A Call to Repentance (Isaiah 1:13–18) - Radical

A Call to Repentance (Isaiah 1:13–18)

Bring no more vain offerings. Incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations. I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts, my soul hates. They’ve become a burden to me. I’m weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood.
– Isaiah 1:13–15

So let me pause there. That’s verse 15. This is quite the language from God to his people talking about their worship, about all the offerings they’re bringing, and the prayers they’re praying. He’s saying, I hate them. They’re a burden to me, and I will not listen to your prayers. What would cause God to say that to his people? And just think. So that’s possible for us to bring offerings of worship to God or pray to God in ways that are not glorifying or honoring to him in ways that he does not receive, in ways that God actually hates.

That’s possible. That’s one of the clear points of Isaiah 1:13–15. It’s possible for God’s people to “worship or pray in ways that God actually hates.” And so then listen to Isaiah 1:16–17:

Wash yourselves. God says, 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.

Oh, now we see why this worship and why these prayers were hated by God because they were offered by people who were indulging in evil and doing injustice and leaving oppression to continue around them. And they were not working for the fatherless or the widow. And the point is clear. God hates worship from his people when it is disconnected from repentance, when we are continuing on with sin in our lives and pretending like God doesn’t even see or notice it.

And when God’s people are ignoring injustice around them and not doing anything about oppression around them, when specifically God’s people are ignoring the fatherless and the widow worship disconnected from doing good and doing justice is not pleasing to God, which leads them to verse 18:

Come now. Let us reason together says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they’re red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

What grace and mercy from God at the end of this section in Isaiah 1, for God to say to his people, I love you. I want to clean your heart, your hands, to cleanse you of all of your sin, so that you white as snow, come to me and worship me truly with honesty about your sin and with humble hearts that are repenting and wanting to do good and do justice with a zeal for justice that reflects the justice of God.

Isaiah 1:13–18 is calling to turn from what God hates.

So let’s just pray according to this God, we don’t want to pray even right now. Oh, this is so humbling to think about that our prayers right now could be displeasing to you. God, we want our prayers to be pleasing to you. We want our worship to be pleasing to you. We don’t want to gather in our churches and sing our songs in ways that your soul hates.

So God, we pray that you would keep us from this kind of worship and praying that your soul hates. God, help us to turn from evil by your grace, by your mercy, to confess our sins and all the more what we know in the new covenant through Jesus and how his blood on the cross makes us white as snow when we confess our sins, your faithful and just to forgive us all our sins, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God, help us to be honest with you about our sin and to turn from it. And God, help us to seek good, to do justice. Help us to correct oppression. God help us to be a people who are justice, doing and oppression, correcting people who are working on behalf of the fatherless and the widow in ways that are glorifying and pleasing and honoring to you.

Prayer for the Croatan-speaking Jewish People

God, we pray for people who’ve never heard how their sins can be washed away, can be white as snow.

Oh God, we pray for the spread of the gospel through our lives today. And we pray for the spread of the gospel around the world to thousands of people. Groups have yet to hear specifically… For unreached people groups in Croatia. God, we pray for the spread of the gospel of the grace that’s found in Jesus to Croatians and all the peoples of the world. We pray all this according to your Word. We hope we pray in a way that is pleasing to you. In Jesus name, amen.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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