The apostle Paul frequently begins his letters with reminders of God’s grace and mercy (Galatians being the exception). No matter how severe his word of warning or rebuke, he fosters a continual awareness of God’s love and forgiveness.
The words of today’s reading challenge Judah through harsh words of rebuke and condemnation, language frequently reserved for those not part of God’s covenant people. God sees the forms of religious observance everywhere, yet the people fail to know and acknowledge God. Isaiah describes them as “a sinful nation, people laden with iniquity” (Isa. 1:4).
Verse 10 likens the people of Judah to Sodom and Gomorrah—biblical shorthand for bad, really bad, bad to the bone! Numerous Bible references list sexual immorality as among the sins associated with Sodom and Gomorrah. But the context here and in Ezekiel 16:49 indicates that the sins are deeper and broader than sexual immorality: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
Religious observance, proper décor, and liturgical form are poor substitutes for moral clarity that includes compassion for the poor, the powerless, and the least. Does this sound familiar?
In a consumer-driven economy we tend to think that worship is about us, appealing to our tastes and meeting our needs. However, worship divorced from the demand for justice for all God’s children rings empty and hollow. Are we doomed?
Isaiah (like Paul) provides a hint of hope in verse 1. Isaiah’s name means “Yahweh will save.” In other words, even with the bleakest of judgments, there is a reminder of God’s grace and mercy. God intends to deliver!
God of justice, hope, and mercy, grant us a glimpse of divine love that compels our loving and faithful response to all those we encounter who are in need. Amen.
ThelessonfromIsaiahandthepsalmcallthe people of God to “Hear!” The message has to do with sacri ces and burnt offerings: God does not want them! The sacri cial system had come to be understood as a means of attempting to manipulate God for self-centered purposes, and the texts there- fore call for worship that is God-centered. The Gospel lesson also calls the people of God to decision. Our use of nancial resources is inextricably linked to our conviction that the future and our destiny lie ultimately with God. What we believe about the future affects how we live in the present. This af rmation is precisely the message of Hebrews. The entrusting of one’s life and future to God is “the reality of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen.” For those who trust in God’s reign, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
• Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. In what ways can you let go of a self-centered focus in worship?
• Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. What are your antidotes to worry? How do they allow you to deal with anxieties in your life?
• Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. What allows you to focus on the awe and wonder of being held in God’s grace?
• Read Luke 12:32-40. Where do you see God at work in your life? How is this awareness a part of having your “lamp lit”?
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