God said, “I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.” Isaiah 1:13-15
What would cause God to hate the appointed festivals that he himself established, observed by us, His so-called followers? When we look away from the fatherless, when we close our ears to the cry of the oppressed, he shuts his eyes and ears to us. Our assemblies become worthless and our prayers become noise.
God said to cold-hearted, but religious, people who ignored their fellow humans but offered sacrifices, praise, and observed holy days: “Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:16-17
If we want God to take pleasure in our festivals and listen to our prayers, we have to treat people with compassion. Do you do that?
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12, NIV
We are currently in the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh HaShanah (the Biblical Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (the Biblical Day of Atonement). Tradition holds that God will extend to us in the coming year the same mercy and compassion that we extend to others during this time.
Only God knows whether or not the Days of Awe hold special significance to him; but the principle that God treats us the way we treat others is a major theme in the Bible. Sacrifices, prayers, and observing ritual holy days means nothing without compassion for others.
In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of an unmerciful servant. The servant owed his master a great deal of money, and another owed the servant a lesser sum. Both debts were legitimate. The master forgave his servant, and set him free from his debt. In turn, the servant went after the one who owed him, refusing to show the same mercy he had been shown. He looked only at his own rights, without a thought to the suffering he would cause the man’s family. When the master found out how his servant had treated the man, he reinstituted the first debt, had his servant thrown into prison and tortured until every last bit was paid. Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:23-35
I don’t always deserve it, but I want God to treat me with mercy, forgiveness, compassion and grace. If the teaching of the Bible is true, and I believe it is, how do you think God will treat you in the coming year? It’s not too late to put aside your rights, and offer kindness instead.
G’mar Chatimah Tovah. May you have a good inscription in the Book of Life.