Isaiah 29:13-24

We are undeniably living in troubling times. We are used to seeing and hearing bad news, disseminated by the mass media. But recently it has come cascading out of our televisions and radio sets on a daily basis, flooding our living rooms with stories of appalling evil being carried out just a short plane ride away. It is deeply unsettling. I believe a lot of people feel this. So it’s good to be able to affirm that a day is coming when evil will finally be overthrown. A part of today’s passage seems to anticipate this (20, 21): ‘’The castoffs of society will be laughing and dancing in GOD, the down-and-outs shouting praise to the Holy of Israel. For there’ll be no more gangs on the street. Cynical scoffers will be an extinct species. Those who never missed a chance to hurt or demean will never be heard of again. Gone the people who corrupted the courts, gone the people who cheated the poor, gone the people who victimized the innocent.’’ The Message.

Verse 21 relates to the perversion of justice in Isaiah’s day. It also strikes me that this was Jesus’ experience. He was crucified on false charges. His execution was the greatest miscarriage of justice in history. This leads me on to the further thought that we may not know why we suffer, but we do know that Jesus has suffered more than anyone, and he continues to suffer with us. Furthermore, He has suffered more than anyone. In the face of the enormous problem of mankind’s sufferings, one well-known preacher said that were it not for the cross of Christ he would find it difficult to believe in God. In this passage God expressed anger about a people who could go to ‘church’ on a Saturday (the Sabbath 13), and live badly for the rest of the week (20, 21). It didn’t add up, and it wasn’t true worship. It was a sham, a façade, a cover-up. ‘’These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it, I’m going to step in and shock them awake…’’ (13, 14a) The Message. God’s judgment will fall on all false worship. True worship leads to holiness of life, and ultimately this is going to come about (22-24). Following the exile the Jews did re-establish a godly community in Jerusalem. But first there would have to be a purging. (Ultimately, of course, these final verses in the chapter look forward to the Messianic age when there will be perfect holiness.)

The spiritual blindness we were considering yesterday (9, 10) is linked with lifeless formalism in worship (13; see verse 18, however, for the good end to the story. A day will come when the deaf will hear and the blind see.). But for now, the people of Jerusalem worshiped God with their lips but not with their lives. There was a ‘credibility gap’ between their talk and their walk. (See Jesus’s use of verse 13 in Mark 7:6, 7). Because of their blindness and hypocrisy, judgment was going to come to the people of the city. Their human ‘’wisdom’’ and ‘’intelligence’’ would ‘’vanish’’ when faced with the ‘’wonder upon wonder’’ of God’s judgments (see 1 Corinthians 1:19, 20). They thought they were wiser than God. They made their plans, and formed their political alliances and thought God didn’t know. Although they engaged in public worship they were practical atheists. In fact, they were like clay pots questioning the very existence of the Potter who made them (15, 16). ‘’You treat the potter as a lump of clay. Does a book say to its author, ‘’He didn’t write a word of me’’? Does a meal say to the woman who cooked it, ‘’She had nothing to do with this’’?’’ The Message. It is good that the chapter does not conclude at this point. We have a God who deals in turnarounds.

Prayer: I ask that my lips and my life will move together down the same road of godly living. Keep me from mouthing empty platitudes in your presence dear Lord.