Am I a rebel? – Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 5, 2014 AM
I have always wondered why the opposite sex has found those who are rebellious fascinating. Perhaps it has to do with the what I call the “Eve Gene.” There are those who are attracted to rebellion, thinking that in it they will find some kind of freedom. As a teenager, I found it downright humorous when many of my contemporaries wanted to be different yet often followed the same fads, dressed the same, and did many of the same things everyone else did! Kind of like tattoos and body piercings are today! Those who desired to be different soon were the same as everyone else! We may desire to think of ourselves as rebels without a cause when in fact we are just being disobedient.
God’s people are never to desire to be part of the crowd. In fact, we find that we are to be in the world but not of the world! When a child of the King desires to appear or appease themselves at the sake of their life in Christ, they are not just being a rebel; they are in full-blown rebellion against the Lord! The beginning of Isaiah relates God’s lawsuit against His people for breaking their covenantal contract with Him. God, through Isaiah, brought an indictment against Israel for her breach of contract, but also offered His forgiveness if they were willing to stop their rebellion, repent of their sin, and return to Him. As we study this section of Scripture, we should ask, “Am I a rebel?”
My mom often told me, “Young man, you didn’t hear a single word I said to you!” In helping to raise an active 4-year-old grandson, I now understand exactly what she meant. Isaiah relates that…
I. We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! (Vv. 2-5)
1. As in a courtroom, God brings His case against those in rebellion by asking all of creation, both the heavens and the earth, to hear and bear witness to the charges He is bringing against them! He had “reared” them like His “children and brought them up, but they (had) rebelled against” Him! God had taken them from the land of the Chaldeans, watched over them in Egypt, brought them out of their slavery, continually rescued them and yet they blatantly refused to follow Him as He asked them to! God always views those He rescues and nurtures as His children. Yet, unlike brute animals like the ox or donkey, who know their master and feeding trough, God’s rebellious children deliberately do not know and do not understand! It is like a child who, when caught red-handed doing wrong, arrogantly says, “It’s not my fault!” Israel, like anyone who says they follow God but deliberately rebel against Him, is a “sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers,” and “children given to corruption!” Therefore, be careful thinking we live a nation under God when we allow the murder of the unborn innocent, promote pornography, and cater to the corruption of what the meaning of family and marriage truly are! We are anything but one nation under God! But again, look at who had ignored the Lord in their disobedience. He was not speaking to the ungodly world at large, but to His own children! They were the ones who had “forsaken the LORD; they were the ones who had “spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him!” Like a willful child who refuses to listen to a parent who has lovingly sacrificed everything for them, God’s people arrogantly turned away from Him! Curiously, Isaiah asks two interesting questions, “Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion?” Just like someone who persists in going back into a destructive relationship, or as Proverbs reminds us, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11 NIV) God’s rebellious folks had “wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (v.6)! Why would they want to be beaten some more? Why would they persist in going back to sin? Yet they did! Like criminals who continually go back to a life of crime, or children who delight in going against their parents, we rebel against God when we refuse to listen!
EXAMPLE: My mother would vehemently tell us, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!” Now did she really tell us that many times or was it the fact that in her frustration to get her message across Mom felt she had told us a “thousand times” — probably the latter. Now I understand why my father would often ask us to repeat what we had just been told. This is where God was in His exasperation with His children. Kind of as God does with us, even now when we do not listen to His voice as we should. Maybe we have forgotten that God can love us and still be exasperated with our actions. That was where He was with the nation of Israel. Are you in rebellion against the Lord? We rebel against God when we refuse to listen!
Perhaps we gain a greater understanding of Jesus’ words when He related, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37 NIV) However, it was not that His children had poor hearing; they thought they were okay in their relationship with God! After all, they did all the right things. We discover that…
II. We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! (Vv. 11-14)
1. Do not think that evangelicals, including Baptists, do not have religious rituals we protect. In fact, we often forsake old ones for new ones! The Israelites were great at keeping their rituals. Yet, God asks, “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” They thought that by the sheer number of animals being slaughtered could make up for their ungodliness! It is like those who erroneously think that if their worship is grander, bigger, or louder it is more pleasing to God! Neither bigger buildings nor louder bands can bring one closer to the grace of God! It does not make up for spiritual shallowness. God tells them, “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” He was sick to death of their spiritual hypocrisy! Samuel asked Saul “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV) In fact, God is not impressed with numbers either. This is why He tells them, “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” Crowds thundered into the temple to offer hundreds of thousands of sacrifices, but God was not impressed! To Him, they were like a mindless mob going through the motions. He angrily tells them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” I wonder if what transpires in some churches today is detestable to God. He tells them, “Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” Their worship was detestable, evil, unbearable, and weary and hated by Him! They were literally despised and burdensome because they were carried out hypocritically, with sinful hearts! Wow! They needed to sacrifice themselves! Do not think dear child of Jesus that you are immune, because this is exactly why Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!
EXAMPLE: We live in a self-centered society whereby we think our prayers, our worship, and our churches are all about us. We leave a church when we no longer get anything out of it. We judge fellow believers or leaders by what they do or not do for us! And we attend and give when it is convenient to our lifestyle! Can you find personal sacrifice in any of this? Prayers, worship, and our church membership is to be God-centered and sacrificial! Paul wrote, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) Seriously, do you think God is pleased with our worship of Him when He sees no change in our life? We can pray for others to be changed, for our church to be changed, or for more change in the offering plate but until we are willing to be changed ourselves, God will never be interested in our worship! Revival begins with God’s people! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!
I have heard folks use prayer as an excuse as to why they treat others with contempt. “Pastor, I have really committed this to prayer…” and then the next words out of their mouths prove that their prayers were simply meaningless words uttered to justify their actions. What they fail to hear is that change begins at home. In fact, throughout Scripture we learn that…
III. We rebel against God when we refuse to repent! (Vv. 15-20)
1. Jesus told the crowds to be careful not to follow in the false footsteps of the Pharisees, “They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” He related that, “Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40 NIV) God told Isaiah to relate to the Israelites, “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.” Can you imagine God hiding His eyes and not listening to your prayers? Now I know God does not truly have eyes and ears, because He is Spirit, however, He does see us and does hear every word we speak (Matthew 12:36)! God simply would refuse to hear their many words! Like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons, God would only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” Why would this occur? Their hands were full of the blood of their own people whom they were willing to sacrifice instead of themselves! The answer to their spiritual predicament was to “wash and make yourselves clean”! They were to seek God’s forgiveness and take their “evil deeds out of (God’s) sight!” The only way this was possible was if they were willing to “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” In other words, they were to repent of their sins and actually take care of God’s people! Now isn’t it interesting that we are encouraged to pray and do our deeds secretly (Matthew 6:1-8). Hebrews tells us, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) God’s people are to encourage one another! God then gently says, “Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” There’s the key, repentance! In fact, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” How could Isaiah, the Israelites, or believers today be sure this was true? “For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!
EXAMPLE: When we were caught, doing something wrong, my Mother would tell us, “I’ll make you sorry that you were ever born,” while my Dad would say, “Being sorry isn’t good enough.” God teaches us that simply being sorry is not good enough either, He reminds us that “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV) David, when he was caught in his sin he knew God demanded more than being sorry, he related, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) Peter declared, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord!” (Acts 3:19 NIV) We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!
We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.