Insincere Sacrifice or True Repentance?

Scripture: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

Key Verse: Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (verse 8)

Observation: God speaks through the prophet Isaiah expressing God’s displeasure with the nature of the worship offered by the people of Israel. God views their coming together as a trampling of the holy temple. God has had it with the burnt offerings and sacrifices; the shedding of the blood of animals has become abhorrent to God. However, it is not the sacrifice or the coming together that is the source of the problem. Indeed, God instituted the system of animal sacrifice as an act of repentance and restoration. The true problem is in the people themselves. The God of justice and righteousness cannot abide solemn assemblies wrapped in iniquity. The people have reduced acts of worship and the ritual of sacrifice to simply rote acts without meaning. There is no sense of repentance or remorse but only a repetitive cycle of sin followed by insincere sacrifice. God declares that this insincere sacrifice will not be tolerated. And yet, God holds out an invitation for the people of Israel to come and reason/argue/debate with God. There is still a chance for the people to learn after reasoning with God. There is hope that an encounter with God will lead the people to confess their wrongs, repent of their ways, and be saved. They can be washed white as snow and eat of the bounty of the land or they can remain in their rebellion and be devoured by the sword.

Analysis: This passage speaks to our constant need for God’s redemption and salvation. God invites us to stay in communication with God’s self so that we are continually aware of our need for confession and repentance. We find ourselves in the same predicatment as the people of Israel when we begin to believe that our waywardness can be covered by worship. We are reminded that God doesn’t need our worship to include our sacrifice or rituals. Worship is not about how good we can get at praying, leading Bible study, or even preaching. Worship is intended to draw us closer to God and lead us to a better understanding of ourselves. Living into the redemption and salvation that God offers involves this delving deeply into our true selves. God invites us to argue/reason/debate so that we come face to face with our true selves and recognize our need for God’s salvation. However, we can turn worship into a time of deceiving others and ourselves. Brian McLaren writes, “I think the biggest challenge that we pastors [face] is whether we want to be better than we appear or appear better than we are.” I submit that this same statement applies to Christians in general. Instead of leading us to deeper, more intimate relationships with God and others, worship becomes a competition and a source of isolation as we create space to hide our insecurities. God calls us out of this deception and insincerity in order to lead us to true redemption and salvation.

Prayer: God of salvation. We are grateful for your continual invitation to authentic relationships with you and our fellow human beings. We are forever grateful for your forgiveness and an open invitation to redemption. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.


2 thoughts on “Insincere Sacrifice or True Repentance?

    1. Hello, my friend. I pray that you know I write and preach to myself as much as, if not more so, to anyone else. My sincere prayer is that we all grow together in God’s grace and according to God’s will. Love you, my friend.


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