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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10/6/10- Corrupt Religion Isaiah 1:10-20

10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
11 "The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?" says the LORD. "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.
12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 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. Your hands are full of blood;
16 wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, 17 learn to do right!
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

(Isaiah and scroll- Raphael)

Thoughts: Corrupt religion is not just meaningless, it is "detestable."  When sincerity is taken out of religion, rituals and assemblies lose their holiness, to the point that Isaiah calls them "evil."  Nominal religion that does not show itself in caring for others- the poor, the orphan, the widow- but seeks only its own protection and comfort is corrupt.  The good news is that though our sins are scarlet they can be made as white as snow if we repent and do not rebel.      
     Niebuhr said "The wost corruption is a corrupt religion."  Money, selfishness (such as seeking only the fulfillment religion brings), immoral behavior, lust for power and pride are some of the things that can corrupt true faith.  Yet these are human problems that in the end faith limits. Those who see corruption solely in religion also need to examine the alternatives (for example the 20th century atheistic states and their rampant corruption and death camps- Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Il Jung).  But corrupt religion is worst not in terms of effect (the Inquisition does not compare to the 23 million killed by Stalin or the 60 million by Mao), but in that it corruption steers people away from the true and only hope of getting outside of their sinfulness to altruism and gracious living.  Jesus quoted from Isaiah more than any other Old Testament book because Isaiah was continually calling the people back to the heart and truth of faith. Yet, though our sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.  It is possible to reform corruption in faith, doctrine, and practice.  The reformation comes by humbling ourselves in repentance with listening ears to our Creator and Redeemer.

Prayer: May my heart be sincere O Lord, and may my hands be willing to help those in need that I meet this day. 

John Calvin abridged: The prophet calls the rulers of Israel Sodom and the people Gomorrah because they are both guilty together. He strips away their pretenses, and shows that God is not pleased with mere outward forms and ceremonies.  The profonation of the worship of God is not only unprofitable but a sacrilege.

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