Maybe it jumps off the page because you’re not expecting for God to say in the Bible, “I can’t do something.” The tendency, rightly so I think, is to equate all-powerful God with can-do-anything God. To interpret “with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26) as meaning nothing is impossible. So that’s perhaps why, as I started in on Isaiah this morning, I’m left to chew on what it means when God says, “I can’t bear it any longer.” To think on the implications of iniquity and solemn assembly.
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations–I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
(Isaiah 1:13 ESV)
The Spirit wastes no time as He moves Isaiah to speak the word of the LORD and get to the heart of the matter. Fake religion. That was the problem.
Lots of sacrifice going down. Not much obedience. The blood flowed according to the Law. But rebellion was rampant as everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They kept the feasts. But had little, if any, regard for faithfulness. They regularly met for solemn assembly. But they refused to turn from their sordid iniquity. And God says, “I cannot endure it.”
I am unable to deal it. I can’t overcome it. I have no power to prevail.
The provision of atoning sacrifice had been made as a means for a holy God to dwell in the midst of an unholy people. Remission of sin was made possible through the shedding of blood. Process was provided so that hearts might draw near. But when that which is intended to reconcile and restore is trampled on and set under foot, what’s left? When that which is meant to provide a covering for sin is despised and not put on, what covers the rejection of the covering?
One day a week they met for their “sacred meeting” (NKJV). But the other six days they lived for themselves. On that one day they spoke the name of the God Most High, but during the rest of the week they sought the idols of the nations around them. As Isaiah would prophecy later, “this people draw near with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, while their hearts are far from Me” (Isa. 29:13).
So, because of how they lived, and what they served during the week, when they came together on the weekend, God considered their offerings vain, and their incense an abomination. For God cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Thus, God would take action against the nation in order to turn their hearts again toward Him, that they would then know and embrace the provision made for them.
And maybe it’s too simple or too small an application, but I can’t help but think that the degree to which our gatherings are pleasing in His sight on Sunday is impacted by our heart’s desire to honor Him on Monday. That we are just as prone to enter into solemn assembly, though our lives are marked by willing iniquity. That, even as we gather to glory in the gospel, we can rob it of its power when we live carelessly and worship mindlessly. The blood which cleanses from all sin having no cleansing effect because we don’t think to apply the blood as we confess our love of the world and it’s ways, even as we go through the motions of offering our tithes.
With God nothing is impossible. But somethings, evidently, can only be endured for so long. Such is the contradictory coupling of iniquity and solemn assembly.
Father, guard our hearts. That, when we gather, we draw near not only with lips of praise but souls of consecration. That, rather than mechanically going through process and procedure, we wholeheartedly enter into Your great promises and provision. That, rather than go through the motions, we come together to lift up Your Name. And this, through the power of the gospel.
By Your grace. For Your glory.