These last two chapters of Isaiah are pretty downright scary… but they’re also hopeful. The prophet paints a picture of the coming judgement, both for those who listen to the ways of the Lord, and those who reject His ways. Isaiah speaks of the New Jerusalem, when heaven and earth collide in glory, which is the hopeful portion of this passage. Then there’s the judgement portion. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that God’s wrath (i.e. “pain of heart”, “breaking of spirit”, going hungry, “rebuke with flames of fire”) is not the side of the line that you want to fall on. It seems to me that the children of Israel at this particular moment in time, almost delighted in their offerings that they brought into the temple. It was their “saving grace” at that time (pre-Messiah), and they relished in it (66:3). Meanwhile, God absolutely despised it.
I love how the first section of Chapter 66 is God basically saying “what can YOU give me that I can’t give MYSELF?” He made everything we see, and therefore God is need of absolutely NOTHING. So then, what is God after? The answer is a humble and contrite spirit, one who trembles at His word. A synonym for “contrite” is “repentant”.
Repentance is so key for us in our present time to understand, and I think it’s a concept that gets muddied in the freedom we have in grace. If you sin, knowing that you will be forgiven for that sin because of grace, is that truly repentance? Of course not. That’s like a husband cheating on his wife, but knowing that his wife would forgive him if he would ask her to take him back. How jacked up is that?
I once heard repentance described as “Seeing your sin, turning 180 degrees away from it, and walking in the other direction.” I love that. I think that’s what pleases God’s heart - when we recognize our sin, and turn the complete opposite way, and walk!
Thank God that we are forgiven our sins, because of the blood of Christ. May we have repentant hearts, and in turn, contrite spirits, that God’s face would smile on us, and we would see the promise of the New Jerusalem, and not his righteous wrath!