version

We made it! We're finished with Isaiah and have read 22 books overall. Keep going!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

When Israel calls for God to save them God calls them to change.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God responds, "You want me only on your terms. You want your idols and your sins. Your punishment for your sin is on its way.
"Those who set things right are willing to have me on My Terms. They will inhabit newly-blessed Jerusalem. Peace will rule this land.
"I want worship from a dedicated heart not from memory.
"Rejoice, Jerusalem! Nations will see My Glory. I'll send My Chosen People to the world to spread the Good News of My Reign. Then, the assembly of God's Chosen People from all over the world will see the carcasses of the rebellious."

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

God will accept us only on His terms.

Chapter 64 begins with Israel begging God for His return. Instead, they get God's charges against them. They want God only if they can keep their idols and their way of life. God does not work that way. God will accept you only if you dedicate yourself exclusively to Him.

God wants worship from a dedicated heart, not worship coming from the recital of memorized passages.

Don't get me wrong, memorization is not the problem in Israel. The problem is that the acts of worship have become cultural identity festivals instead of spiritual acts. They lived in an Age of Memorization where the words of Torah were worth more than the meaning of Torah. Israel's focus on getting the acts right instead of changing their hearts left God with no choice but reject their worship. God would even accept their worship even if they were not the super-star lighthouses to the nation. All he wanted was for them to worship and feel something. He wanted an Age of Authentic Worship of God.
I cannot read this section without thinking of the countless devotionals, worship services, etc. I attended where I felt nothing. There was no connection with God. There was no connection with others. I was there to punch my attendance card, collect my social points, and continue with my life. Some may suggest I am the one to blame and they are partially true. However, we should honestly ask do our congregations encourage worship from the heart, emotions and logic interwoven into a patchwork of "spirit and truth", or want to make sure we do everything the "right" way? If our numbers are indicative of the answer, we need large changes—and not musical instruments, praise bands/teams, modern songs, trendy ministers, or even meeting in non-traditional spaces. Rachel Held Evans wrote an excellent article recently expressing both why many young people leave churches and why older church leaders don't get it. I would add to her thoughts God's message through Isaiah, "Your offerings for worship / no different … from honoring a no-god idol" (66:3, The Message). If we heed Isaiah's message, we, too, can "bring [the exiled Chosen People] back and offer them in living worship to God" (66:20).

God will return Israel, but only those who set things right and were willing to become the feet who delivered good news to the world.

Not all of Israel would be destroyed. That would be out of God's mind completely. God is capable of punishing a neighborhood with only two bad apples and leaving the rest undisturbed. He would restore Jerusalem higher than it had ever been. They would become the bearers of good news who would be called beautiful. Members of families all over the world would assemble in Jerusalem because of God's Glory.
What does this mean for us today? If you have followed through our readings of Isaiah, God has a lot to say about us if we let Him. Today's reading is no different. If we are willing to make hard decisions which may alienate some of the older members stuck in the Age of Memorization we may begin to reach people longing for the Age of Authentic Worship of God. I truly believe the only regrets we will have is waiting so long to change.

Is your church in the Age of Memorization or the Age of Authentic Worship of God?

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