If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 6:6–27, Psalms 135–136, Isaiah 66, Matthew 14. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Isaiah 66.
This final chapter of the great book of Isaiah’s prophesies is one of the passages where the theology of salvation that is so clearly taught in the New Testament is revealed in the Old Testament as well. God begins in verses 1-2a by pointing out to Israel the impossibility of containing or housing him in any temple made by human hands. Yes, God had commanded Moses to create a Tabernacle for him and he allowed Solomon to replace that tent with the permanent Temple structure. And, it is true that God said his presence would dwell there and that his people could pray to him there. But this was all symbolic. God is everywhere present in the fullness of his being, so while he designated a place for worship on earth, that place was not a place to contain him or give him a home. Verse 2b describes those whom God received as true worshippers: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” Israelites who had these qualities would gladly bring the offerings and sacrifices, observe the feast days, and keep the law of the Lord from the heart. But those were evidences of God’s saving work in their hearts; they were not the product of obedience to God’s law. In other words, within the chosen people of God, there were people who really belonged to God. They showed it by their humility, their brokenness over their own sin, and their reverence for his word.
By contrast, verses 3-4 says that those who conformed to his law outwardly were not accepted by him. That’s what “But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person…” and the other similar phrases mean. They mean that mere obedience to the symbols of worship were meaningless without a heart that desired God. When the end of verse 3 says, “They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations,” God is telling us that their lives were marked by sin despite the religiosity of their actions. Verse 4 described the judgment that would fall on these religious people. The reason? “For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me” (v. 4b).
Nobody in the Old Testament bought their forgiveness through animal sacrifices or keeping the law. Rather, believers in the Old Testament were saved just as we are: God gave them a new (regenerated) heart which caused them to fear him, reverence his word, and obey him from the heart. It is helpful for us to remember this when we fall into patterns of heartless worship. Mere church attendance or giving or even reading of God’s word is nothing. For someone who has been rescued by Christ, these are methods of heartfelt worship and opportunities to grow. God gave them to us so that we could worship him and grow in him. But God is wholly unimpressed by these actions unless they come from a changed heart that loves and desires him. Remember, then, whenever you sit down to read these devotional passages that this is an opportunity to hear from God and to fellowship with him, not to impress him with your faithfulness and dedication.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.