Isaiah: Beyond Religion. Part 2 (Israel, America and the Church)

Picture taken from Idaho Journal State Politics website

As I began preaching through the book of Isaiah I quickly realized that I needed to make an important decision regarding how to interpret the judgment that Isaiah says is coming.

(The sin): “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.” Isaiah 1:4

(The judgment for the sin): “but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 1:19

I believe that modern Christians have, in many instances, assumed that when we apply texts like these to our world today it is a judgment against the nation of America. It is easy to understand their logic. America is just like the nation of Israel in the year 740 BC, sinful.

Here is the big problem. The judgment in Isaiah is not against “pagan culture”. The judgment is against God’s covenant people.

Consider what God says in 1:11. “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.” Isaiah 1:11

The judgment in Isaiah’s day was against God’s people for putting on a religious show yet their hearts were far from God. To apply this text today would mean that the church has to take a long hard look at themselves first, repent and again seek him with all of their heart.

Big deal you say? What difference does this little hermeneutical discussion make in regards to every day life?

The primary indictment against Israel and Judah in the book of Isaiah was that they were not pursuing mercy and justice. Are we? Or have we fallen into a religious routine that is primarily about getting our needs met and making our life better? Are we (the church, Christians) known as a people who care for the marginalized, oppressed, poor, vulnerable or are we spending more time being angry, judgmental and right? A lot of it has to do with how you interpret the prophets in the Old Testament.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17

Isaiah: Beyond Religion. Part 1

Sunday, September 13th I am going to begin preaching from the book of Isaiah. Normally I preach through every passage of a book but because Isaiah is 66 chapters long I am going to cover the main themes in 12 weeks.

I titled the sermon series “Isaiah: Beyond Religion” because Israel, at the time, was very religious but their heart was far from God. Lots of religious activity but little compassion, mercy and justice. Isaiah reminds me of a song written and sung by Jon Foreman from Swithchfoot, “Instead Of A Show.” This song was actually taken directly from Amos 5:21-24.

[21] “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
[22] Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
[23] Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
[24] But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos and Isaiah prophesied at the same time in Israel’s history and therefore the song applies to both books. Check out Isaiah 1:11-17 to see the similarities.

I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stop up my ears when you’re singing ’em
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show

Your eyes are closed when you’re praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There’s blood on your hands
You turned your back on the homeless
And the ones that don’t fit in your plan
Quit playing religion games
There’s blood on your hands

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show
I hate all your show

Let’s argue this out
If your sins are blood red
Let’s argue this out
You’ll be one of the clouds
Let’s argue this out
Quit fooling around
Give love to the ones who can’t love at all
Give hope to the ones who got no hope at all
Stand up for the ones who can’t stand at all, all
I hate all your show
I hate all your show
I hate all your show
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show
I hate all your show

I look forward to studying, preaching and blogging through the gospel of Isaiah and hope you are encouraged/challenged along the way.

Doing Justice Is A Sign You Have Been Justified

Is doing justice a sign that we have truly been justified?

Generous Justice from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.