When Worship Is an Abomination - Isaiah 1:10-17

Paul K. Williams
Plainfield, Indiana

In Isaiah's time, the people were zealous in worshipping Jehovah. In this passage, God mentions their multitude of sacrifices, their assemblies, their new moons, and their many prayers. Yet he says that he has "had enough," that His "soul hateth" these things, that He is "weary of bearing them."

This was a strange situation. They were fulfilling the requirements of the Law of Moses in these things. They were "faithful" in them. Yet God hated their actions.

The reason is not hard to find. In verse 15 God says, "When ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." In verse 23 He says, "Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loveth bribes, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither cloth the cause of the widow come unto them." Hands full of blood, princes that were rebellious, and the companions of thieves, and a love of bribes. These things made their worship an abomination to the Lord.

Hands Full of Blood

It is quite possible for our worship to be an abomination to Jehovah for precisely the same reasons. We shrink in horror from the thought that our hands might be full of blood, but one does not have to take physical life to be guilty of murder. Look at yourself, brother, and examine your attitude toward others. Jesus says that if we are angry with our brother and call him contemptuous names that we are guilty of "killing" (Matt. 5:21-22). John says, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15). And a startling fact is that "hate" is simply "lack of love! " Note the parallel between "hate" and "love not" in this passage: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen" (1 John 4:20). Therefore, if we do not love our brother, we are murderers!

We are murderers, also, when we fail to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Paul claimed innocence from the blood of men only because he had preached the whole gospel. "Wherefore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20: 26-27).

The laws of our states recognize that a man can be guilty of homicide if he is grossly negligent. If I should abandon my car on a dark night in the middle of a highway, leaving no warning lights on, and another car should hit it, killing someone, I could very easily be found guilty of negligent homicide. So also will you, Christian, be judged guilty of murder by our Lord if you do not take every opportunity to warn everyone you can concerning the dangers of sin. When gospel preachers, for whatever reason, fail to warn those they preach to of the consequences of their sins, they will stand judged guilty of murder in the judgment day. One can preach the gospel all his life and still be guilty of this spiritual homicide. One must preach the WHOLE gospel to be guiltless. Ezekiel was told by God, "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity but his blood will I require at thy hand" (Ezek. 3: 18). How many gospel preachers, elders, teachers and Christians will have hands full of blood when they approach the throne of judgment?

Rebellious Rulers, Companions of Thieves

The rulers made the mistake of thinking that they were accountable to no one. They forgot that they were "under-rulers," to carry out the laws of Jehovah. They did not heed the warnings of the prophets. They joined themselves in alliances with other nations, trusting in them instead of the Lord. They were interested in material gain, so they associated with those who could bring it to themthieves.

Who are the "princes" in the church? Elders, deacons, teachers, preachers and others of influence. They, also, can become rebellious and companions of thieves. When they prefer the way of denominations and do not heed the apostles of Jesus Christ, they become like the princes Isaiah rebuked. We are not lacking in many modern examples. An instance of this is seen when the leaders of congregations begin to trust in numbers, big projects and flashy schemes to cause the church to grow. As soon as they turn to these worldly, denominational things they betray their lack of faith in God's word to accomplish all. Leaning on worldly schemes leads, then, to the creation of combinations of churches and to societies unknown and unauthorized by the New Testament to accomplish these "great things." This leads to "companying with thieves," for when men begin to push for money for their big projects, they begin to overlook the sins of the great and influential as long as they are contributors and supporters of their schemes. The result is a general rottenness in an apostasy of the church. It happened in Israel of old. It is happening in Israel today!

Everyone loved Bribes

When there is no justice, a nation is in sad shape. But the judges loved bribes, so the fatherless and the widows were left hungry and penniless when the wealthy slipped bribes to the judges. The church today is suffering because too many preachers have a love of money, a root of all kinds of evil. Their love of money is betrayed when they exercise partiality in their preaching and conduct, trimming the gospel to suit the occasion. They know on which side their bread is buttered; therefore they are careful not to offend the influential. They know that the wrath of the powerful few in a congregation can be devastating. Often a warning from them will silence the preacher when evils exist which must be rebuked. Paul commands preachers, "Them that sin reprove in the sight of all, that the rest also may be in fear. I charge thee in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality" (I Tim. 5:20-21).

Forsaking the lord

God calls this conduct "forsaking the Lord" (Isaiah 1:28). Usually we think that one must quit worshipping God to forsake Him. But many forsake Him who are fervent in offering prayers, observing the Lord's Supper. Their worship is an abomination to Him because their hands are full of blood, their rulers are rebellious, and they love bribes. They have forsaken the Lord.

The Remedy

The remedy is stated clearly and forcefully. "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 justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1: 16-17).

This remedy is three-fold: First, wash and make yourself clean. Don't do anything before you do this. A change of conduct without repentance and prayer will not do. You must come clean. Confess your sins to God and those you have sinned against. Unless you do this, all of the good works in the world will not save your soul.

Second, put away the evil of your doings cease to do evil. When we repent and wash, the result will be a cessation from evil.

Last, learn to do well. And this does take learning. We must not just quit our meanness; we must do well. Verse 17 lists four things we must learn to do: Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge, and the fatherless, and plead for the widow. These were the opposites of their besetting sins. We will seek to do positive good where we are now sinning against God when we wash ourselves and put away our evil ways. May God help us all to see our shortcomings, repent of them, and begin doing good. For if we are not careful, our worship may be an abomination to the Lord!

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 9, pp. 4-5 June 1966