Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” says the Lord; “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out,” says the Lord: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like 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.” Isaiah 1:10-20 (NRSV)
The Kubler-Ross model of grief sets out five separate stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Not everyone goes through the stages at the same pace. When Isaiah preached judgment against Judah, some were caught in denial. Others became angry and wanted Isaiah stopped. But there were some who made it to the bargaining stage as they grieved for their nation. They tried to win God's favor back by offering up sacrifices and by keeping the festivals God had prescribed for them in the Law. Some of these people were very good and being obedient to all the laws concerning worship times and avoiding particular sins.
The problem was that they either were oppressing the poor around them and denying justice to the victims of injustice, or they were turning a blind eye to the orphans and widows who were so easily neglected. They were guilty of minding their own business instead of minding God's business. The message of Isaiah, and all the prophets is clear: God does not desire sacrifices given as a substitute for obedience to His call on our life.
We cannot bargain our way out of grief. The more we try, the longer we keep ourselves from the true Hope God is calling us to receive. We have to work through the urge to pay our way to a better place, push past the depression, and make our way to acceptance and surrender. It is the "broken and contrite heart" that is the sacrifice that God will not despise (Psalm 51:17).
Where is grief touching your life today?
What distracts you from acknowledging that grief?
How can you bring your grief and brokenness to God?
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.