Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Obedience, Not Obeisance

Today is the second day in our 33rd week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are Isaiah 1-3; Matthew 22; Psalm 9.

In our NT passage, the Pharisees tried to test Jesus by asking Him a question that would probably anger people, no matter what answer He gave.  Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) says:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This was also Isaiah's message to the people.  In Isaiah 1:10-18 (ESV), the Lord says through the prophet:

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of goats.
12 “When you come to appear before me,
    who has required of you
    this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
    incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons 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,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow's cause.

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

Essentially, God is saying that the people have performed all the right religious rituals, yet their hearts are far from God.  The evidence of this is that their relationship with fellow people is one of sin and treachery.  Isaiah doesn't enumerate each one of the people's sins, because the list would be too long, and because just as soon as the list was ended, people would think up a new sin that wasn't on the list.  The solution isn't in memorizing a list of do's and don't's.  The solution is found in getting right with God.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean.

Reason with the Lord. and let Him purify you.

When you do this, then you'll cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow's cause.  

Just as injustice is a symptom of the disease of rebellion against God, correcting injustice naturally flows from getting your relationship right with the Lord.  

We tend to try to cure the human condition of sin by treating the symptoms, rather than treating the disease.  But that's like trying to cure baldness by gluing people's hair back on.  No--you've got to get to the root.  The cure comes not by adopting new religious practices--God won't be pleased with your doxologies or offerings, any more than He was pleased with the new moon sacrifices of Judah and Jerusalem.  God wants you to love Him before you laud Him.  God wants your obedience, not your obeisance.  

Love God.  Love your neighbor.  It's just that simple.

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