Why Do You Approach the Altar and Leave Your Heart Behind?

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah the son of Amos which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters thirty through thirty-five of this Old Testament prophetic book. When you come to the words which are found in this particular portion of Scripture, you can’t help but find yourself being absolutely and completely captivated with the words found within the thirty-third chapter of this prophetic book. If you begin reading with and from the tenth verse of this chapter you will find the LORD revealing something truly unique and truly interesting before and unto the children of Judah and Jerusalem. What makes the words here so incredibly unique and captivating is when you take the time to consider the declaration the LORD made within this passage—namely, that He would rise, that He would be exalted, and that He would lift Himself up. In order to truly understand the words which are found written and recorded in this passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary to consider the verses which are found before it, as they help frame and set the context for what the prophet would speak and declare unto the people of Judah and Jerusalem. In the first and opening verse of this chapter the prophet Isaiah pronounces and declares a woe upon that one who spoiled and was not spoiled, and that one who dealt treacherously, and that one who would be spoiled. In the second verse of this chapter we find the prophet crying out in a passionate plea and intercession before and unto the LORD—specifically that the LORD would be gracious unto His people, for they waited upon Him. It’s actually quite interesting and unique to read the words which are found in the second verse of this chapter, for in the second verse of the chapter we find the prophet Isaiah asking the LORD to be gracious unto His people, for they had waited for Him. Moreover, the prophet asked the LORD that He might be the arm for His people very morning, and their salvation in time of trouble. I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with this reality during a time when the United States—specifically the eastern seaboard—has been under threat from a tropical storm and hurricane bearing the name “Isaias.” I have to admit that I do not believe it is a coincidence that I am reading the prophetic book of Isaiah during and at a time when such a storm is threatening countless homes, and the lives of countless men and women. Even as I am writing these words there have been countless warnings and notifications that have come across my phone, as well as my Amazon Alexa Echo Dot providing updates on this particular storm.

As I sit here this afternoon writing these words I came across another alert on my phone, as well as another alert on my Echo Dot that revealed how the National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for the county I live in until later on this evening. I cannot help but be absolutely drawn and captivated by the fact that at a time when I am reading the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah there is a storm that is moving up the eastern seaboard and coast of the United States bringing with it wind, rain, clouds, thunder, lightning, and the like. What’s more, is that this storm has even brought with it tornado warnings, as there have been several states that have experienced a tornado warning during this time. This takes on even more weight and meaning when you think about the fact that this country is still dealing with and reeling from a pandemic that has struck the world, as well as continued civil unrest that rocked this nation after the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. I sit here today and I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and my spirit that there is something prophetic about this storm that is moving up the eastern seaboard, and that the eternal God is warning this nation. While this storm doesn’t seem to be of the same magnitude, strength, ferocity and destructive nature as Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and other hurricanes that have struck this country, it has brought with it enough worry and concern over the damage and destruction it can bring. In fact, there are many who believe that during this year we might very well see an incredibly active hurricane season, and only time will tell what this season—which stretches through November—can in fact produce within and upon this country. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the fact that the Spirit of the LORD has indeed and has in fact been warning us—and quite honestly, warning the world—of His judgments, which He can unleash upon the earth in a single moment of time. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this tremendous truth and this tremendous reality, for we must recognize the absolutely undeniable fact that the LORD is indeed warning His people in the midst of these days.

