11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
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.
16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
Your hands are full of blood;
The What of Rebuke, Part II
Nope, no mistake – we are staying on these verses for a little while longer. We saw in the last devotional that the sin that God is rebuking here is not the type of thing we think typically displeases God – instead, he is addressing false religiosity. And it is detestable to him because it misses the mark, and actually blinds us to God’s true desire.
But there is another reason why these festivals and ceremonies earn such a stiff rebuke from God – because they became a refuge for idolatry. You see, these ceremonies were intended to solely celebrate God’s faithfulness, but over time, they began to be blended with other neighboring religious traditions and practices, losing nearly all of their intended purpose. This idolatry will become a constant theme throughout this book, and is part of the reason why Isaiah begins in such a confrontational manner.
And at the same time, I believe this rebuke is just as applicable in our time. When we conceive of sin, we think about lust or gossip, but rarely “idolatry”, or placing things higher in priority than God. But this is a dangerous oversight because idolatry is firmly addressed throughout Scripture – it is, after all, the FIRST of the ten commandments.
But more than this, idolatry, in one form or another, lies at the root of so many of our sins. Greed is a form of idolatry, idolizing wealth. Lust is also a form of idolatry, idolizing our bodies or pleasure. So even if we do not have wooden idols on our mantels, we still have many idols in our midst that actively compete for priority with the primacy of God.
Our situation is not really all that different from Israel’s, in this way. If these idolatrous practices in Israel were this detestable to God, then our idolatrous lifestyle is no less so. And that is why it is important to ask ourselves some tough questions…
1. What, or whom, in your life is more important than God?
2. What sinful or destructive behavior or mentalities has this led to in your life?
3. What would it take to begin to combat these idolatries?