“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you poeple of Gomorrah! What 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…Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Assurance of faith is the lens through which we will be learning in this adevent season. We hope to have some sense that, when God looks at us, He is nothings less than delighted. And where do we get a clearer picture of this reality than the incarnation of a Savior, the great rescue mission of God? Yet assurance of faith doesn’t start there. We must first deconstruct our other assurances, our other saviors. This is what Isaiah does here in the first chapter, but in a most peculiar way. To move closer to God, to bring life to their relationship with him, the people of Israel sought to be faithful in their sacrifices. Day after day, week after week, they brought their myriad of offerings to him. But, to paraphrase, the God of the universe says, “I’M NOT LISTENING! Your prayers, feasts, and sacrifices are an abomination to me. They are vain and have no place in my house.” But this begs the question…Why?
A friend of mine told me yesterday that God has been showing him how ungracious he has been with people. He “believed” in grace, but didn’t give it. He would give grace to a point, but upon discovering that they did “this” or “that,” grace had run out. Yet God softened his heart by showing him the gravity of his own sin. How could he not be gracious in light of the grace shown to him!? Now he just runs around, giving love and service to everyone. He is a phenominal friend. I long for this continued transformation in my own life.
What I mean to say is this…Self-centeredness and religiosity coincide so easliy in our practice. The outward rituals of religiosity are so easy to perform, even while our hearts are far from the Lord and near to ourselves. We negotiate with God for His favor with what we bring to him. We forget that we are truly empty and need to be filled by his forgiveness and mercy. Subtly, we begin the think that the evidence of this experience is our own ritual offerings to the Lord. This is where God laughs. “If you truly know me and have experienced my mercy, you will care for the poor and needy among you. Then I’ll know you are empty, yet filled by my grace.” So, true relationship with the Lord begins with emptiness, receives grace, and moves to generosity and care for the poor and broken. That is where God is, becuase that is how he came to us…lowly, humble of heart, ready to serve.
If you feel stale today, distant from God, find someone to be generous to. Someone to be gracious to. Someone who is poor in spirit to love. For it is there in the lowlinees of humility that God is.