Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, July 16, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

01/14/18 Sermon - Let's Argue This Out

“Let’s Argue This Out”

Isaiah 1:11-20

 

We have just begun our journey through the book of Isaiah. Last week we learned that Isaiah was a prophet who was sent by God to the people of Israel. The book began with Isaiah letting the people of God have it. Isaiah charged the Israelites with rebellion and corruption which resulted in desolation. The Israelites were failing to see the connection between their actions and the consequences of those actions. God made it very clear that the only reason they and the land existed at all was due to His mercy.

 

We continue with today’s Scripture where the Israelites are given two alternate ways in which to deal with their alienation from God.

 

There is the right way, and the wrong way.

Verses 11-15 present the wrong way, the hypocritical ritualistic lifestyle and

verses 16-17 offer the right way, which consists of a life of repentance and a life that keeps changing.

Verses 18-20 sum up the results of the path chosen, those that take the right way, enjoy blessings, those who chose the wrong way, will basically be destroyed.

 

It’s a no brainer.

 

Let’s look deeper into what this week’s Scripture has to say.

 

If we go back to verse ten we see that the Israelites are being called, “the rulers of Solomon” and “the people of Gomorrah”

 

God is obviously trying to get their attention. Now you need to remember, these people are the people who have been going to church, tithing, praying the right prayers, at the correct time.

They have doing everything the law has told them to do in regards to how to be a “good” Israelite. So for God to connect them with Sodom and Gomorrah, means that He is associating them with sin and judgement. You can bet their ears pricked up with a bit of indignation, as the next verse admits the Israelites had been giving a multitude of sacrifices, but for what good? asks the LORD.

 

The interesting thing is that Israel had been rebelling against God, but they knew enough to keep up with the religious activities, perhaps thinking that if they continued their sacrifices, their burnt offerings, the offering of the fat of the fed cattle, and burning the correct incense and going to their assemblies and their sacred meetings, and keeping up with all of the religious rituals, they would have earned their right to rebel. This is where their ignorance is revealed. Here is the LORD’s response to their religious rituals:

 

“I have had enough”

“Bring no more futile sacrifices”

“An abomination to Me”

“I cannot endure”

“My soul hates”

“They are a trouble to Me”

“I am weary of bearing them”

 

Wow! You mean all of the things that God had told them to do, He now hated? Somewhere along the line, maybe in the midst of all their calamity that we read about in verses 5-9, Judah thought they could make things right by being religious. Well they had it half right, unfortunately for them, they’d forgotten that God judges not what we do, but the heart by which we do them. Humans are often lazy. They often choose the easy way for themselves, rather than the thorough way. How much easier is it to be religious and act religious than to forsake your sins and reform your lives?

 

In verse 15, we read that they were spreading out their hands, which in the ancient culture was the posture of prayer, instead of hands folded with heads bowed. At the time of Isaiah, people would pray with their face turned towards heaven and their hands spread out to the heaven. Yet, we read that when they did such prayers, the LORD hid his eyes, and did not hear.

 

Okay, now I don’t know about you, but ever since I can remember, I have been taught that God hears everyone’s prayer. So when I read this, I had to stop for a minute and catch up with my historical background. You mean there are times when people pray and God hides His eyes and does not listen? Yet when I thought about it, these weren’t prayers that were said in a way that people even cared if God listened or not. These were the type of prayers that were said, by rote, to sound eloquent, to fill a requirement. To God they sounded like, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”  They were not the type of prayers, that came from the heart, and were attached to the person saying them. So I guess to be politically correct from now on, I cannot tell people that God hears all of your prayers. According to Isaiah 1, when we start babbling on with our prayers, just to hear ourselves talk, and to show we are doing the right thing, religiously, we can be sure that God hears our prayers enough to stop listening. Yet, when we talk with God from the heart, when we are honest and repentant and seek to change to be more like Him, we can be sure He is listening.

