Summary: We have a decision to make as it pertains to our salvation.
Isaiah 1:1, 10:20
“The Reasonable Thing To Do”
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
One Mother’s Day, a woman who had been living as a widow for some time was sitting on her front porch when, out of the blue, a truck comes and pulls into her driveway.
And out jumps a florist who hands her a bouquet of flowers.
Of course, she knows who the flowers are from.
They are from her only son, Paul.
Paul had been her wonderful and unexpected gift from God when he came into the world.
As she sat on the front porch she remembered how she used to sing to Paul at night: “Jesus loves you little Paul.”
She remembered how, when Paul had gotten a little older, she had fenced in the yard so that he would have a safe place to play.
But too soon, Paul had learned to climb that fence.
Then she remembered how, on clear nights, she and Paul would sit on the porch swing and she would answer his questions about God.
But soon Paul got old enough to go off to school, and as he grew older he grew farther away from her.
As a youth Paul embraced the idol worship that his young friends were involved in.
He took drugs, and then as a young man, he started to drink heavily.
Soon, she saw Paul very rarely, and hardly even knew who he was anymore.
She had often wondered why he had rebelled so.
Then Paul moved to another city to live with a young woman who had a two-year-old little girl.
One day, drunk beyond reason and annoyed by the girl’s non-stop crying, Paul had shaken the child until she was silent; she fell asleep and never awoke.
Paul had been tried and convicted of the child’s murder, but the judge hadn’t yet imposed the sentence.
The mother sat on the porch with Paul’s flowers, and their sickening sweet odor blended with the scent of the funeral flowers that still seemed to fill her nostrils.
Paul had written on the card: “Mah, you must come and testify for me at the sentencing hearing.
Tell the judge you don’t believe I meant to do it.
It wasn’t my fault, Mah. I was drunk.”
Later in the evening the woman took stationary from her writing desk and went back out on the porch.
She wrote: “Why do you send me flowers, Paul?
I have not asked for them.
Your gifts disgust me.
They lie heavy on my soul.
You are asking for my help but I will not listen to you.
Your hands are covered with blood.
Take your wrongdoing out of my sight.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good, and seek justice.
Let us talk this over, you and I.
Your sin can be made white as snow in my eyes.
If you are willing to obey, you will have the good things of life but if you keep on rebelling, God’s judgment will have you instead.”
Those are some pretty tough words…
In our Old Testament Lesson for this morning, God has some pretty tough words for the Hebrew people.
He compares them to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah!
He tells them that their sacrifices and offerings are “meaningless,” their “incense is detestable,” their assemblies are “evil,” He will not “listen” to their prayers and their “hands are full of blood”!!!
Now it is fatally easy to read this passage and agree that these people are making a hollow mockery of God.
They have a form of godliness with their rituals and their sacrifices, but they are hypocrites…
…because they have bloodstained hands…
…they are filled with lust and greed…
…their fortunes are built on crimes…
…they have hardened their hearts against justice, and shut their ears to the tears of little children and brokenhearted women.
And they do not even realize their sin.
Yes, so long as we keep our eyes on the temple services of the eighth century B.C., we can join in with Isaiah and denounce their horrible blasphemy.
It is always easy to sit back and condemn the people of another age.
But the Word of God has an amazing way of cutting across time and making its truth just as applicable to today as it was thousands of years ago.
Because what God is talking about is the relationship between worship and character.
And if the two don’t match…what good is the worship?
Just like there was nothing wrong with the flowers that Paul sent his mother…
…there was nothing wrong with the sacrifices and offerings of the Hebrews…
…it was the reason behind the flowers that mattered…
…it was the reason behind the sacrifices and offerings that made them detestable!