Chapter 65 would have been an incredibly positive place to end this prophetic book. There we saw what appears to be God’s plan to return his people to the beautiful world of peace and harmony, just as he originally created. But our world is full of sin, and final words were necessary to emphasize our need for a relationship with God.
I’m not a Biblical scholar or historian, but I do know the first audience hearing these words in post-exilic times were experiencing hardship, division, and indifference toward God. To get their attention here, God sends this message through the prophet. “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word. But those who choose their own ways—delighting in their detestable sins—will not have their offerings accepted.” That’s a pretty clear message.
You see, in that time and place, sacrifices were what people used to cleanse their sins. I can’t even imagine such a system, but I’ve seen it portrayed in various cinematic representations. The message would seem to say that it wasn’t going to work the same anymore. Some offerings would just not be accepted. Why do you think?
It would be my guess that it was because for some (those delighting in their own ways) it was only a ritual that didn’t mean anything. Those people were simply going through the motions. Their hearts were dark. They had closed themselves off from a relationship with God, and God wasn’t going to put up with it anymore.
There were those who scoffed at God, not seeing the grandeur of their new world immediately forming around them. They questioned God. We have often done that a time or two, haven’t we? Using the image of birth to represent a new life and new beginnings, God said to those doubting souls: “Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?” asks the Lord.”
As God’s people, we can take that for our own encouragement. Think of a time when God asked you to do something. Maybe it’s as simple as to live your life for him or to make a commitment that is outside your comfort zone. If God brings us to it, shouldn’t we have the faith and confidence in him to see us through it? Let that just sink in a little bit!
The Book of Isaiah comes to a close with a lot of drama. It’s time to gather all of the people together to see God’s glory. “As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear,” says the Lord. “All humanity will come to worship me from week to week and from month to month.” To have all humanity worshipping God is definitely what I imagine God created us for. We just messed it up.
How much different our lives or world would be if sin hadn’t entered the world. God intends to bring us to a time like that. Until that day, we live by trust in God and seek to live a life that is pleasing to God by worshiping him, following him, listening to him, and helping others find their way to Jesus. How we do that is up to us. What does being one of God’s people mean to you?
Let’s pray … Lord, I’m overcome with gratitude for what you have done for me. I am in awe of you and how you have created all that is. Each plan and promise is with such beautiful intention. Forgive me when I fall short of your ideal for me. Continue to mold me into the person you want me to be. I never want to do things you despise (but I really love pork carnitas and Canadian bacon on my pizza). Give me discernment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.