Sacrifices that Don’t Please

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Grace Sosa, a student at Logsdon Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 34:5-7
5 When my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens,
    lo, it will descend upon Edom,
    upon the people I have doomed to judgment.
6 The Lord has a sword; it is sated with blood,
    it is gorged with fat,
    with the blood of lambs and goats,
    with the fat of the kidneys of rams.
For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
    a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
7 Wild oxen shall fall with them,
    and young steers with the mighty bulls.
Their land shall be soaked with blood,
    and their soil made rich with fat.

From John: Today begins our first ever Student Writers Month. You won’t hear from me (except possibly in little intros like this) until July. It is a crazy and strange time in our world right now but I am thrilled with the providence of God, both for the quality of these writers you will hear from and the timing of this month-long experiment. In a panicked and fearful time, I can’t think of anyone better for us to listen to than the future ministers of tomorrow’s Church. May we listen well.

Reflection: Sacrifices that Don’t Please
By Grace Sosa

Isaiah 34 is not likely anyone’s favorite passage of scripture. Mountains soak with blood, soil turns to sulfur, and goat-demons call to each other. This passage is a prophecy of God’s judgment against Edom.

The Edomites had been an antithesis to the Israelites since Jacob and Esau. Even before the two were born, God told Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided” (Gen. 25:23).

From Jacob’s line came the Israelites, and from Esau’s line came the Edomites. The Edomites denied Israel passage through their land during the Exodus (Numbers 20:14-29), and Edom gave rise to some of Israel’s greatest enemies, including the Amalekites and Agagites.

When the Israelites heard this prophecy against their enemy, they most likely rejoiced. Many years of injustices were about to be avenged.

Yet, this passage closely mirrors Isaiah 1, hearkening back to God’s judgment on Israel. In Isaiah 1, God tells the Israelites that their sacrifices will not please him unless they“seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (v. 17). It is not only Israel’s enemies who have been unjust but the Israelites themselves.

The prophets remind the Israelites that even though they are God’s chosen people, they are not exempt from doing what is right. In Amos 5:21-24, the prophet said God would not accept Israel’s offerings or songs unless they “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!” Jeremiah 22:3 reminds the people to enact justice for the foreigner, orphan, and widow. Maybe Isaiah’s contrast is not between an evil nation and the righteous nation of Israel. Maybe his contrast is between all nations and a completely holy God.

Might Christians today think we are pleasing God through our religious practices when we are also doing the same things we judge our “enemies” for doing? Do we welcome refugees or judge them for coming into our country? Do we seek racial justice or do we settle for being “not racist?” Do we judge our political opponents for their cutting words but then fill our social media accounts with similar language?

Let us not celebrate when bad things happen to those whom we deem evil, knowing that we have all fallen short of God’s glory. It is only through the mercy God shows again and again that we are forgiven.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord… — Psalm 119.19

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 34 (Listen – 2:59) 
Revelation 4 (Listen – 2:09)

Read more about Pleasing Sacrifices
We have been called to imitate our self-sacrificing savior, Jesus, by giving of ourselves to do good for the benefit of others.

Read more about The Two Ariels
They brought the appropriate sacrifices to the Temple. However, prophets, priests, and people had gradually and steadily turned away from God

Peter’s Unfinished Work

Scripture Focus: Revelation 3.1-3
1 I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.

Isaiah 33.14-15
14 Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? 
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” 
15 Those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right…

Reflection: Peter’s Unfinished Work
By John Tillman

We have both grieved and celebrated over this past weekend. 

Pentecost Sunday closes the season of Easter. As one season ends, Pentecost marks the beginning of a new one. Pentecost is the end of Jesus powerfully leading his disciples and the beginning of Jesus empowering his church to lead. Pentecost is the end of the season of training and the beginning of the season of work. 

As evidenced by both the murder of George Floyd and some of the broken and tragic responses to it, the church has much work left to do. Surely Christ’s words to the church at Sardis apply to us today, “I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.”

We have written consistently (because God’s Word speaks of it consistently) about the centrality to the gospel of destroying racism. There does not exist a gospel that ignores racism. Any “gospel” that does not confront racism is not the gospel. Pentecost testifies strongly to this as the Holy Spirit moved Peter to preach that what people were witnessing was the promised outpouring of God’s Spirit on “all flesh.” (Acts 2.17; Joel 2.28)

Peter went on to struggle throughout his ministry to overcome the racism that he was raised in. May we take up Peter’s unfinished work. Overcoming racism cannot be done by one sermon, one vision, one visit, one protest, or one condemnation. Opposing both individual and systemic racism is a lifetime of work that the Church cannot give up on. 

Ending racism was a Christian idea from the beginning and we are possessed of the only ideology that can do it—the gospel. When pastors and ministers address racial issues, they are not abandoning the gospel, they are speaking from its heart.

Pray this prayer this week, based on parts of Isaiah 33, asking that we may be the kind of people who work the justice of the Kingdom of God into our lives and communities.

Prayer for Justice
We long to dwell with you, Lord, our consuming fire.
Burn away our sinfulness and selfishness without which racism cannot stand.
Help us to be those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right.
Help us to reject gain from extortion and oppression 
Let us not passively participate in murder.
Let us not shut our eyes to deny evil, but shut our hearts to joining in it.
Let us be instruments of your peace.

*We forgo the Divine Hours prayers today replacing them with the above and focusing our prayers on ones for justice and peace, which must come before reconciliation and revival which we also pray for..

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 33 (Listen – 3:45) 
Revelation 3 (Listen – 3:53)

Read more about Putting To Death Racial Hostility
Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ.

Read more about Slavery, Racism, and a Lone Christian Voice
Fifteen hundred years later, we are still fighting the anti-slavery, and anti-racism, and anti-oppression battles. We may be victorious yet, but it will take all of us to engage the battle.

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