Summary: This is the first of a 9 part sermon series on learning how to know what God wants for our lives.
Today we begin a sermon series exploring What God wants? This is an age old question that Jews, Christians, Muslims, and a variety of religions have explored throughout the ages. Despite all the lofty interpretations, and educated guesses only one man has ever brought us what God wants for our lives. That man is Jesus Christ.
John Wesley during his ministry was quick to point out that all that was needed for a Christian life is found in the pages of Scripture. So for the 9 weeks we will take a walk through the Bible from the Old Testament prophets of Isaiah and Micah, through the Gospels, to the writings of Paul to the Ephesians.
We will take this tour and answer how God is speaking to us through three questions.
1) What result does God want to accomplish?
2) What does God want people to be and/or to do?
3) If we took this passage seriously. What changes would we make in our church?
Our Scripture reading for today takes us to 8th century B.C. when Isaiah was speaking to the people of Judea. Judea is on the verge of being invaded by the Assyrians. According to Isaiah the people had turned from God, however at this moment in order to appease God. They are performing rituals, sacrifices and worship services, so what is wrong with the picture? Aren’t they doing what God wants of them? Yes and no.
Listen to what God has Isaiah tell the people of Judea:
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand?
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— …I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them…even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;
God affirms they are doing all the “stuff” they have been told to do. However God does not stop there, with all they are doing their hearts are just not in it. They aren’t doing these things because they love God anymore. They are doing these things because they are afraid of what is coming. And hope to appease God, like some little demon they have been worshipping as a god.
He tells them that they need to “wash themselves clean” they need to repent and turn from their present life.
Looking at our questions: So what does God hope to accomplish with this scene? For the people of Judea, we could say it is bring them back to heart of worship. Humbling themselves before the Lord God Almighty “Yahweh!” Falling back in love with God and giving themselves over to Yahweh.
Okay if this is how it was meant for people of 701 B.C. what does it say to us 2700 years later? How many of us who know people who come to church because that’s just what you do on Sunday? How many know people who consider themselves Christians, just because they were baptized once yet they do absolutely nothing Christian like. How many of us know people who call themselves Christians, yet they spend most of their time discrediting the man and God they claim to be a follower of?
I am guessing you probably know people from a variety of these categories. We may even recognize ourselves in some of these. You see, in this scripture God is using Isaiah to call on the people of Judea and to us across the sea of time to take a good look at the way we worship, at the way we express our love to the Lord God Almighty.
I think what God is trying to accomplish, here is to remind us to look at where our heart really is. I want you to turn in your hymnal to page 12, and look at the Prayer of Confession. Now I want you to look at it and think about whether you really mean it? Do we really feel bad for not loving God with our whole hearts of turning our neighbors away, or are we going through the motions.
So what does God want people to be and/or to do? For us as followers of Jesus Christ, we have been blessed with God’s grace and mercy at the sacrifice made on the cross. Sometimes we get boastful, or sometimes we forget where we came from. We begin to think that well I am doing great I don’t need to rely on anyone. In this way God speaks to us also and calls on us to remember our past, remember that Jesus called us to do for others and God did for us. Protect those who cannot defend themselves. Free people from the bondage of self destruction, and work to make our community a representative of the kingdom.