The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. — Isaiah 1:15

I have been around the Church long enough to hear (and offer) my fair share of critiques of worship. “The music is too old fashioned.” “The music is too contemporary.” “The music is too loud.” “The pastor doesn’t preach biblical sermons.” “The pastor’s sermons are too focused on doctrine and not enough on practical things.” The list could literally go on and on and on and on.

However, when one encounters the prophet Isaiah, one encounters a very different kind of critique of worship. The prophet Isaiah does not mince words. The first chapter of that great book of prophecy is a devastating critique of the worship of Israel… so much so that Isaiah sees God as having nothing to do with the ritual worship of the temple—What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. Isaiah even hears God ask, Who asked this from your hand?

The simple answer to that last question would of course seem to be, Well, God, you did! But, in the vision of Isaiah, God has altogether distanced himself from those commands to offer bull, lamb and goat—the offerings of Israel were so polluted that, though the animals were the same, the location was the same, and even the priesthood was the same, God did not ask for these kinds of sacrifices—namely, those offered with hands “full of blood”.

Thankfully, Isaiah offers a way out of this mess, Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes. It is precisely in this instruction to “wash” oneself that we find that which anchors, supports and validates the worship of the God of Israel—the God of Jesus, that true Isaiah who not only prophetically critiqued corrupted worship but performed a ritual “destruction of the temple” as a way of “washing” it clean.

I look forward to exploring the great prophet Isaiah’s message this Sunday—see you then!




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