by Christopher Harbin

Worthy in Grace
Christopher B. Harbin
Isaiah 1:10-18; Luke 19:1-10; 2nd Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12

''Get tough on crime,'' ''Stricter sanctions,'' ''Hold 'em accountable,'' ''Zero-tolerance policy.'' We have all heard the slogans. They speak of force against those who do not measure up to established standards. The point behind them is to change the world. The means is force, coercion, power, and control. When Jesus talked about changing the world in conformity with God's reign, he talked about grace, forgiveness, and love. What is the point of grace? What good does grace accomplish toward changing the world?

Isaiah wanted to see changed lives. He saw sacrifices, religious festivals, gatherings of song, praise, and a show of religious devotion. He saw superficial actions failing to address the underlying issues. It was all show. The people went through the motions, doing things to be on Yahweh's good side, yet without actually pleasing God in obedient service. It was as though they believed that playing the religious game of checking in at the temple, offering the prescribed sacrifices, and placing funds in the treasury would keep Yahweh from bothering them with issues deeper demands. They could go on ignoring injustice, failing to do good, and not defending the unrepresented and disenfranchised.

Worship had become much like the campaign speeches of politicians in our own day. It was full of empty words misrepresenting one's identity, purpose, and goals. For many, worship was saying the right things and looking good in the right places. There was too little connection between the prescribed religious patterns and matters of heart, righteousness, and Yahweh's will. To God's perspective, it was meaningless. Unrepentant sacrifice is no sacrifice at all. It is masquerading. It is an attempt to coerce God to ignore our real identity and enable our unrighteous habits. Meetings, assemblies, and services to honor God are dishonoring when we do not live the righ ...

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