3 December 2019Isaiah 1:12-20
Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (v. 17)
Psalm: Psalm 25
In yesterday's main passage (Isaiah 1:1-11), we began reading the first chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy and saw that the prophet located himself in time and place, a particular historical and political context. Having done that, Isaiah launches a tirade upon the people of Judah and by verse twelve is in full condemnatory flow.
At the time when Isaiah was writing, the system of religious sacrifices had been in place for several hundred years. The people offered their worship, their ritual sacrifices, as an automatic action, as a transaction which bore little resemblance to their day-to-day life. These practices were meant to keep the righteousness and holiness of the Lord in the forefront of the people's minds and hearts. They were established to remind God's people of God’s ready provision and faithfulness. They were intended to remind the people of God’s passion for justice and care for the suffering. These sacrifices were meant to restore people to community when they sinned against one another and to reconcile them to God when they forgot his purposes in favour of their own. The Lord, however, no longer valued the people’s sacrifices and no longer welcomed their worship. Through the word of Isaiah, God spoke to let the people of Judah know that their actions were an abomination in God’s sight.
When it comes to worship, God expects people to be transformed. God expects the love and trust they confess to really change the way they live. God expects people to be shaped by his love so that they love one another more and more. God expects that his ways of compassion and justice will be reflected in the people who have been created in God's image and delivered from slavery into freedom. God expects that people will become more deeply aware of God's generosity to them. God expects that they will be generous and gracious to one another, as God is with them. Then, as today, God expects his people to love him and reflect his love in their relationships with others. God is worshipped when God's people live in such a way that God's values shine through their words and deeds.
Philip Doddridge’s hymn, commonly sung in Advent, reminds the church of the faith that we proclaim. The long-promised Saviour comes to release the prisoner and bind up the broken-hearted. The demands of justice are paramount in the way we live out our faith. The King, whose advent we announce, shall rule over a kingdom of justice and right.
- How do you respond to the statement that “When it comes to worship, God expects people to be transformed”?
- What is your experience of the transforming power of worship?
- How, during Advent, does worship contribute to your getting ready for Christmas?