This devotional was penned by Youseff.
Isaiah is a fascinating book to study. It’s a book that both Jesus and apostle Paul quoted more than any other part of the old testament. Reading Isaiah provides us with insights into the new testament as well as the old.
Today’s chapters are part of the first half of the book, which deals with sin and justice, delivering bad news for God’s people in their rebellion. Don’t worry, things will get much brighter in the second half of the book (chapter 40 onwards) which is more about mercy and comforting, displaying God as a father who is stretching his arm to save and bless.
As we read chapter one, it might be shocking to find that God was rejecting the people’s sacrifices and offering (which were supposedly offered according to the laws given by him!). God stopped listening to their prayers and worship (1:15), he even described the incense of their offering as disgusting! (1:13). However, as we continue reading the rest of the chapter this will start to make sense.
God was talking to people who were so meticulously watching their pious traditions, but this didn’t reflect on their lifestyle. They offered a lot of prayers and sacrifices, but they didn’t seek justice in their society (1:17). They totally ignored the oppressed, orphans and widows because they were too busy keeping their religious practises.
It’s a strong reminder that the Lord “desires mercy, not sacrifice and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). God doesn’t want Christians to be isolated from the world, spending their time practising their “worship” until he comes back to save them from this strange land. He wants us to be fully involved in the community, looking for every chance to offer his unconditional love to those who are considered unlovable by the world standards. He wants every one of us to be a declaration of his heart to our communities.
We sometimes wrongly believe that worship only means singing our favourite hymns on Sunday morning. But in God’s sight, every act of kindness and every decision to go out of our way for others is a strong act of worship. Sacrificing time, money, or effort to help those in need is a very pleasing sacrifice to God. This is how the disciples changed the world, by saying and living what they’ve been taught by Jesus. They reflected his compassion everywhere they went, attracting the sinful to Christ by showing them his great love.