CSBC Sunday School: Isaiah
Lesson #1: Isaiah 1:10-20
September 6, 2020
Resources: Phillips; Hearson; MacArthur; McCrary, B. Jennings, Explore the Bible
HOOK: (Why should we listen to this lesson?)
Central Theme: OFFERING RIGHT WORSHIP!
Objective Statement: EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN OFFER RIGHT WORSHIP TO GOD BY UNDERSTANDING THREE PERSPECTIVES FOUND IN OUR TEXT!
Points: PERSPECTIVE #1 – EMPTY WORSHIP! PERSPECTIVE #2 – RIGHT WORSHIP! PERSPECTIVE #3 – RESULTS OF WORSHIP!
- FOCUS ATTENTION: Some of you grew up in other religious traditions that had a form of worship that differs from a church like ours. WHAT ARE SOME RELIGIOUS PRACTICES THAT YOU HAVE COME TO UNDERSTAND WERE NOT EXAMPLES OF TRUE WORSHIP BUT RATHER WORSHIP OF GOD IN A SELF-STYLED, UNACCEPTABLE WAY? Allow for comments that often reflect worship as WORKS or rituals. It might involve vain repetition. Perhaps it was a matter of having to go through a religious leader in order to get to God. Maybe it required acts of contrition and penance to worship God.
- CONTEXT: SO WHAT IS TRUE WORSHIP? Well, today we hope to find out from the Prophet Isaiah what is true worship and what empty worship really is. In most prophetic books of the OT the prophet is introduced and his call to prophetic ministry is explained at the beginning of the book. But not in Isaiah. While 1:1 notes that what follows is a vision from God, verse 2 immediately launches into a condemnation of God’s people who have been disobedient. Isaiah’s angry message against God’s children is obvious. The call of Isaiah to prophetic ministry will not show up until Chapter 6. God had established covenants with His people. If they obeyed God, He promised to bless them and honor them. But if His people, refused to keep His commandments, and violated the covenant relationship, God promised to discipline them, punish them, and even remove them from the land of promise. Isaiah was pressing the case that God’s people in Judah had rebelled against Him and judgment was imminent. While this role was part of the ministry of God’s Prophets, they also brought hope and comfort. They called the people back to a right relationship with their God. Even if the nation did not repent and faced the resulting judgment, the faithful among God’s people could find hope in the promise that God would one day restore His nation. They would be a beacon to the other nations of the world (2:1-4). Isaiah’s call is for the people of God, to worship God in the right way. If they continued in their self-styled worship and dishonored God with their empty religion, He would imminently judge them.
- Let’s Explore the Bible in Isaiah 1:10-20.
BOOK: (What does the Bible say?)
PERSPECTIVE #1 – EMPTY WORSHIP! (Isaiah 1:10-15)
- The phrase “Hear the word of the Lord” would bring two things to mind for Isaiah’s audience. First, it pointed to the prophet’s authority. Isaiah was not simply stating his view about their society; he was conveying the very word of God. Secondly, the word “hear” would bring to mind 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” This was known as the SHEMA, and every Jewish child memorized and recited this passage regularly. In verse 10, the rulers of the people are compared to the “rulers of Sodom” and the people of Judah are compared to the “people of Gomorrah” (see Gen. 19:4-13). The sins of those cities were many and their citizens were interested only in their own pleasure and needs. No doubt, Isaiah’s audience would have been shocked to hear his analogy between them and the condemned sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah! HOW WOULD YOU PHRASE VERSE 11 IN YOUR OWN WORDS? WHAT IS GOD SAYING THERE? Well, God questioned the sincerity and heart attitude of those who were presenting Him sacrifices and offerings. He knew their reasons for making animal offerings were ritualistic and routine. They went through the motions of serving God, but He rejected their obligatory religious function that was insincere and purposeless. These offerings were meant to express thankfulness and repentance, but they had become mundane and hollow. Isaiah said the people performed empty worship!
- So God was rebuking these false worshipers and condemning them for their hard hearts. God judges differently than men judge, doesn’t He? Remember 1 Sam. 16:7b, “. . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart?” Verse 12, asks the question, “who hath required this at your hand?” So WHO required these sacrifices and offerings? YOU DID GOD! But the people came with sinful hearts and improper motives. God was rejecting their self-styled, sinful, worship. It was an offense to God! SO WHAT WERE THE PEOPLE TO DO ACCORDING TO VERSES 13-15? List some of the things God said they should STOP DOING because of their wicked heart attitudes. Allow for observations. God said essentially, I no longer want your false, pagan, worship! What did God say He would do if they continued in their shallow and abominable acts of empty worship? He said, “I cannot away with” ( 13), (in other words, just do away with your meetings and sacrifices). God looked at their “new moons and your appointed feasts,” and He said, “my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them” (vs. 14). When you pray, “I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (vs. 15). Now obviously God, who is all-knowing, heard their prayers, but He felt no compunction to respond to their requests, in any way, because of their empty and vain worship, which He totally rejected. In contrast to their blood offerings, God condemned them for having blood on their hands because of their apathy and hard hearts.
