Really? What were they thinking?
The Sunday school lesson for my fours and fives featured the life and ministry of John the Baptist. “Perfect,” I thought. “He’s Jesus’s cousin, and two of my little guys are cousins. They’ll love that. But what about this…?”
That was John’s message, and an abstract concept, for certain.
So we played a game. The kids could walk anywhere in the classroom, but when I shouted the word, “Repent,” they had to change direction. It was chaos, and they loved it. Best of all, they got the point that repentance means a change in our direction.
Israel had descended into chaos of a very different sort, and the prophet Isaiah had been tasked with calling them back to obedience and away from the empty worship that characterized their “devotion” to God.
Sounds like repentance to me, and, as usual, God promises to meet the least movement in his direction with a running-down-the road welcome.
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Right Facts, Wrong Heart
Forgiveness travels back to us on the road of repentance, and even though Isaiah is a prophet who majors on grace, he does not fail to inform his readers about the need for obedience.
Israel had become a nation whose facts were right but whose hearts were wrong. God had “had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle.”
And when will we hear and heed the same message? Our offerings to God are perhaps more subtle than “the blood of bulls and goats,” but we get it backwards all the time. Like Israel, our facts are right, but our hearts are wrong. God does not need us or our service, and there’s not a thing we can do to make him love us more–or less. We obey, we practice spiritual disciplines, and we serve him from the overflow of a new heart. Repentance and the resulting obedience remind us where our loyalties lie.
Thanks be to God, he never forgets.
Grace and peace to you,
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