Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
- Hear the word of the LORD,
- you rulers of Sodom!
- Listen to the teaching of our God,
- you people of Gomorrah!
- What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
- says the LORD;
- I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
- and the fat of fed beasts;
- I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
- or of lambs, or of goats.
- When you come to appear before me,
- who asked this from your hand?
- Trample my courts no more;
- bringing offerings is futile;
- incense is an abomination to me.
- New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation–
- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
- Your new moons and your appointed festivals
- my soul hates;
- they have become a burden to me,
- I am weary of bearing them.
- When you stretch out your hands,
- I will hide my eyes from you;
- even though you make many prayers,
- I will not listen;
- your hands are full of blood.
- Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
- remove the evil of your doings
- from before my eyes;
- cease to do evil,
- learn to do good;
- seek justice,
- rescue the oppressed,
- defend the orphan,
- plead for the widow.
- Come now, let us argue it out,
- says the LORD:
- though your sins are like scarlet,
- they shall be like snow;
- though they are red like crimson,
- they shall become like wool.
- If you are willing and obedient,
- you shall eat the good of the land;
- but if you refuse and rebel,
- you shall be devoured by the sword;
- for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
A soldier fighting over in Iraq received a letter from his girl friend that said she was breaking up with him. She also asked him to send the picture she had given him when he left because she needed it for her bridal announcement. The soldier was heart broken and told his friends of his terrible situation. After discussing it with them, he eventually just got angry about it. So his whole platoon got together and brought all their pictures of their girlfriends and sisters, and put them in a box and gave them to him. So he put her picture in the box with the rest along with a note that said, “I’m sending back your picture to you. Please remove it and send back the rest. For the life of me I can’t remember which one you are.”
It is always rather easy to find something to get angry about. Turn on the news – get angry. Drive to work – get angry. Look in the mirror – get angry. No, we aren’t angry all the time, but sometimes it rears its head and there it is. We get angry. At events, people, even things we can’t control like the weather.
We can even get angry with God. “Why did this happen?” “How come he won’t answer my prayers?” “Can’t he do something about the condition of the world? Stop the wars? End hunger? Create justice?” There is always someone who will say, “When I get to heaven (provided I make it) I’m going to ask him about ____! He’s got some explaining to do!”
So we get angry at others, events and even God, but did you ever stop to think that maybe God gets angry, too? We like to think of him as that great and loving grandfather in the sky who is patient with our every action, but… that’s not always the case. There was one of those funny cartoons that came across the computer the other day. It said, “When someone asks you, ‘What would Jesus do?’, remind them that freaking out and flipping tables is a viable option.” Yes, God gets angry. I was reminded of this from our last few weeks’ Old Testament readings.
For example, a few weeks ago I dodged those verses from Hosea, It began with, “take for yourself a wife of whoredom,” and went on to say, “in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel… I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them.” This week, it’s not much better. The Lord compares his people to those of Sodom and Gomorrah and states,
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
When God speaks such words, we need to listen. He is not happy. What is he angry about? He is very clear in Isaiah,
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
He is angry, because the people have not been following his commandments. They are doing what THEY want to do and not what HE wants them to do. That is called sin.
It’s like this, the Lord says a bit further in Isaiah,
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The Lord says, “my ways are not your ways,” and when we sin we add, “but they should be!,” or worse, “I don’t care what you say!” We sin when we snub God’s ways and sing with Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.” Then when everything falls apart, we wonder, “What’s he so mad about?”
And there’s the question: Why does God become angry? Is he angry so that he has an excuse to smite us? So that he can give us cancer or have us fired from our jobs? Is he angry so that he can take away all of our toys and gleefully send us to our rooms? Is he angry so that he can shoot lightning bolts at us? The answer to all those questions is “No.” Again, “my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Unlike ours’, God’s anger is not petty or arbitrary. God’s anger has a purpose, which is to turn us away from ourselves and the world, and turn us toward Him. He desires to turn us toward himself – and he will use whatever means, including his anger – so that he might do so. So that he may save us. Bless us. Love us. And make us holy.
Is that true? Does God become angry so that we might look up from ourselves and our ways and turn to Him? Consider again his words through prophets Hosea and Isaiah: Through Hosea he says that he will hide his eyes from us and that he will not listen to our prayers, but he also promised,
Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
Through Isaiah he said, “I have had enough of you and your prayers.. You shall be devoured by the sword,” but he also said,
Come now, let us argue it out…
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land
And in our Gospel reading today, Jesus confirms it, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom… It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
As children, on occasion, we probably all got sent to our rooms for misbehaving. As we trudged down the hall to endure our exile, there were likely those all too familiar words, “And while your in there, you think about what you did!” As children, we may not fully understand that punishment, but as adults we should be able to fully grasp their intent. Our parents are loving. They sent us to our rooms, not because they hated us, but to get our attention. To make us stop and consider our actions. Their anger was an expression of their love. A love that says, “I want you to grow up knowing right from wrong. I want you to take a good path in life, so that you can be happy.”
As a child, I don’t know that I ever “thought about it” while I was banished to my room, but I’ve now come to realize, that if I did, I had two choices – I could respond in my heart, “I don’t care what you say or do to me, I’m just going to keep doing what I want!” and I would have found myself continuously in trouble. Or I could stop, consider my ways and respond, “I will do my best to return to the proper path.”
The same is true with God. His anger is not because he hates us. His anger is because he loves us – God IS love. His actions towards us do not exist outside of that one fact. He cannot act contrary to his own nature of love. Therefore, when your spirit senses that he is angry with you, don’t blurt out, “What’s he mad about this time?” Instead, sincerely ask yourself, “Why is he angry? What must I do to return to the path of righteousness that leads me into a deeper relationship with HIm?” What will the result be in returning? Jesus said in our Gospel, “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.” The result of our returning to the path of righteousness, to being prepared as sons and daughters of God Most High, is an invitation to the feast. A feast prepared by God for those who love him.