PERSPECTIVE #2 – RIGHT WORSHIP! (vs. 16-17)
- God prescribes a response to the empty ritualism the people had been practicing. In a word, it was REPENT. We can see the responses in these verses by just identifying all of the verbs given as commands. Read the list: Wash, Make clean, Put away, Cease, Learn, Seek, Relieve, Judge (or Defend), Plead. Again, we could categorize these actions by saying God was calling the Jewish people to repent, clean up, stop doing injustice and evil, and start doing right and defending the innocent and vulnerable. Notice God did not tell the Jewish people to stop doing their religious practices. God had commanded those things. But God wanted their religious practices and their lives to match. WHAT DO WE CALL IT WHEN PEOPLE’S TALK DOES NOT MATCH UP WITH THEIR WALK? The word is HYPOCRISY. These Jewish practitioners were hypocritical in the way they offered sacrifices and gave offerings but their hearts were far away from God. They had a form of godliness but they denied His power in their lives. The sincerity of their worship would be substantiated by their willingness to walk away from evil and to do good for those who couldn’t bring them a financial, political, or social advantage. WHEN WE SPEAK ABOUT WORSHIP, WHAT OFTEN COMES TO MIND FOR THE AVERAGE CHRISTIAN? Well, Worship is often associated with the style of music practiced in a local church. Far too many Christians think a worship service is the music portion of the assembly. Some just think worship is reserved for church. The truth is; WORSHIP is a life-style. It is going through the week and living with a Christ-like spirit and doing everything to honor Him with your words and your actions. That is why reading God’s Word and going to Him in prayer is essential to True Worship. Everything we do should be done as unto the Lord. Look at 16-17 again, distinctly, and examine how your life matches up with your “True Worship.” So we have Perspective #1 – Empty Worship, and Perspective #2 – Right Worship. Now let’s consider:
PERSPECTIVE #3 – RESULTS OF WORSHIP! (vs. 18-20)
- “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” ( 18). The verb translated “reason,” carries the idea of setting things right and bringing an end to a quarrel. Isaiah had blasted these Jews for their sacrifices and offerings that were done in a hypocritical way. He compared their fate to those of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was a bleak and harsh judgment. But in verse 18, Isaiah appeals to their ability to repent and be reconciled to God. Let’s reason this out, so you have a good outcome. Even though your sins are as scarlet, they can “be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” They had sinned and as their heart drifted further and further away from God, they just mindlessly continued offering their obligatory sacrifices without recognizing the hypocrisy of their actions. Their worship was not right! It was empty! So Isaiah makes this appeal to these people to change their ways or the results would be bad. According to vs. 19-20, there are really only two choices for our lives. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THOSE TWO CHOICES ARE? Well, vs. 19 says, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” In other words, if you get your sins washed away and then you live in obedience to God’s commands, the results will be predictable, you will have blessings in your life. The only other option for the people of Judah was continued disobedience and rebellion, which would ultimately result in death (vs. 20). If they disobeyed they would be “devoured with the sword.” That was a result that would end up like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah with God’s mighty hand of judgment upon those unacceptable worshipers whose heart was far away from God. Isaiah closed the section with the phrase, “the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” These words demonstrate that what Isaiah had said was by the authority of God. It also closed the debate. There was no more negotiation at this point; all that was left was for the people of God either to listen and obey or to continue in their rebellion. The choice was theirs and OURS.
LOOK: (Why is what it says important?)
Objective Statement (Repeated): EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN OFFER RIGHT WORSHIP TO GOD BY UNDERSTANDING THE THREE PERSPECTIVES FOUND IN OUR TEXT TODAY!
- These people were thinking that empty ritualism and religious activity would make them right with God. But it doesn’t. Do we serve God out of sheer tradition? Like the audience in this first chapter of Isaiah, eternity waits in the future. Is our FAITH genuine or is our worship only for show? If you are a true Christ-follower has your worship, in any way, become ritualistic and dispassionate? If so, what do you need to do for that to change?
TOOK: (Why is it important to me? What should I do with it?)
Evaluation: This week remember that God desires for us to have a personal relationship with Him. It all starts with our salvation by trusting Jesus to save us. After we are born into the family of God, we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. HOW’S YOUR WORSHIP DOING THESE DAYS? Make sure you accept the premise that Worship is a lifestyle and not just something we do on Sundays!
In preparation for our next Bible Study please read Isaiah 6:1-13.