Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Dear God, this passage from Isaiah reminds me of a conversation I had at lunch yesterday. A friend is the president of a homeowners association and he inherited a situation where a lot of the restrictions have been allowed to slide for a while. Now, people are angry with their neighbors about violations of the covenants that everyone signed when they purchased their property, and those who are violating are angry that the association is enforcing the codes. This is what he walked into. So now he is trying to bring things into line/up to code, and trying to figure out how to get everyone back into harmony.
His first step is what reminds me of this passage. He told me that he sent out a letter a month or two ago that basically encouraged everyone to be respectful and kind to their neighbors. Yes, there is the letter of the law, but there is also the spirit of the law, and a lot of people are ignoring that too. Let’s start with kindness. While he was talking, I thought of the greatest two commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Isaiah is telling the Israelites in this passage that it’s time for them to stop depending on all of their little rituals and ceremonies to save them and simply come back into relationship with you. “Come now, let’s settle this.” I love that line. It’s almost like you’re saying, let’s get back to what this was supposed to be. Our relationship is supposed to be loving and fun. It is supposed to be good and delightful. And all you have to do is do what you know is right and not do what you know is wrong.
Father, help me to not lose the spirit of the law in all of my theology. Help me to remember that this is about having the opportunity to be in communion with the most amazing “existence” in the universe. You are it. You are all. You are my all in all. As I go through this day, help me to look beyond the ceremony and simply look into your eyes.
In Jesus’s name I pray,