Saturday after Epiphany

Isaiah 66:1-24

The One Who Trembles at His Word

We have reached the end of Isaiah, and in many ways we have come full circle.  You will remember in the very first chapter, the Lord says, “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?  Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.  New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations – I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.  Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates” (1:12-14).  So here in the last chapter, we hear the Lord say, “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.”  And then we have the reason for the Lord’s rejection of their offerings, and just as we saw in chapter one: “These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations.”

Worship is so important to God.  And He demands that we worship Him with integrity.  We often think that we can cover our sins with our Sunday worship; that, well, somehow, showing up on Sunday morning and singing hymns and sitting through a sermon, makes things we did during the week alright.  But hear what God says, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”  Did you hear that?  “Trembles at my word!”  Wow!  And I thought God was just looking for chums who have warm fuzzies when they worship Him.

It would appear that God thinks worship is serious business.  He refuses worship that is mixed with unrepentant hearts, people who think they can have their God and their sin, too.  (Well, they can, just not the true God.)  He refuses worship from those who think they can make up their own rules, or change the rules, laid down in Scripture.  At the heart of worship is sincerity – a desire to be changed in the presence of the living God.  And that begins with a humble and contrite – some might even say, broken – spirit, a spirit that trembles at His word.  And what does it mean to tremble?  It means that when we hear His word read and faithfully proclaimed, it is not for us to debate.  His word is, and is meant to be, to and for us, sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).  It is meant to cut, to chip away, to kill if need be, for the purpose of bringing life.  We cannot come into the kingdom and not expect to be refined.  As John the Baptist said at the beginning of Advent: “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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