What is actually quite interesting about the words which are found in the thirty-third chapter is when you come to the fifth verse of this chapter, for within this verse we find the prophet declaring that the LORD is exalted, for He dwells on high, and has filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. If you continue reading you will find the prophet declaring even further that it’s in wisdom and knowledge the stability of times, and the strength of salvation. What’s more, is you will find the prophet Isaiah declaring that the fear of the LORD is the treasure of the LORD. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly wonderful and astonishing reality, for not only does the prophet Isaiah emphatically declare that the LORD is exalted, and that the LORD dwells on high, but the prophet also goes on to speak about how the LORD filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. This reality and concept of the LORD being exalted, and dwelling on high is a reality that would be found within and throughout this Old Testament book, and would begin in the sixth chapter when in the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah the son of Amoz saw the LORD seated on the throne high and lifted up, and His train filling the Temple. How incredibly interesting it is to see and consider the apparent and intrinsic link between the throne of God and the Temple of the LORD in the midst of the earth, as not only did the prophet Isaiah see the LORD seated on the throne in heaven, but the prophet also saw the train of His robe filling the Temple. One might argue that the train of His robe filled the heavenly temple, and yet I have to admit that I am more inclined to believe that the temple which is spoken of in this passage of Scripture is the temple which Solomon the son of David build in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Moreover, if you journey to the end of this Old Testament prophetic book you will find the prophet speaking and declaring how heaven is the throne of God, and how the earth is His footstool. I do not believe this is any coincidence in the language that is used, as not only is heaven the throne of God and earth being His footstool, but also we find and discover in the sixth chapter the prophet seeing the LORD seated on the throne high and lifted up, and His train filling the Temple. It is this reality and concept of the LORD being exalted and high and lifted up that would be found in more than one place in the midst of the prophetic book of Isaiah, as not only would Isaiah speak of the LORD being high and lifted up after himself seeing this reality in the vision given unto him, but the LORD as well would speak about this particular reality when declaring that He would rise up, and how He would be exalted. With this in mind, I invite you to not only consider the words which are found in the sixth chapter of this prophetic book, but also the words which are found in the sixty-sixth chapter of the same prophetic book:

“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the Temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of Him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lip: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hast touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go” (Isaiah 6:1-9).

“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: Where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mind hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killest an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not. Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at His word; your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the Temple, a voice of the LORD that rendered recompense to His enemies. Before she travaileth, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travaileth, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? Saith the LORD: Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? Saith thy God. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her” (Isaiah 66:1-10).

It is quite clear from these words that the prophet Isaiah saw the LORD seated upon a throne high and lifted up, and how His train filled the Temple. What’s more, is that in the final chapter of this prophetic book we find the LORD emphatically declaring that the heaven was His throne, and the earth was His footstool, and then asking where the house was they would build unto Him, and where the place of His rest. The LORD would then go on to declare that all those things His hands made, and all those things have been. What makes these words truly captivating is when you consider the fact that the LORD would go on to emphatically declare that although the heaven was His throne, and although the earth was His footstool, He would look upon a certain type of man—namely, him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at His word. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of these words—specifically and especially when you consider the words found in the thirty-third chapter. Within this chapter—not only do we find the language of the LORD being exalted and being high and lifted up, but we also find the prophet asking a very pointed and powerful question—namely, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire” and “Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” The prophet would then go on to reveal the tremendous truth of those who would be able to dwell with the devouring fire and with the everlasting burnings using language that is incredibly similar to that which David the son of Jesse and king of Israel wrote in the fifteenth and twenty-fourth chapters of the Old Testament book of the Psalms. Within these two chapters David would ask questions which were very much similar to the language we find within this particular chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the words found in the thirty-third chapter of this prophetic book, as well as the words which the psalmist David wrote in the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms:

“Now will I rise, saith the LORD; Now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself. Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall e given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. ” (Isaiah 33:10-17)

“LORD, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is condemned; but he honoureth then that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (Psalm 15:1-5).

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof; The world, and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? OR who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah” (Psalm 24:1-10).

