I often marvel at how it must have been for a prophet like Isaiah who was charged with bringing the message of God to a people who liked to make their own sweet-sounding messages instead. Look at what he says (Isaiah 1:21),
See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her -but now murderers!
I suggest that you read Isaiah 1:21-27 to get an idea of what God has to say here. I believe this message is still as applicable to today’s church as it was to the church people of Isaiah’s time.
First God addresses the character of His church: The faithful city (v.21) is the Church. She is accused by God for committing adultery.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely?” (James 4:4-5).
God is not willing to share His loved ones with another. He makes that clear in many incidents in Scripture. He wants all of us or nothing –either hot or cold, not lukewarm. We are either for Him or against Him, said Jesus. We are gathering with Him or we are scattering. We have to choose. The church has prostituted herself to the world. The ways of the world and the so-called wisdom of the world were imported into the church. Public speaking, “techniques” of leadership. Some churches even have surveys where members can vote for the kind of messages they like and dislike! Members are seen as financial assets, not souls in need of Jesus. Every potential member is a potential source of income. The church has traded justice and righteousness for murder. How is it that murder infiltrated the church? According to the Bible, when we hate our brothers and sisters we are no better than murderers. We kill…with words. Here is the picture of each man to himself –relentlessly pursuing his own ambitions. We find a further mention of this selfish ambition in verse 23.
He then addresses the message brought in the Church: The word (silver v.22) brought to the members used to be beautiful and precious, but the messengers have perverted it into something ugly (“Your silver has become dross” -good for nothing but to be thrown out. You have lost your salt). They have degraded His pure message into cute little sayings and quirky little idioms in order to entertain the crowds. Their message cannot penetrate heart and soul anymore. Because the heart is not affected by the word, people remain the same –year in and year out. The word has become twisted and perverted to promote the dogmas and ideas of man. The Gospel (wine v.22) has been diluted to something weak and sweet-sounding. It doesn’t arrest the wrong inside of us anymore. It has been perverted into a message that tells people how wonderful they are and how much they must love themselves –the very opposite of what Jesus taught. He said that the one who wants to cling to his life will lose it and it is the one who is willing to lose his life will gain true life. In other words, the one who really wants to live should live for the benefit of others and forget about himself long enough to reach out to others in need. Even scientific evidence proves that extending kindness to others is a very powerful weapon against mental conditions like depression. How come is it that the church is teaching people to first look out for themselves? It’s no small wonder there are so many depressed Christians walking around. I hear them talk about their ministry as if that is the reason Jesus died on a Cross. As far as I know, Jesus didn’t suffer for the sake of placing someone on a a stage as an actor -a spiritual Hollywood, so to speak. He still gets his moment of fame. Only he sticks a Christian label on it now. These messengers have turned everything upside down and they twist Scripture to back their claims to the money of the poor.
After addressing the character and the message of the church, He turns towards the leaders of the church: They rebel against the teachings of God (v.23). They acknowledge what suits their selfish purposes and disregards what does not. They ascribe their disregard for certain parts of Scripture to various factors. “Nervous translators; The Bible isn’t infallible; Human error, etc.” They are the companion of thieves and chase after gifts (v.23) which means they take from those whom they have been appointed to serve. They allow themselves to be bribed by members with money. “Where you find envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16). So they fall into all kinds of evil. They chase after gifts, instead of after giving. They no longer care for the plight of their neighbour in need, except in cases where extending such help can personally benefit them and the image of their ministry.
But God will reach a point where He will act on these atrocities and He will no longer remain silent. He will turn His hand away from these so-called people of God and replace their “dross” (false teaching) with silver purified seven times (His perfect Word). He will send His Spirit to sanctify the Church once again. Judgement and Counsel will once again be based on justice and righteousness and not on fears that someone’s toes may be stepped on. Those that fear losing influential members with money, will no longer be found in the Church. Only those who care for the truth and what is right, will be found there. God’s going to clean out His house. And by this I don’t mean a certain denomination. I mean everyone that claims to be part of the body of Christ. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not do what I say? ” (Luke 6:46). Those whose worship of Jesus were merely lip service, should be worried. He’s coming to fix up the place.
So God will restore the character of His church and He will restore the true Gospel message and He will place in the church true and righteous leaders once again. After He has accomplished this, the name of His church will be restored to “The City of Righteousness” and the “Faithful City.” Justice will redeem the bad name of the Church and the ones who repent of their wrong doing will be redeemed with righteousness. This is the righteousness of Christ, which we receive by faith in Him, and not our own righteousness.
- Saltiness — A Lectionary Meditation (pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com)