Going Through the Motions Red As Scarlet

by | Sep 4, 2022

a sheep and a verse from Isaiah

Highlights for Isaiah 1-12

The first chapter of Isaiah is one of my favorites. Some of Isaiah’s writings are pretty hard to understand, but chapter one is more manageable.

First, Isaiah talks about how apostate and rebellious Israel has become, yet they keep all the traditional feasts and sacrifices as instructed by Mosaic law. Here is what the Lord says about their outward observances:

11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.

12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?

13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.

14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. (Isaiah 1:11-14)

*vain oblations: offerings (and acts of service) without faith or with hypocrisy

One senses the grief and conflict the Lord feels over his people who have gone astray but satisfy themselves with the appearance of righteousness.

Mosaic Law

Christ doesn’t end the Mosaic law at this point because He still has to fulfill it with his self-sacrifice centuries later. And Jehovah didn’t just up and decide he used to like sacrifices, and now he has changed his mind. Instead, he objects that Judah and Jerusalem’s collective heart is grossly insincere; in short, they only go through the motions. 

For Christ, their artificial devotion is meaningless and even wearying.

Perhaps we can relate somewhat – have you ever experienced token gestures made towards you by pretending people? Probably most of us have. It makes me want to say what the Lord says here, “do you think I’m clueless?”

The Heart

This scriptural event is a repeating pattern. Think back on Cain’s rebellious sacrifice. It wasn’t so much that the Lord shunned Cain’s offering as much as he rejected the heart’s intentions behind the offering. And that brings us full circle. The Lord requires the heart; it all comes down to the condition of the heart. It’s been that way since the beginning of time. Now comes an excellent verse.

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:

One of my favorite phrases found anywhere in the scriptures is the personable “Come now, let us reason together…” expressed by Jehovah.

It reminds me of this picture:

I stand at the door, and I knock. Rev 3:20

Willing and Resolved

The prophets have told us the Lord communicates “as one man speaketh to another.”  Here, Israel’s sins are deep, and many, and yet the Lord extends the olive branch and says no matter how messed up they are, He wants to give them another chance, a clean slate even. But there is a condition. “If ye be willing and obedient…”

What does it take to change from being sinful and wrong to being obedient and faithful? What does it take to throw off an addictive behavior or a defeating pattern for something better? It takes RESOLVE. Resolve is a beautiful word that defines a whole process.

Feeling resolved means:

  • to recognize one’s mistakes and carnal natures
  • to eat crow
  • to face ourselves
  • then be determined to change the future
  • to commit oneself to a new plan of action
  • to start afresh.

Resolve is an empowering emotion and state of being.

The Sacrament

The Lord offers Israel the chance to be “resolved” to do better, which is a part of repenting. Repenting means turning back to God.

The same opportunity to Israel is offered weekly during the Sacrament. Each week we can choose to only go through the outward motions, OR we can make the Sacrament authentic and productive for ourselves. The Lord invites us to use the Sacrament ordinance to reason with Him through prayer and make personal resolutions.

The Sacrament can be a powerful experience for us every week.

Bonus Material

For some reason, this song reminds me of our time during the Sacrament. Please enjoy this beautiful, thought-provoking music if you have a few minutes. It is a delightful father/daughter duet by Mat and Savanna Shaw.

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