“The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the Lord. (Isa. 1:11)
SØREN KIERKEGAARD SHARED, “I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, ‘If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.’” Hypocrisy such as this saddens God and mocks His character. God confronts this type of hypocrisy in Isaiah 1.
At the beginning of the passage we see that “Yahweh, speaking in the first person, pleads his case against Judah and asks the entire creation to serve as a witness (v. 2)” (Asbury Bible Commentary). Then in verses 11–17, fed up with the abundance of thoughtless and meaningless sacrifices offered to Him, the Lord called out His people. His pleasure and what He longs for is not the sacrifice, blood, or ritual, but a wholly committed heart and the love that flows from that heart. Verse 16 offers God’s prescription for transformation and wholeness through His grace. First, “Wash and make yourselves clean”—be holy on the inside . Then, “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”—let your actions reflect the condition of your heart.
Prayerfully echo C. S. Lewis’s observation: “I was not born to be free. I was born to adore and to obey.”
Jeremy Summers is director of adult spiritual formation for the Church and Multiplication Division of The Wesleyan Church.