I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, "Here am I, here am I." All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not upright, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, "Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you!" Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.
[Yesha'yah (Isaiah) 65:1-5]
It seems to be our tendency today to read passages such as this and look down our noses at ancient Israel--"What was wrong with those stubborn, rock-hugging, idol-worshiping people?!" But if we examine the charges that Yahveh God is bringing before them, it hits a lot closer to home than we may like to admit.
Yesha'yah (Isaiah) begins by quoting from the Song of Moses, describing how Yahveh will use the willingness on the part of Gentiles who desire to live in covenant with Him to provoke Israel (the wayward bride) to jealousy to return to Him.
They have moved me to jealousy with [that which is] not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with [those which are] not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. [Deuteronomy 32:21]Next He gives a simple contrast between His actions, and those of the bride He is desperately in love with. The Hebrew word translated as "day" is yom, and refers to any period of time, regardless of size. Yahveh is telling them, "All of this time I stand here with arms reaching out to you!" In spite of that, His bride has:
1. Walked in ways that are not upright (i.e. she has pursued a lifestyle that is not according to the righteousness set forth in conditions of marriage found in Yahveh's Torah),In short, Israel was trying to worship God in the way they chose, and didn't hide the fact that they were serving other gods at the same time--and living as if that behavior was acceptable for God's spotless bride.
2. Pursued her own imaginations (by following their own lusts),
3. Provoked Yahveh to His face (by openly practicing idolatry),
4. Offered sacrifices in gardens and burned incense on brick altars (This refers to private persons offering sacrifices of their own free will and the idolatrous burning of incense in honor of a deity on altars of brick (The guidelines for free will sacrifice are described in Leviticus 17; for building an altar in Exodus 20:24-25),
5. Sat among the graves and continued in hidden places [shrines of gods in sepulchral caves],
(Numbers 19:16 pronounce those who touch graves ritually unclean, thus those who continually dwell among them declare themselves unfit to worship in Yahveh's presence)
6. Eaten what He deemed as unclean (Ignored God's dietary instructions by eating animals that He refers to as unclean, and never refers to as food at all). [Guidelines found in Leviticus 11]
7. Displayed the attitude, "I'm am holier than you!" to those around them.
But yet through it all, Yahveh is still standing with arms outstretched saying, "Return to Me! You are My beloved!"
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
This passage has really disturbed me since I read it earlier this week. Maybe it's because I have seen myself in most...okay, all of the charges against Israel--from having my heart turned away from Him, to following my own lusts, to serving self and other things right before His face, to choosing to live an unclean life, to partaking of things that are not beneficial and only serve to addict, make sick and depress me, to having the attitude in the midst of being so far from Him that represent Him better than anyone else and self-righteously taking credit that only belongs to Him.
I've heard his call to "Return to Me!" and I can honestly say that I'm doing more to build a relationship with Him now than ever. It just terrifies me to think that someone could live a life in complete opposition to God, all the while claiming to be His spotless bride and more spiritual than others.
I have been that person, and I just can't be anymore.
"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin...Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." [Psalm 51:2, 10-12]