Isaiah 1:12 - "When you come to appear before Me, who has required of you this trampling of My courts?"
It isn't that people in Isaiah's day weren't going to the temple to worship together. They were. The air was full of festivity. The courts of the temple were filled with jostling, clamoring crowds. Cattle to be sacrificed were lowing all over the place. The air was thick with the smoke of burnt offerings, heavy with the fragrance of incense. Worshipers assumed the posture of prayer, and gave every appearance of piety. The spectacle was magnificent, and one would think that the prophet would have been moved to admiration and praise by it all.
Instead, Isaiah insulted everybody. We have the prophet's word for it: the mind of God was wearied, and His heart was sickened by the false worship He saw everywhere, including in His house. Mere religion and false piety mean nothing. He says so through the mind of the prophet, who talks the kind of language any one of us can understand. "When you come to appear before Me, who has required of you this trampling of My courts?"
Piety is not enough, said the prophet. Have faith. Have faith in God. He can be trusted. Listen to what He has to say, "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isaiah 1:18). God is talking to you. He is talking to me. It doesn't make any difference who we are. He has a heart for each of us, and He speaks to us plainly.
His plainest talk of all is His Word to the world in His own Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came, sent by the Father, to be the Savior of the world. All He was and everything He did was for us. To Isaiah He looked like a suffering servant, a man of great sorrows and acquainted with grief. He looked that way because "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows ... He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities ... and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (see Isaiah 53:4-6).
This is the Savior we believe in. There is a difference—a great difference—between faith in Christ and trusting in our religion or piety. Faith in Christ changes us, renews us from the inside out. Whatever before was the appeal of an outward showing of religiosity no longer interests us. We want more. God's Spirit inside us wants more for us; He wants to change us to be like God's Son.
Now—by God's grace—we earnestly desire a genuine, Spirit-filled faith that loves God in ways that are true and right and pleasing to Him. Above all, we want to be like Jesus who worshiped the Father rightly, in Spirit and truth, "for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him" (John 4:23b). Now, we can be those people—called by God, redeemed by Jesus, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, teach us to honor Your house and the people we find there. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "Trampling the Courts of the Lord," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Do our actions speak louder to others than our words when it comes to our faith?
2. How does a church keeps its focus on God in a world pressing in on all sides?
3. What's the best way to guard against being religious in a showy way in our own lives?
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