by William J. Stewart
The apostle Paul, after using Israel as an example, wrote to the Corinthians, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Sadly, sometimes we get too comfortable with the idea that we are God’s people, and thus fail to give due diligence to our conduct. We do not have sufficient time or space to consider the numerous occasions where this was the case among God’s people of old, however, it would do us well to consider the word of the Lord as revealed through Isaiah against His people, lest we forget the manner of conduct and sincere devotion which we must give our great God.
Notice the accusation against Israel: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey it’s master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (v 2-3). They are described as “…a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters!” (v 4). They are a nation of sickness and disease, a barren land with cities afire, with only a remnant left by the Lord.
These horrid words could very well describe a segment of the Lord’s church today, identified in the New Testament through the foolish virgins and the one talent man in Matthew 25. They are happy to wear the name of Christ, to enjoy any benefits which can be received from the Lord, but are not concerned with faithful service to God. They are people in need of revival before it is eternally too late. As the Lord exposed the wickedness of Israel and called her to repentance, so He does with the church today. Consider five solid indications that a revival is needed.
If Our Actions Remind God Of Sodom/Gomorrah (v 9-10)
Isaiah calls the attention of “…you rulers of Sodom .. You people of Gomorrah…” The intended audience has not changed, it is still Israel. The names of these ancient cities are employed to provoke Israel to thought. If the actions of God’s people remind the Lord of Sodom and Gomorrah, it is sure that the wrong path has been followed and immediate repentance is in order. Ezekiel, warning Jerusalem of her sin wrote, “…neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit…” (Ezek 16:49-50).
We must be careful to bring our lives into subjection to the will of God. Time and again we are witness to the justice of God in the Bible, that those who participate in and condone wickedness will be judged. If we tamper in the things we ought not, let us not think we will be immune to God’s wrath. Israel was destroyed on account of their wickedness. If we turn from the Lord and walk our own path, we too will fall in judgment.
If Our Sacrifices Are Unwanted By The Lord (v 11)
The Lord asked His people, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Certainly, sacrifices were commanded in the law of Moses, but their sacrifices were for naught. It is useless for the children of God to bring offerings to Him and at the same time continue blindly in a life of sin. Later in Isaiah’s writing, we read, “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck; he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood; he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol. Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear, but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight” (Isa 66:3-4).
We cannot cling to a life of sin and still be acceptable in our sacrifices before God. Especially considering the nature of our sacrifice. Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1). Our very life is sacrificed to God. Jesus plainly told us that we cannot serve two masters; our life cannot be our own and the Lord’s at the same time!
If Our Assembling Is Not To God’s Glory (v 12)
Though they were caught in iniquity and abominable acts, they continued to enter the temple of the Lord. In Malachi’s day, the Lord desired that the doors to the temple be shut, that they no longer would parade their wickedness before His throne (Mal 1:10).
When we assemble as the house of God, it must be to glorify the Lord. If not, we have trampled in His courts and defiled His assembly. We do not assemble to see others or be seen by others. We do not assemble because it is the “in” thing to do. We do not assemble because it is a long standing tradition in our family. Our purpose to gather must be to glorify God. Realize however, we must approach with a pure life if we are to fulfill this task.
If Our Worship Is Wearisome To God (v 13-14)
The Lord mentions various segments of worship under Old Testament times. The sacrifices, the incense, New Moons, Sabbaths, assemblies, appointed feasts. These were all furnished by the Lord so man could worship Him. Yet look at His words, “…I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting … they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.”
If we follow in the path of Israel, our worship will not only be unacceptable to the Lord, but it will be grievous to Him. The Lord’s Supper, the collection for the saints, the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, prayers and the teaching of His word—if not accompanied by pure hearts and devoted lives, they will be vain, abominable and a cause for the wrath of God.
If Our Prayers Are Disdained & Disregarded By God (v 15)
Finally, the Lord refuses to hear the prayers of those who do not walk aright. Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear you. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity” (Isa 59:1-4).
Should we expect the Lord to accept us as His people if we turn from Him? His approval of us yesterday does not guarantee His approval today. His expectations do not change, His will is secure. Thus, we must be sure we are walking according to the pattern of life and worship which the Lord has designed from eternity for us. If we are not, then we have need for revival, for we are dead.