Tag Archives: Isaiah

Climb the Highest Mountain

Mount Everest

In the first chapter the prophet Isaiah attacked Temple worship in Jerusalem as a burden and abomination to God (see last post). Yet a chapter later Isaiah made a completely different declaration about temple worship.

In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountain and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his way. (Isaiah 2:2-3)

Isaiah is not saying that Mount Zion (where the temple sat) would suddenly become a volcano and literally become a new Mt. Everest for mountain climbers.  Rather, using metaphor, Isaiah declared that the Temple would become a magnate drawing all people into relationship with God and the esteem given to Mount Zion in Jerusalem would be sky-high. The temple would be a great blessing to all nations, just as Abraham had been promised in Genesis 12.

The shift from attack to blessing and promise may seem abrupt to our ears, but Isaiah believed the people’s hearts would be changed. No longer would they go through the empty motions of sacrifice and prayer, but rather their worship would be the avenue by which they renewed their covenant relationship with God. Worship would become real and heart-felt. Prayer would be honest and transforming.

Perhaps too often we approach worship as a kind of therapy session to fix our life problems. We want to consult God like Google: to type in our worries and have him list out possible solutions. Thomas Kelly proposed a deeper, more intensive view of worship similar to Isaiah.

Swiss Valley

It begins first of all in a mass revision of our total reaction to the world. Worshipping in the light we become new creatures, making wholly new and astonishing responses to the entire outer setting of life. These responses are not reasoned out. They are, in large measure, spontaneous reactions of felt incompatibility between the world’s judgment of value and the Supreme Value we adore deep in the Center. (A Testament of Devotion, p. 47)

Lord Jesus, you are the true temple which draws all people to yourself.

Dead Worship or Vibrant Life?

Worship created a controversy for the prophets of the Old Testament. The Lord God had instituted temple worship during the reign of King Solomon. The temple in Jerusalem had various rituals like animal sacrifices and pray incense which had roots from the time of Moses and the Exodus. The Israelites were expected to worship God in the temple on a regular basis and many did.

However the prophets spotted a major problem in worship. It had become empty rituals that did not transform the lives of the worshippers. The prophet Isaiah spoke against such abuses,

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.
Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile;
your appointed festivals my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:11-15 abridged)

Worship had not transformed God’s people into agents of God’s peace and healing for the world. The prophet’s words can be a critique of us today. Has our worship service turned us into servants of God? Do we expect to encounter the living God at worship and be changed?

I have been using Thomas Kelly’s book, A Testament of Devotion, in my personal devotions. He speaks to the transforming power of prayer, but sees it as not our work, but God’s great work within us.

We may suppose these depths of prayer are our achievement. But this humanistic account misses the autonomy of the life of prayer. This inner life has a life of its own, invigorated not by us but by a divine Source. . . . Our prayers are mingled with a vaster Word, a Word that at one time was made flesh. We pray, and yet it not we who pray, but a Greater who prays in us. In a holy hush we bow in Eternity, and know the Divine Concern tenderly enwrapping us and all things within His persuading love. Here all human initiative has passed into acquiescence, and He works and prayer and seeks His own through us in exquisite, energizing life. (p. 45, abridged)

Now that is a description of the Vibrant Life of Faith in Christ.

Lord Jesus, turn my tired, routine prayers and worship into a joyous dance with your Spirit.