Summary: Israel simply refused the reasonable worship of God. Instead they burdened Him with unreasonable sin. If Israel was to be delivered it would be because of God’s grace & not because of Israel’s response to God’s promises.
ISAIAH 43: 22-28
A GOD OF GRACE DELIVERS HIS SINFUL SERVANTS
It is not because of Israel’s right response to YAHWEH’s promise of help that He will deliver them. Rather than responding humbly, His people had grown wear of Him. They simply went through the motions of religion. Though God had not burdened His people with unreasonable sacrifices and offerings, they refused to worship Him. Instead they had burdened Him with unreasonable sins. If Israel was going to be delivered it would be because of God’s grace not because of Israel’s response to God.
Our salvation and deliverance is always because we serve a God of grace and mercy. It was so then, and it is so now. He forgives our sin because of who He is, not because we deserve it. We who would worship Him in Spirit and truth must come before Him trusting in the shed blood of His sacrifice and not in our own merit.
I. NEGLIGENCE IN WORSHIP, 22-24.
II. GOD’S GRACIOUS CLEANSING, 25.
III. MAKE YOUR CASE AGAINST GOD, 26-28.
In verse 22 God lets His people know that His promised deliverance would not be because of any hold they had on Him. His loving actions toward them are grounded in covenant grace. “Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; But you have become weary of Me, O Israel."
In spite of the goodness of God toward them, Israel or Jacob had not properly responded to Him. So God reproves His people for ignoring Him. They had been formed for the purpose of praising God (v. 21) but they had “not called on Me.” Calling on the name of God encompasses all our worship of God, the central part of which is the seeking of the Lord. The people had forgotten God even in their worship. They had quit seeking His face. Those who neglect to call upon God, are weary of Him.
God’s list of problems with His people continues in verse 23. “You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings; Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, Nor wearied you with incense."
Burnt sacrifices required offering up a valuable animal because one recognized his short-comings, his sin against God. It involved seeking God’s forgiveness through substitutionary spilt blood on the altar. Israel had not brought God these sacrifices.
The problem was that Israel had tried to turn YAHWEH into their servant rather than recognize Him as their Master. Burdened Me reads literally, "you made a servant out of Me" (or "you made Me serve you)." Instead of being the servant of Yahweh, Israel tried to be His master. God became weary from trying to deal with Israel and their sins (Butler, OT Commentary, Isaiah, 239).
God had not forced Israel into unreasonable servitude. Nor had He worn them out with excessive demands. God was trying to teach them the seriousness of their sins before Him. They were trying to manipulate God for their purposes.
Israel was also unwilling to go the extra mile and use their hard-earned money for special offerings for Yahweh as verse 24 conveys. “You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, Neither have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices. Rather you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities."
Worshipers at the temple usually brought presents of sweet perfume to be burned upon the altar of God. But backsliding Israel became selfish and made few freewill offerings to the Lord. It evidenced the coldness of their heart toward God and His house.
Our giving to the Lord should include more than handing Him a tip on Sunday from money that is left over when the bills are paid. It should include acts of devotion that cost us something extra. God’s people had failed to learn this lesson. They didn’t offer Him "sweet cane"-a gift that would have required extra effort and money.
According to Jeremiah, this expensive delicacy came from “a far country” (Jer. 6:20). It was one of the ingredients God instructed Moses to use in the formula for the holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:23), and it was used in the sanctuary to produce a sweet-smelling sacrifice. An Israelite who brought sweet cane was expressing a sacrificial kind of forethought giving that pleased God.
Could the complaint of the text occasionally, if not frequently, be brought against you? Ask yourself the following searching question: Is my life characterized by prepared acts of meaningful worship to the Lord? How grieved the Savior must be when we don’t offer Him thoughtful worship and gifts that come from our heart.
[Those who are poor in pocket but rich in faith will be no less accepted because their gifts are small. Do you give in fair proportion to the Lord or is the widow’s mite kept back from the sacred treasury? The rich believer should be thankful for the wealth entrusted to him, but he should not forget his large responsibility.