Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
“Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” God’s asking. “Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves? Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats? When you come before me, whoever gave you the idea of acting like this, Running here and there, doing this and that–all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?”
“Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings–meetings, meetings, meetings–I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.’” -Isaiah 1:11-17 (The Message translation)
I was driving when I was listening to this passage in Isaiah and, man, did it get my attention!
The prophet Isaiah spoke these words while Israel and Judah lived under the rule of various kings. The particular reign of these kings created a pattern that God wanted Isaiah to address. The kings encouraged worship and sacrifices, which is great…right?
Well, they facilitated it for the worship of idols of neighboring nations and to worship God in places that were originally set up for those other idols. They lowered the standards for worship that God had set in place. Without going too deep into the Old Testament traditions, I do think there is a message here that Isaiah is calling us out on.
The people were focused on checking boxes on their “to-do” lists and their constant church meetings and the “shoulds” of religion. They were using sacrifices as the checklist to be “safe” in their religion and to feel good about themselves.
There is no “fake it til you make it” with God. We are made by Him, we are made for Him; therefore, He knows our hearts and can see the purity of our intentions. And when, yes, He calls us to live with purpose and be hard working individuals;
He doesn’t want us to lose authentic communion with Him in spite of our list of duties. We lose authenticity with the world, with His other children, as well when we plan the Christian event or meeting out of a heart of obligation rather than a heart of love.
As I am convicted of this and think it through I have to ask myself, “How do I know if I am being authentic? How can I check myself so I do not fall into the patterns of simply ‘checking things off’ for my religion or just to make myself feel better?” Isaiah tells us what to do: “Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.” If love for God and other people is not the filter my actions and intentions are going through, I know I am off.
Overall, this was an opportunity for an intention check-in. Am I filling my schedule with events, meetings, etc.. or actually things that bring glory to God and cultivate deeper community?