 

If we continue reading we will discover that God had a pretty good reason for not listening. At the end of verse 15 we read that “I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood.” This wasn’t the blood of their enemy, no, this was the blood of each other.  The Israelites knew exactly how to act inside the temple, towards God, but when it came to the other six days of the week, they focused on what they wanted, and refused to help others in need. Oh I am sure they had their logical reasons for not reaching out to those in need. You’ve heard them I’m sure.

“Why should I help them? They are lazy”

“Get a job, pull yourselves up from your bootstraps, like I did.”

“Where is their family? They must have a real problem if their family won’t take care of them, so why should I?”

“It’s not fair that I should have to pay for someone else.”

 

So the Israelites behaviour hasn’t changed much. But as we continue to read, in verses 16-20 the LORD offers a cure.

“Wash yourselves”

“Make yourselves clean”

“Stop doing wrong”

“Learn to do right”

“Seek justice”

“Encourage the oppressed”

“Defend the fatherless”

“Plead the case of the widow”




It was much easier to show God they loved Him by their religious ceremonies, but the LORD cared more about how they treated each other, especially how they treated the weak. God wanted them to have His heart for others, especially for those in need. Centuries later, the apostle John had the same message for the Israelites,

 

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

After laying out the ridiculous behavior the Israelites had been exhibiting the LORD says,  

 

“Come now, let us reason together.”

 

Which is what most translations read, however, in the Greek, the translation is more like,

 

“Come now, let’s argue this out.”

 

Now I am going to tell you from personal experience. You can argue with God all you want, and there are times when I may even encourage it, but in the long run, let’s face it, you won’t win. But here we have God asking us to “argue it out.” And I don’t think He says this because He knows He is ultimately going to win. No, I think He does this because of what we will learn through the exercise. Through our argument we will come to the realization that God’s direction for us is reasonable. It is down right smart. In fact, it will always be the best way to live.

 

During the argument the LORD has here with Judah, the LORD offers a repentant, humble Judah, a true and complete cleansing of their sin.

 

Grace. Mercy. To the max.

 

Their condition of sin, can be transformed from stained red, to completely white. The LORD doesn’t deny the sins they had. No, He chooses to meet the sinner right where they are, in their sins.

It doesn’t do any good to try to diminish the extent of the sin, which wouldn’t work anyway because God is omniscient. No, whatever sin you admit to, it is probably worse. Sin is sin. Sin is red, like scarlet. Yet, the LORD is prepared to make them white as snow!

 

But it takes, a willing and obedient heart. It means giving up what we want, and looking and seeking what God wants. That is the price we pay. Yet the benefits are worth it.

 

At the end of today’s Scripture, God offers Judah a choice. He offers the same choice to us today. There is hope in the midst of our struggles. We do not need to be trapped by our religious rituals. Our sin does not need to get the best of us. It means a change of heart. It means we need to surrender our hearts before God, not refuse and rebel, but instead, be willing and obedient.

 

Let’s face it. No one perfectly matches either phrase.

But which one do you wish to be associated with most closely? Do you want to live a life that is more willing and obedient, or a life that chooses to refuse and rebel?

 

Isaiah doesn’t say how this cleansing comes about, but we know that it comes because Jesus took upon Himself our stain of sin, God judged our sin perfectly and completely in Jesus, so we can be accounted white as snow and as white as wool. However, the proof is in the pudding. If we are living in Christ, we will be like Him. And Isaiah puts it like this,

 

“Seek justice”

“Especially for those who can’t do so for themselves”

“Encourage the oppressed”

“Defend the cause of the fatherless”

“Plead the case of the widow”

Do so in deed, not just in word.

 

Being willing and obedient, has very little to do with how religious we behave. According to Isaiah, it means being willing and obedient to seek justice, for all. The closer we come to knowing Christ, the closer we become like Him.

 

This Scripture couldn’t have been read at a better time. When we consider the comments made by the President of the United States this week in regards to those in third world countries and as we prepare to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. tomorrow. It is my prayer that each of us here choose to follow the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to demonstrate the Spirit of God by remembering that regardless of who we are, we are created in the image of God, and God has called us to reach out to those in need, period.

 

When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word

What a glory he sheds on our way!

While we do his good will, he abides with us still,

And with all who will trust and obey.