We will return to the book of Isaiah after Easter but as we follow Matthew’s account of the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus we shall pick up echoes of our Old Testament book along the way. Having entered Jerusalem as king – albeit in a way most don’t recognise to be regal – Jesus goes to the temple. The temple was the pride and joy of Israel. It dominated Jerusalem. Unfortunately, rather than being a focal point of true devotion to God, it had become a place of commercial profit-making, the religious leaders fleecing the ordinary people in terms of the sale of animals for sacrifice and a shocking exchange rate for the temple currency.
Imagine the rip-off of buying a bottle of water and a Kit-Kat at a motorway service station and you have some idea of the price-hikes involved. Jesus is rightly appalled at the attitude of the religious leaders: they lack any true devotion to God and are failing completely in their responsibility to be spiritual guides for the people.
This type of exploitation and religious hypocrisy is something Isaiah lambasts the spiritual leaders of his time for as well. In Isaiah 1:11-17, the prophet speaks God’s word of rebuke to the religious authorities. God hates their outward show of religious life such as making sacrifices and celebrating holy days when they fail to care for the vulnerable and oppressed.
Not only in Isaiah’s and Jesus’ day, but for our time too, God’s priority is that his people are devoted to him and care for others. Jesus says that the temple is meant to be a house of prayer where the praise of children is honoured and Isaiah at the end of the aforementioned passage highlights the importance of caring for the vulnerable and oppressed. Where we can’t meet together as a community of believers, let’s pray for our town and surrounding area to be aware of God’s heart for them and let’s look to reach out in whatever we can to those who are vulnerable.
Prayer: Take a few grains of rice in the palm of one hand and your bank card in the other. Consider how our world is often unjust and unbalanced (eg the farmer and big businesses, or between the rich and poor). Micah 6:8 says ‘The Lord God has told us what is right and what he requires: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”’
Pray for the mercy of God, pray for those who have been denied justice. Ask Holy Spirit to show you what you can do to live out this passage today. Praise God for his grace and mercy to you.
Song: There is love (Stronger)