The language that is found in each of these passages not only speaks to the LORD being exalted, and the LORD being high and lifted up, but it also speaks of our relationship to the LORD and our responsibility before Him in His sight and presence. The words located in these three chapters are a powerful declaration and statement concerning the fact that even though the LORD is high and lifted up, and even though the LORD is exalted, He can and will be approached by a certain and specific type of people. The prophet Isaiah saw a people that walk righteously, a people that speak uprightly, a people that despise the gain of oppressions, the people that shake their hands from hold of bribes, the people that stop their ears from hearing of blood, and the people that shut their eyes from seeing evil. What makes these words even more unique and captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that the prophet would go on to declare and speak of these people that they would dwell on high, and that his place of defense would be in the munitions of rocks. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we consider these words and this reality, for these words bring us face to face with the awesome truth and reality that despite the LORD dwelling on high, despite the LORD being high and exalted, and despite the fact that the LORD is seated upon His throne, it is possible to walk in communion, fellowship and relationship with Him. Please note that these words were written and spoken centuries before Jesus the Christ and Messiah would come to the earth, die on the cross at the hands of sinful men, and make a way and entrance into the glorious presence of the true and living God. The prophet Isaiah saw a people that would dwell on high, and a people whose place of defense would be the munitions of rocks—a place of stability, strength and security—and this people would dwell in the midst of the presence of the living God. The prophet asked the very important and powerful question concerning who would dwell with the devouring fire, and who would dwell with the everlasting burnings, and then goes on to reveal and speak forth language similar to that which David the son of Jesse would see during his day and generation. It would be David himself who would ask who is able to abide in the tabernacle of the LORD, and who shall dwell in the holy hill of the LORd. What’s more, is David would also go on to ask who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD, and who would stand in His holy place—language which is quite similar in nature to that which is found in the prophetic book of Isaiah. David—the king of Israel who reigned as king over Israel generations before Isaiah would prophesy during the reigns of four different kings—would ask similar questions before, unto and of the LORD. David realized and recognized that the LORD was high and lifted up, and that the LORD was exalted, and he found himself asking who would be able to abide in the sanctuary of the living God.

I am sitting here this afternoon writing these words, and I find myself coming face to face with the truly awesome truth that there is a prophetic declaration that is being sounded at and during this time—a declaration that is coming directly from the very throne of God in heaven. I firmly believe that the LORD is speaking directly unto the inhabitants of the earth, and declaring unto them that He is high and lifted up, that He is exalted, and that He reigns on high. There is not a doubt in my mind that Spirit of the LORD is desirous of bringing men and women face to face with the holiness of the living and eternal God, and into a place where people begin to truly ask themselves the questions of what it takes to dwell in the midst of the sanctuary and tabernacle of the LORD. It is indeed true that the LORD is high and lifted up, and it is indeed true that the LORD reigns on high, however, there is a strong and powerful invitation to those individuals who are willing to walk in holiness, obedience and faithfulness in the sight and presence of the living God to dwell on high with Him. The LORD of hosts is indeed seated on His throne in heaven, the LORD is high and lifted up, and the train of His robe does indeed fill the Temple, and yet in spite of all that the LORD still invites and welcomes men and women into His holy presence and to abide with Him. The language we find in the prophetic book of Isaiah is language which we also find in the poetic book of the Psalms when you read David’s own questions concerning who is able to enter into the holy and sacred hill of the LORD, and who can abide in His tabernacle. This language is such that can actually be perceived as an invitation of the living God—an invitation that declares and reveals how even though He is high and exalted, and even though He reigns on high, He can still be approached by those of a humble and contrite spirit. There is this truly wonderful and powerful invitation found within Scripture that declares unto those who are meek and lowly that they can indeed and can in fact experience the glorious presence of the living God. The prophet Isaiah—in the year that king Uzziah died—saw the LORD high and lifted up, and saw His train filling the Temple. What’s more, is that it was in the midst of that vision and revelation he was confronted with the holiness of God, as the seraphim cried out one to another declaring “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God Almighty.” We dare not miss and lose sight of this truth, for when we think about and consider the invitation to dwell with the LORD in His presence, we must recognize and understand that the LORD desires, requires and even demands personal holiness, personal purity, and righteousness before Him in His sight. We must realize and recognize that our God is indeed a jealous God, and our God is indeed a consuming fire. As such, the LORD desires and demands complete and utter holiness from those who wish to enter into His presence.

