Isaiah 1:10-20

During Lent we expect to deal with sins like greed, lust, laziness, and selfishness, so it is a great surprise to read in this passage that there are times when God finds our prayers to be repugnant, our worship to be abominable, and even our offerings to be unacceptable. Is it really possible that God will find our acts of religious piety to be sinful? Will God really turn a deaf ear to our words of praise and prayer? That is exactly the meaning of this passage: “When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen.”

Religious piety in any form is useless, unless it is accompanied with a lifestyle of loving service. We can say all of the religious words we want, we can lift our hands high to God in praise, we can sing the most beautiful of hymns, but if our hands are filled with blood, God will not listen or honor our pious deeds.

What exactly does God expects of us? Just this, says Isaiah, “Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Righteousness in the kingdom of God is not a matter of the outward display of religious piety, but rather a simple expression of a caring life ministering to the lonely, neglected, and forgotten of our world. Jesus echoes the same lessons from Isaiah when he says, “As you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.” Righteousness in the kingdom of God is a matter of sacrificial service to those in need.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the hollowness of our piety and lead us in all we do to live a life of love and care.

Tom Graves