When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord . “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. – Isaiah 1:15-20
Well this is a raucous entry into the book of Isaiah. God is not listening to the Israelites because their hands are “full of blood”. This is probably a reference to the senseless sacrifice and retribution that took place under the kings of Israel like David. Some would argue this type of bloodshed and conflict is still going on in the middle east today. One does not need to look very deeply into the headlines to find someone killing someone else in the middle east. Perhaps God is still “hiding His eyes” from those who refuse to “wash themselves clean”. I do not know.
God wants the Israelites and us to “stop doing wrong”, i.e. sinning. Though the sins of the Israelites, and us, are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow. How does this happen? How can the unclean be made clean? The dark be made light?
God has provided us a solution and a saviour to “settle the matter”. He has settled the matter not by force or might as the Israelites have become accustomed to doing. He settles the matter with a fiery and unquenchable love for us. He settles the matter once and for all by sending His Son Jesus to sacrifice Himself for our sins.
What does the Lord require of us? What is to be our response to God’s solution? We are to be “willing and obedient”. If we are willing and obedient we will eat good things, i.e. our bodies and souls will be fed what they need (not necessarily what they want) as we toil in this land of oblivion. If we resist and rebel then we will be devoured by the sword. Our earthly lives will be defined by physical and spiritual turmoil. So what do these two perspectives and postures look like?
A person who is willing and obedient is a person who knows their place in eternity. They are willing to give up their own free will to the God who wants to carry them like a son or daughter and protect them like Mad Max. They are willing to be obedient even when the path ahead is unclear. They are able to faithfully follow God even when they cannot see Him clearly and His voice comes only as a whisper. When they are called upon to lead, they lead while following God.
Resisting and rebelling is using our free will to oppose the clear leading and directions of God. Leading others away from God rather than toward Him. He has allowed us this freedom to rebel — to be free of Him if we choose. This choice may seem exhilarating and “freeing” at first but in the long run we will tire of running away from God, and we may be very far away and exhausted before we realize we have been running the wrong direction with our lives. The amazing thing is that no matter how far we run from God He can find us if we are willing to be found.
Prayer: God help us to use our free will wisely to faithfully follow You rather than running away.