Did The Lord Really Say He Didn’t Desire Sacrifices?

During the days of Uzziah (Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (kings of Judah), Isaiah the son of Amoz saw a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  In order to understand this vision better, we need to know a little about these men.

According to 2 Chronicles 26:3-4, Uzziah was 16 years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem and he reigned for 52 years.  Uzziah did what was right in the Lord’s sight and sought God during the days of Zechariah.  Unfortunately, he became prideful and entered the temple in order to burn incense to the Lord on the golden altar .  He became furious when the priests prevented him from doing so.  The Lord struck him with tzara’at (leprosy), he was cut off from the house of the Lord, and dwelt in isolation until his death.

Azariah’s son, Jotham began to reign in his place when he was 25 years old.  Jotham reigned 16 years and did what was right in the Lord’s sight.  During that time, the people acted corruptly.  After Jotham died, his son, Ahaz reigned in his place. 

Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign as king of Judah in Jerusalem.  He reigned 16 years and was wicked like the kings of Israel.  Ahaz:

  • Made molded images of the Baals.
  • Burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.
  • Burned his children in the fire.

Second Chronicles 28:4 says Ahaz sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.  Because of what Ahaz had done, the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria.  A great multitude of the Jews were carried away to Damascus at that time.  Ahaz also fought against Pekah, the king of Israel and was defeated.  One hundred twenty thousand people were killed in one day because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers and two hundred thousand women, sons, and daughters were captured and taken to Samaria.  In addition to that, the Israelites took a lot of spoil to Samaria.  Shortly after that, the Lord commanded Israel, through the prophet Oded, to return the captives of Judah.  Even so, the Lord continued to deal with Judah and King Ahaz because Ahaz encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been unfaithful to the Lord continually. 

With these first three men in mind, we can understand the first part of Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah chapter one.  Even though the Lord had brought the Jews up and nourished them, they rebelled against Him.  They didn’t know Him or think about Him as they should have.

Judah was a sinful nation at that time.  They were described as:

  • A people laden with iniquity.
  • A brood of evildoers.
  • Children who are corrupters.
  • Those who had forsaken the Lord.  In other words, they had committed apostasy by turning their backs on the Lord.

By their behavior, they had provoked the Lord and made the Holy One of Israel angry.

In Isaiah 1:5-6, the Lord says, “Why should you be stricken again?  You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment.”

This sounds absolutely disgusting yet Judah had no idea that their true condition was almost like Sodom and Gomorrah.  The sins of the people of Judah were a major infection that had taken over the whole nation.  When someone is in that bad of condition, it would seem as if there is no hope for healing and that death would appear to be welcome relief.   

Judah was desolate and besieged.  Fortunately, the Lord of armies left a very small remnant because He desired to heal His people.  The Lord addressed them and told them to hear the law of God.  Right here are a few verses that are often taken out of context.  Isaiah 1:11-15 says, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? “Says the Lord.”I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. 12 “When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.”

Now wait a minute.  Who had required sacrifices and incense from the people?  The Lord did. 

Is He saying He had never wanted sacrifices, incense, and His feasts to be celebrated?  No.  Again, the Lord commanded His people to do these things. 

If that’s the case, why was the Lord not pleased?  It was because these activities had become meaningless, false, useless, or vain.  

By saying these things, the Lord defined the disease that afflicted the Jews; the Jewish people were not bringing their offerings and incense in complete love and devotion to the Lord because their hearts were focused on lawlessness and not on Him.

Since the Lord truly wanted to heal His people, He told the Jews through the prophet Isaiah, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)  In other words, He was commanding His people to repent!

The Lord wanted His people to come to their senses.  He wanted to reason with them and cleanse them from their sins.  In Isaiah 1:19-20, the Lord reminded them of Deuteronomy 30 by giving them a choice between life and death, blessing and cursing:  “If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  By the time He said this, He should have had their attention!

What else did the Lord say?  How did He describe the city that had once been faithful? 

He said that had become a harlot!  Instead of justice and righteousness, murder was commonplace.  Their silver had become dross.  In other words, the people of Judah had become as mixed alloys or as mixed fibers of wool and linen; they had become common (unholy) by their association with wicked lawless people.  They had done what was forbidden and they weren’t pure anymore.  Their leaders were rebellious and friends of thieves.  They loved bribes and sought rewards.  They did not defend the orphan or take care of the widows.  At some point, they closed up the temple and stopped offering incense and offerings.

The cure for this horrible condition is found in the first chapter of Isaiah where the Lord revealed His plan for the future known as the last days.  This is the same plan that is hidden in the shadow of the Levitical offerings that had been vainly offered by His people. 

Isaiah 1:24-25 describes it like this:  “Therefore the Lord says, The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, “Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries, And take vengeance on My enemies. 25 I will turn My hand against you, And thoroughly purge away your dross, And take away all your alloy.”  In other words, the Lord planned to cut out the worst part of the infection so He could heal the rest of the body.

It’s hard to say exactly when Isaiah spoke these words to God’s people but if you recall, there was one more man listed in Isaiah 1:1.  This man was Ahaz’ son, Hezekiah.  He was 25 years old when he began to reign and he reigned 29 years.  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and carried out great reforms in Judah.  He commanded the Levites to sanctify themselves, sanctify the temple, and offer incense and sacrifices according to the commandments of the Lord.  Temple worship was restored, the feasts of the Lord were celebrated, and the people were encouraged to return to the Lord.  At one point Hezekiah became filled with pride and the Lord tested him to find out what was really in his heart.  Fortunately, Hezekiah humbled himself before the Lord and was honored at his death.

Prior to Hezekiah, the condition of Judah was the same as the harlot, Babylon the Great in Revelation 17.  In fact, the Lord said their sins were as scarlet.  The harlot, Babylon the Great, rode a scarlet beast and was dressed in purple and scarlet and glittered with gold, precious stones, and pearls.   Even though she seemed to possess great wealth, she was clothed in sin and associated with the beast.

The Lord is calling His people whose sins are as scarlet to come out of Babylon the Great today.  Those around us are deceived and are following leaders who are like King Ahaz who encouraged lawlessness.  Like Judah, we must forsake lawlessness and allow the Lord to cleanse us.  We must turn back to the commands of the Lord and choose life instead of death and blessing instead of cursing before the Day of the Lord, the day of Jesus’ return.  Just like Hezekiah encouraged Judah to return to the Lord, I am encouraging you to do the same.

After the Lord returns and destroys His enemies, do you know what He’s going to do?  The answer is found in Isaiah 1:26-28:  “I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” 27 Zion shall be redeemed with justice, And her penitents with righteousness. 28 The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.”

This is similar to what the shadows of the Levitical offerings teach.  The righteous will be purified and made righteous in the refiner’s fire but the wicked will be burned in the lake of fire.

We must avoid such a fate.  We do not want to be like the terebinth (or oak) tree in verse 30 whose leaf fades as a garden that has no water.  We must desire to be like a tree planted by streams of water that bring forth fruit in its season.  This is similar to the Tree of Life.

Psalm 1:1-3 explains how to do that:  “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season.”

When we walk with the path of sinners, we become like mixed metals or like those clothed in a mixture of linen and wool.  We are no longer pure and holy.  We must reject and separate ourselves from the lawlessness that surrounds us, have the testimony of Christ, and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord by keeping the commandments of God. 

Remember, to choose life is to choose blessing and to choose death is to choose cursing.  Choose wisely.

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