Summary: Human religion is at war with God’s revelation.
Having lived in several years in cold northern climates in my life, but having grown up in California, I am amazed at the difference between winter and spring as it relates to the appearance of a snowy place. In the height of winter in Northern Michigan, for example, snow covers everything. Old buildings whose edifice cries out for demolition appear to be magical when covered by a foot of snow which drapes over the edge of rooftops from which dangle long mystical ice crystals through which the sunlight dances. The potholes of old city streets are filled and disappear to the eye as powdery snow fills them in.
Then comes springtime with its rays of hot sun and the snow vanishes. Muck and mud are left in its place. The beauty departs and what was there all along but covered with placid snow becomes visible again. So it is with the sin and idolatry in our life. Though our rebellion and false worship through manmade structures of religion are vile in the sight of God, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV84) The blood of Christ covers our sins and they are white as snow.
Our sin is detestable in the site of God because it robs Him of His glory in us. God’s holiness and glory are central in this universe, not our comfort and well being, not our satisfaction and happiness. (Flattery by the Train cars, encourage)
Our religious efforts, when they are devoid of the genuine articles of faith are likewise detestable. Our religious efforts are meaningless unless and to the extent that they grow out of dependence upon Him rather than an attempt to garner His favor.
In other words, incense and offerings, religion, do not contain any inherent value. They are only as valuable as they are shells which contain repentance and faith.
CIT: God does not need our offerings; He calls us to repentance and dependence.
CIS: No amount of religion can save; look to the Cross in humility and obedience.
I. Judah was a rebellious nation in Isaiah’s time.
II. Judah’s religion was outward.
a. Religion devoid of sacrifice.
b. No amount of religion can replace obedience.
c. The sacrifice was infused with pagan views, “feeding the gods.”
III. The Church is rebellious, focused on entertainment and comfort.
IV. The Church must repent of its religion and exalt the Cross.
a. The early Church flourished spiritually because of persecution.
b. The modern church withers spiritually because of comfort.
c. This comfort stifles the prophetic voice of the Church.
d. The sacrifice of Christ makes men free from sin and corrupt religious efforts which only compound the problem of sin.
In Isaiah’s day Israel was a rebellious nation. The prophet is speaking to the people of the Southern Kingdom of Israel, Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The prophet even draws a parallel with Sodom and Gomorrah. In Isaiah 1:4 the prophet laments the state of His people. “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.” (NIV84)