What makes this language quite astonishing and remarkable is when you consider the fact that although the LORD implemented the sacrificial system through His servant Moses, and although He ordained the offering of lambs, and bulls and goats upon His sacred and holy altar as a means to approach Him, there seems to be this unbelievable emphasis on something that is of greater worth than the gifts and offerings the children of Israel brought before and unto Him in His presence. If and as you read Scripture you will find and discover the absolutely wonderful and amazing reality that while the altar was indeed of great importance in the midst of His people who dwelt within the land, there was something else that would be of greater worth, something that would have far greater value than the blood of bulls, goats and lambs. It would be one thing to think about and consider the tremendous emphasis on how important the altar and the gifts and sacrifices offered upon it truly were, however, if there is one thing we must realize and recognize it’s that there is something internal which the LORD places more value and worth on that simply coming to the altar with our gifts and offerings. The LORD did indeed ordain and appoint the altar in the court of the Tabernacle and Temple as a place where the people of God could bring their gifts and offerings, and yet despite the fact that the LORD required the sacrifices as a means to approach Him, there was something He required to walk in a manner that pleases Him. There was something the LORD required of His people completely separate and independent from the gifts and sacrifices they would bring into His presence—despite the fact that the sacrifices would be needed for the burnt offering. It is necessary that we consider the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke at the beginning of this prophetic book concerning the assemblies and festivals which the people observed, as well as the words which the prophet Malachi prophesied in that final generation before the four-hundred years of silence would ensue. What’s more, is that it is necessary to consider these words in light of what the LORD actually required of and from His people above everything else. Consider if you will the words found within these two prophetic books, as well as elsewhere in Scripture concerning that which truly pleases and truly delights the LORD above everything else:

“Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; Give ear unto the law of our God, ye people Og Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, Who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moon and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your pointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall e as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:10-18).

“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: This hath been by your means: Will he regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall e offered unto my name, and a pure offering: For my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: Should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: For I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).

“Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD that God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O god, thou wilt not despise: (Psalm 51:16-17).

“Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:6-8).

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

“For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will e your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jeremiah 7:22-23).

“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer my burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou way from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Heave ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have born the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts” (Amos 5:21-27).

“But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13).

“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:7-8).

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a grate, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).

It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading the words found in these passages that the LORD did in fact institute and implement the sacrificial system during the days of Moses His faithful servant, and yet the truth of the matter is that above that which the LORD had implemented and instituted we find the LORD desiring something even greater, and something of greater value and worth. You cannot read these passages and get the strong sense that although the people might have continued with those things the LORD might have required according to the Law of Moses, they were giving themselves unto strange and foreign gods, and even idols they had created. The prophet Isaiah declared that the people of Judah and Jerusalem had hands which were stained by blood, and yet they would proceed to enter into His presence with those hands which were stained and think they could worship Him in a manner which pleased and glorified Him. In all reality, I would dare say that one of the greatest sins the prophets condemned and rebuked during their generations was the same sin which Jesus rebuked and condemned within the hearts of the Pharisees—namely, hypocrisy. We cannot read the words which are found within the prophetic book of Isaiah and not encounter the truly awesome reality that the LORD desired truth, mercy, judgment, righteousness, faithfulness and obedience above and beyond sacrifices and offerings which the people would bring before and unto Him in His sight and in His presence. The children of Judah continued in their rebellion and their unfaithfulness before and in the sight of the living God while thinking they could enter into the glorious presence of Jesus and be accepted of Him. What a gross and misguided notion it is to think about and consider the fact that the people of Jerusalem and Judah thought they could continue in their rebellion and wickedness before and in the sight of the living God, and that the LORD would continue to accept their sacrifices, their offerings, and the gifts which they brought before Him. The people of Jerusalem and Judah thought they could worship the LORD with their gifts and offerings while at the same time keeping their hearts far from the LORD through their sin, their transgression and disobedience. What’s worth noting is that this was one of the greatest sins the prophet Isaiah condemned and rebuked during his generation, and it was a sin that was manifested within and during the days of Jesus the Christ. I feel compelled to declare that the sin which was so prevalent during the days of Isaiah was present during the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and was even present during the days of Jesus. With that being said, however, I am convinced that it was a sin that was allowed and permitted creep into the midst of the people of God and would be present when Jesus began His public ministry. I do not believe for one moment that the hypocrisy of the Pharisees began to manifest itself during the days of Jesus, and was not present within the earth during those days prior to His manifestation and appearing.

