Scripture: Isaiah 1-4
Key verses: (1: 16-19a)
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient, . . .”
Reflection: The beginning of the book of Isaiah starts with poetry that is described as a vision of Isaiah. The call of the prophet Isaiah doesn’t happen until Chapter Six, but the entire book is attributed to him. God is speaking to God’s people and imploring them to return to faith. These beginning chapters are addressed to the remnant of a defeated people in Judah after the enormous devastation done by the Assyrian army led by Sennacherib. The cause of this destruction was not merely political, but spiritual. The people had turned away from God. Time and again they sinned. This sin went against everything that God had called them to do and be as children of God. They practiced evil in all of it forms and turned away from all who needed justice: the orphan, the widow and anyone who was oppressed. They had set up worship places for other gods and fell into self-serving practices that were contrary to the law and ordinances that God had given them so that they might experience life. In this first chapter, the LORD is disgusted with their meaningless sacrifices and festivals. What the LORD really wanted was repentance and a change of heart. Come let us argue it out (or reason together). Let’s talk, says the LORD. God was so willing to forgive, if only they were willing to turn their lives around.
A lot of people don’t like to read the books of the prophets because there is so much destruction and God is so angry. But, what I find in these scripture passages is a loving God who is continually calling out to us and warning us about our choices and actions just like God did centuries ago. God wants us to give our full hearts and lives to God. God wants us to be all in, fully committed to living lives of love, acceptance, forgiveness and justice. We are to be God’s agents in the world showing our faith to others through our actions. Most of us think we are pretty good people and that none of what we find in Isaiah applies to us. But, I’m not so sure. We are all capable of evil or condoning evil. It’s easy to fall away from God. It’s easy to compartmentalize our faith and separate it from our everyday lives. Are we continually learning to do good, seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow? Are we listening to God and applying what scripture teaches us in our lives? God invites us to return before some self-destructive behavior destroys us. Our lives might not be as dramatic as life was in Judah in 701 BCE. There is no army threatening our existence (at least not right now), but in what ways are we worshipping other gods that threaten to destroy us? Reflect on your life today, turn toward God and experience the great love God has for you.
Prayer: Lord, help us to find you in the midst of all that pulls us away from you. May we cultivate clean hearts, transformed by you and your living presence. May we hear your word and embrace your love for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].