God Does Not Desire Sacrifices - Isaiah 1:11-19

We have talked a lot about sacrifices these past weeks. Sacrifices were the way God chose to relate to the Israelites in the Old Testament. We need to be very careful about how we think and talk about the sacrifices. The sacrifices are not what saved the people of the Old Testament. It was not the sacrifices that wiped away their sins. No one can do anything that takes away their sins (Eph. 2:8-9). Instead, the sacrifices were a part of the covenant. God gave the sacrifices for His people to do, but their intent (in part) was to show the devotion of the people’s hearts. The sacrifices were a continual reminder that they needed redemption. The sacrifices never ceased because their sin was always there. (We will explore this more in the following days.)

Throughout the Bible God reprimands people for not loving Him. God was not concerned about the sacrifices; they were an outward work that showed the heart of the people. In Isaiah 1:11-19 God rebukes the people for offering sacrifices when their hearts were far from Him. Pay close attention to what God says in this passage. He is very clear. He wants them to stop their hypocrisy. The language God uses here is very, very, harsh. (Sometimes the translations of the original Hebrew into English have trouble conveying the absolute abhorrent disgust that is visible in the wording of the Hebrew here.) God is very angry. When they pray to Him, He turns His back. Harsh!

In verses 17-19 God tells them what He does desire. God wants them to stop sinning, learn the right thing to do, promote justice, defend the oppressed, and promote social justice. In summary, He wants them to love God and love their neighbor. This should remind you of what we recently read in Deuteronomy 6.

God gives them a choice. Option one: love Him and they will be redeemed and be blessed. (Notice that they will be washed white as snow – without offering a sacrifice.) Or, option two: continue sinning and they will be punished.

Thoughts to Ponder
Take a moment to think about the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. What God desired from people in the Old Testament is what He desires in the New Testament, and today. Our God is consistent. He may have changed the way He interacts with us (sacrifices and law in the Old Testament; versus the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament), but He has not changed.

Just as God did not want empty gestures/rituals in Isaiah’s day, He does not want them today. It is easy to get into the habit of attending church and Sunday school. There is danger in doing things only from habit. If we do the motions and our heart does not love God and our neighbor – God is not fooled. Do you ever fall into the routine of doing things from habit and not from the heart? When we do, we need to admit this to God and ask Him to help us stop. Ask Him to help you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love your neighbor.