I feel and believe it is absolutely necessary for us to understand that the sin which Isaiah condemned and rebuked during his generation was the same sin which Jesus rebuked during His days within the hearts and lives of the scribes and Pharisees. It’s actually quite astounding to think about and consider the fact that during the days of Isaiah this sin was manifested in people who professed to be religious in the sight of the living God because of their continued sacrifice, and yet their hearts were far from Him through their disobedience and rebellion in His sight and presence. During the days of Jesus this sin was not found among the tax collectors, it was not found among the publicans, it was not found among the sinners, nor was it found among the prostitutes, but it was found among the religious elite of that generation—found among the chief priests, the elders, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the religious community. It was this sin which Jesus rebuked and condemned in the same spirit which Isaiah thundered against within and during his generation. In fact, when condemning and rebuking the scribes and Pharisees Jesus referred to the language which the prophet Isaiah used during the days in which he prophesied in the midst of the earth. With this in mind, consider if you will the words which are found in the prophetic book of Isaiah, as well as within the New Testament gospel of Matthew:

“Wherefore the LORD said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? And who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? OR shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding” (Isaiah 29:13-16).

“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall ay to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).

With this in mind, I would also like to invite you to consider the words which are found in the thirty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, for these words bear strong similarity to the words which Isaiah prophesied during his generation, and which Jesus referred to and quoted during His generation. It is with these words found in the prophetic book of Ezekiel that we recognize and understand that even during his generation—a generation which ultimately was present during the days and time of captivity and exile—this same sin of drawing near unto the LORD with nothing more than lip service, while the heart was far from Him was still present among the people of God. It’s worth noting that this sin of lips which proceed to honor the LORD, and yet a heart which fails to honor the LORD through its disobedience and rebellion was not only present during the days of Isaiah, and not only present during the days of Ezekiel, but also present during the days of Jesus. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the thirty-third chapter of this Old Testament prophetic book:

“Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:30-33).

As I bring this writing to a close it’s interesting to consider the words which the LORD spoke unto the prophet Ezekiel, for it was the LORD Himself who revealed that the people gave the appearance of coming unto Ezekiel as the people of God, and with the true and pure desire of hearing the word of the LORD. There was this outer appearance of sincerity and authenticity that was found in those who would come unto Ezekiel for to hear the word of the LORD, and yet the LORD revealed that their approaching him was accompanied by the absence of any desire and/or willingness to do that which he had spoken unto them. These people came to sit before Ezekiel as the people of God, and they heard his words, and yet they had absolutely zero desire or intention of doing them. Furthermore, the LORD declared that with their mouth they showed much love, but their heart went after their covetousness. Oh dear brother, dear sister—we dare not and must not miss the truly remarkable significance and importance of what is written and found within the prophetic book of Ezekiel, for it helps add even greater meaning and significance behind the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke, as well as the words which Jesus Himself spoke during His days and generation. During the days of Isaiah the people drew near unto the LORD with their lips while their hearts were far from Him, and during the days of Ezekiel the people came to sit before the prophet of the LORD as the people of God who were eager to hear the words of the LORD, and yet in both cases they had absolutely zero desire and intention of actually walking in obedience to that which the LORD had commanded, required and asked of them. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand this, for we must needs carefully and thoroughly examine our own hearts and ask whether or not we are a people who are willing to walk in obedience and faithfulness before and in the sight of the living God. We must ask ourselves whether or not we are likened unto those people who drew near unto the LORD with their lips, and yet their hearts were far from Him. What about you dear brother? What about you dear sister? Is your mouth close unto the LORD, and yet your heart is far from Him? Are you lips near unto the LORD, and yet your heart couldn’t be further from Him? Are you one who gives the appearance of desiring to hear and listen to the word of the LORD, and yet inwardly—perhaps even secretly your heart is far from the LORD, and far from truly pleasing Him? Oh, it is true you might honor Him with your lips, yet your heart refuses to honor Him, and your heart refuses to bow before Him. Oh, you might come before Him with your gifts, your sacrifices and your offerings, and yet inwardly within those parents that no mortal man can see your heart could not be further from the LORD and further from truly honoring, worshipping, pleasing and seeking Him. Oh it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we allow the Holy Spirit to turn a search light upon our hearts and our souls and would truly examine and expose the depths of our being to see if we truly are a people who can dwell in the midst of the presence of the LORD, and whether or not we are a people who truly honor and worship Him with our whole hearts and not just our lips. Oh that we would be a people who recognize and understand that the living and eternal God desires faithfulness, obedience and righteousness within the depths of our being, and that we would be a people who would diligently strive to walk in a manner that pleases, honors and glorifies the eternal God.

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