Summary: Your uttermost depths of sin can be cleansed away, but not by your actions.
Isaiah 1:18 ‘“Come now, let us reason together”, says the Lord’.
Stain devils clean clothes, Christ’s blood cleans souls.
How wrong can someone get it!
Through Isaiah, God has given a vision of condemnation, condemning a sinful and rebellious people; God’s people, Israel. Long before this time, the nation had broken into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Israel had been invaded, conquered and transported. The same had happened to most of Judah. Only the city of Jerusalem was left. It is in this scenario that God sends His prophet, Isaiah, to prophecy to the remnant of Israel and Judah.
What a start to this prophecy? Vv3 & 4.
V3: beasts know their master/Lord but Israel, the people of God, does not know its God or understand Him.
V4 they are a people loaded with guilt and spurned by the Holy One of Israel, the Almighty God.
Israel and Judah have felt the punishment of God (v5 >) but still they do not know or understand (v3) which is why God calls them a stubborn people (Hos 4:16). “The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer”
Then we have the ultimate condemnation, and these are the words of God Himself, not those of Isaiah, (v10) “Hear the word of the Lord”. A blistering attack upon Judah, and in particular, its religious worship, its sacrificial system (vv10 – 14). An attack which is followed by an appeal for justice and obedience (v16 –20a). These two parts are linked together by what is probably one of the most awful verses of the Bible, (v15) God says “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood;”.
What is going on?
The people of Judah, but in particular the leaders and rulers, are accused of hypocrisy in the temple of God. They come in to the temple and make sacrifices for atonement, but without any meaning. In fact, God says that He does not want the sacrifice; He wants the heart of the people. The blood of the sacrifice does not cleanse away the sin or the guilt (v4); in fact it makes it even worse. The blood sticks to their hands and cannot be removed, so that God says, “Your hands are full of blood”.
What does God mean when He says this?
1. They have not cared for the orphaned or the widowed; the vulnerable in society. God’s law in Ex 22: 22 – 24 “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” One of the key social laws set by God. “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan”, do not exploit them.
2. They have not come into the house of God with repentance on their hearts. It has become a formality, make the sacrifice and go back out again and carry on sinning. Paul reminds us, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”, “should we go on sinning to make the sacrifice of Jesus even more meaningful”; of course not we need to come with repentance in our hearts. God will become weary of endless and meaningless sacrifice from closed hearts.