Good morning. It's Wednesday! Today is the first day of a new season of Faith, Family and Food here at Madison United Methodist Church. Each Wednesday evening we will serve a complete meal from 5-6pm. Afterwards the children and youth will go to their respected classes for Alleluia Choir, Pathfinders and Cross trainers. Adults will have the opportunity to be a part of an adult study/worship session. This year, I will be teaching Disciple I on Wednesday evenings. I look forward to a great year. If you can, please join us.
This morning we will continue our look at the Book of Isaiah. Last Thursday we began by looking at the introduction of the book. God is clearly not happy with his people. In fact, he said that while the ox and the donkey each know who their master is, the people of God have forgotten who their father is. Yesterday, we looked at the call and commission of Isaiah. Both passages that we dealt with have one thing in common: the holiness of God. All throughout the book the holiness of God is stressed.
Keep in mind what we have studied thus far. We have looked at the people of Israel and Judah being taken into exile. The Book of Isaiah and the other prophets that we will read later help give more insight as to why these exiles took place. Why was God so angry? Well, we will learn more as we go. First, let's back up a bit and recall what we have heard God say already.
"I reared children and brought them up, and they have rebelled against me." (Is. 1:2b) God's people have reacted to him with ingratitude and defiance. In this passage God, Yahweh, is pictured as a fatherly character. The people, on the other hand, are pictured as being distant from God. They have forgotten the covenant with God and they have turned away from him. Yet, even though they have turned away, they still expect God to be there for them. They even trust that since they have God on their side (or so they assume) they are right in everything they do. But, God sends them word, through Isaiah, that all is not well with them.
"Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! The multitude of your sacrifices-what are they to me?' says the Lord. I have more than enough of burnt offerings...Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me..." (Is. 1:10-11,13)
Clearly God is rejecting the ritualistic worship of the people, but not because of it being ritualistic. No, God is not against ritual. I have heard many people preaching against ritual, verses the Spirit leading the service. Well, if you walk into any service, even those who are "spirit led" you will discover that they all follow the same pattern of worship every time. I would contend that even churches who are ok confessing that they follow a ritual are also "spirit led." After all, haven't we learned that God is a God of order? (Look back at creation) Any how, God rejects their rituals because of their behavior. God tells them (through Isaiah) "stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:16b-17) Wow! What is said by the Lord by way of the prophet may very well be offensive to many even today. There is so much division today when it comes to social issues. We all have our opinions and we all have a particular side that we are on. But, have we ever stopped to ask: "Which side is God on?" God is not pleased with his people here in Isaiah. Is God pleased with his people in 2017? Perhaps this is the burning question. We hear churches argue all the time: "We are the true church because we preach the Bible!" Really? Is it all about simply preaching the Bible? If that's the case then we can just have someone read the Bible to us. We then can "Amen" the whole thing, and then all quote the old worn out cliché' "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it." That sounds simple enough. Well, the subjects of Isaiah's message would probably proclaim that they got worship right. And maybe they did. But, the question remains: "Is it enough to have "right" worship, when our living is not right with God?" The answer I believe is "no." Another question may be: "How is right living connected with our interactions with others?" How concerned are we to be with the well being of others? Are they to be our concern? Are we our brother and sisters keeper?
What was it the people were doing, or not doing? They were neglecting the widows and the orphans. Widows and orphans were deemed powerless in ancient times, and because of this they were often oppressed. Israelite Law extended special concern for their protection. (Ex.22:21; Deut. 24:17;27:19) It appears that the Israelites have been guilty of forsaking these people. Perhaps they can be heard saying: "They are not my problem."
"See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her-but now murderers!" (Is. 1:21) Isaiah is now using metaphors that were once reserved for Israel in the North to apply to Judah in the South. He is describing the people as a harlot. The prophet Hosea will do the same in the book with his name. Later on he will use images from the fertility cult to denounce Jerusalem. God laments the city's corruption.
"The Lord says; 'The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles...In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces; the earrings and bracelets...Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness..." (Isaiah 3:16,18,24)
God is appalled by the actions of his people. We discovered that one of the things God hates is "haughty eyes." (Proverbs 6:17) Now, his people (especially the women) are wearing this look. God warned them previously that "the haughty eyes of people shall be brought low, and the pride of everyone shall be humbled." (Is. 2:11) Cleary what has happened is that the people have not only forsaken God, they have forgotten the fact that if it were not for God they would still be slaves in Egypt. They now have a "look at me" mentality. They now look down at others with an "I'm better than you" attitude. But, God warns them that they better enjoy it while it lasts, because things are about to change.
On several occasions in the first few chapters Judah and Israel have been compared to Sodom and Gomorrah. Today when people mention Sodom and Gomorrah they are often relating the cities to the issue of homosexuality. Isaiah, however, was not doing that at all. The two cities in the Bible are always used to point out wickedness. In Isaiah the main problem seems to be pride. Again, I would argue that pride is the main problem all throughout the Bible. Because of pride the people have turned away from God who is holy and turned to themselves. Further proof is found in the warning: "Your men shall fall by the sword and your warriors in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; ravaged, she shall sit upon the ground. Seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying 'We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes..."(Is. 3:25-26, 4:1) The people trusted in themselves, but the day of humiliation was coming. The day would come when the women would have to take care of themselves because their men were dead. What I hear this saying is: "Be prepared to eat your own cooking!"
Well, clearly the message that Isaiah is to give is one of doom and gloom. Yahweh is the judge and his own people are the accused. Will they get the message? We will continue looking at this book tomorrow. Have a great day! -Pastor Rick