SPIRITUAL ABUSE

Opening Prayer

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your good gifts that are all around me.

Read ISAIAH 1:21-31

21 See how the faithful city
    has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
    righteousness used to dwell in her—
    but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross,
    your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels,
    partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
    and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
    the widow’s case does not come before them.

24 Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    the Mighty One of Israel, declares:
“Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes
    and avenge myself on my enemies.
25 I will turn my hand against you;[a]
    I will thoroughly purge away your dross
    and remove all your impurities.
26 I will restore your leaders as in days of old,
    your rulers as at the beginning.
Afterward you will be called
    the City of Righteousness,
    the Faithful City.”

27 Zion will be delivered with justice,
    her penitent ones with righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken,
    and those who forsake the Lord will perish.

29 “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks
    in which you have delighted;
you will be disgraced because of the gardens
    that you have chosen.
30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
    like a garden without water.
31 The mighty man will become tinder
    and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
    with no one to quench the fire.”

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Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 1:25 That is, against Jerusalem

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Meditate on the descriptions of God in verse 24 and turn your thoughts into a prayer of reverent worship and thanks.

Think Further

Massive decline can be traced in Jerusalem’s history. The once great city has lost its status as a place recognized for its loyalty to God. Its lofty standards of justice and righteousness have vanished. The litmus test is defense of the vulnerable (v. 23). This is the second time that Isaiah has focused on orphans and widows (see also v. 17). They receive a prominence that is too often overlooked. The powerful in Jerusalem are more interested in lining their pockets than supporting the needy. That’s not unusual. The abuse of power repeatedly sees leaders accumulate wealth while thousands starve or disappear. Mobutu’s international airport and colossal mansion built in his home village, where there was no running water or electricity, is but one example.1 Jerusalem is worse. This is God’s people oppressing their own, behaving like heathen idol-worshippers. Chillingly, it turns them into enemies (vv. 24, 25) of the Lord, the Mighty One.

Peter warns that God’s judgment begins with God’s household.2 Far from being exempt, God’s people come under scrutiny as those who should know how to live, making just decisions and modeling right behavior. What is his purpose in turning his hand against his people? It is redemptive intervention with the aim of purification and restoration (vv. 25, 26).

Such is God’s restoring power that there will again be a city called ‘righteous’ and ‘faithful.’ This is the kind of transformation that will create a new heaven and new earth. There will be deliverance, but that inevitably means punishment and shame for some (vv. 28, 29). Oaks with fading leaves and unwatered gardens present a picture of the fruitlessness of those who disown the Lord, much like those who do not remain in Christ and are ineffectual.

Apply

Give thanks for your security in Christ’s love. Then spend time reflecting on the link between remaining in Christ’s love and your church’s concern for the disadvantaged.

Closing prayer

Lord God, lead my church—lead me—to the disadvantaged and defenseless; to intervene where needed and offer the loving care of Jesus.

Last Updated on June 25, 2024 by kingstar

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