Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah.
Isaiah had gone only a very little way in his testimony when he broke into the true prophetic strain. The prophets were God's witnesses against the mere shows and semblances of piety, and for the reality of godliness and virtue; they lived to expose the false and to expound the true, to pierce with keen edged sword that which was hollow and rotten, and to commend with glowing zeal that which was sound and good. Here we have a deliverance which evidently came hot from a heart that burned with fiery indignation.
I. THE UTTER INSUFFICIENCY OF MERE RITUAL TO COMMAND THE DIVINE FAVOR. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?" etc. (vers. 11-13). These various offerings were all according to the commandment, correct, scriptural; but they were unacceptable; they were "vain oblations, "all of them. They were ineffectual, because they came from hands that were unclean, from hearts that were unholy. It is a significant and solemn fact that men may be engaged in doing those very things, using those very words which God has plainly prescribed, and yet they may be utterly failing to win his Divine favor. The services of the sanctuary, the "eating of that bread and drinking of that cup, "the ministries of the pulpit and the study, - all these may be unimpeachably correct, but yet wholly unacceptable. If the heart be not right, if the life be not pure, they are unacceptable.
II. ITS POSSIBLE ODIOUSNESS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. Those who are rendering an abundance of formal devotion are actually denominated by a term which indicates the last extremity of wrong-doing: "Ye rulers of Sodom," "ye people of Gomorrah;" they are addressed as if they were responsible citizens of those infamous cities. Jehovah not only does "not delight in the blood of bullocks" (ver. 11), and not only does not rear, ire this kind of service (ver. 12); not only does he call the oblations "vain," but he declares incense to be an abomination to him (ver. 13). "Your new moons... my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them" (ver. 14). The thought is positively terrible that the very things we are doing with a view to gain God's pleasure may be bringing down upon us his awful anger; that the very means we are taking to avert his wrath may be only adding to its weight. It is certain that the offerings of the hypocrite are of this kind. This prophetic strain is not only applicable to the specialties of the Hebrew ritual; it includes all the ordinary approaches of the human soul to the Divine Father; it embraces that which we call "prayer" (see ver. 15). And we have to face the fact that the most devout utterances of our lips, in the most approved or even in biblical phraseology, may be worse than worthless in the sight of God.
III. THE PRIMARY DUTY OF REPENTANCE. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings," etc. (vers. 16, 17). When men are loving and practicing unrighteousness, the first thing they have to do is to "put it away," both from their minds and from their lives. The drunkard must first dash down his cup, the untruthful man must at once give up his falsehoods, the licentious man his impurities, the dishonest man his rogueries; it is a vain and even guilty thing for a man to kneel in prayer or to sit down at the Lord's table when he is deliberately intending to go on in his sin: that is nothing less than mockery; it is defiance assuming the attitude of devotion. "Let the wicked forsake his way," etc. (Isaiah 55:7).
IV. THE READINESS OF GOD TO PARDON THE PENITENT. (Ver. 18.)
V. THE ALTERNATIVE WHICH GOD PLACES BEFORE ALL HIS CHILDREN - OBEY AND PROSPER, OR REFUSE AND SUFFER. (Vers. 19, 20.) They who now return unto the Lord from the state of sin in which they are found - from crime, from vice, from ungodliness, from indecision - and who attach themselves to the service of Jesus Christ, shall "eat the good of the land;" to them shall be granted the sunshine of God's favor, the blessedness of Christ's friendship and service, the hope of a heavenly heritage. But they who remain apart and afar from God, who will not have the Man Christ Jesus to reign over them - they must abide under the condemnation of the Holy and the Just. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.