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Lesson 8: Garments of Splendor *

Introduction: The controversy will probably never end over what is appropriate for worship in church. I have a clear preference and I know others who clearly disagree with me. Our lesson this week touches on something much deeper - what lies underneath our worship? Should we be alert to an evil which can lurk beneath our worship and invalidate it? Since we exist to give praise and honor to our God, let's dive into our Bible study to uncover whether we are guilty of an evil which makes even our worship unacceptable to God!

  1. Unacceptable Faith?


    1. Read Isaiah 1:1 and Isaiah 1:10. Is Isaiah addressing both the leaders of Judah and of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah? (No. Did your parents ever say "you are acting just like the [naughty] neighbor children?" God says His people are acting like the terrible people of Sodom and Gomorrah.)


    2. Read Isaiah 1:11. Has Isaiah garbled God's message? These sacrificial animals looked forward to the sacrifice of Jesus. Would God ever say "I don't care about the fact that you claim the sacrifice of Jesus for your sins?"


    3. Read Isaiah 1:12-14. What do we say when our God tells us He does not want us to observe the Sabbath any more? He does not want us attending church? He hates to have us worship Him?


      1. Isn't the essence of righteousness by faith that evil people (which we all are) come to God claiming the sacrifice of His Son and worshiping Him for His incredible offer of salvation?


        1. Is so, how do you explain this mixed up stuff in Isaiah? (Now you know why you should never set foot in the Old Testament, right? I'm just joking for those who are unsure.)


    4. Something bizarre is going on. Something difficult to understand is being said. Let's continue to read to see if we can figure this out. Read Isaiah 1:15-16. Is Isaiah telling us that our sacrifices (faith), worship, praise and prayers will not do us any good unless we "stop doing wrong?"


      1. Read Romans 3:19-24. If we could put Isaiah and Paul in a room together, would they agree? Would Paul say, "Hey, buddy, we have an updated version for your software?"


      2. Look again at Isaiah 1:16. How is "washing" relevant to making us morally clean? (This is something outside controlling our "evil deeds.")


    5. Read Isaiah 1:17. Is God calling His people "Sodom" and "Gomorrah" because they are not helping the oppressed, orphans and widows?


      1. Why doesn't God mention lying, stealing, killing, adultery? What about homosexuality? God is, after all, calling them Sodom and Gomorrah!


      2. What does God's naming of certain sins related to abusing the powerless have to do with righteousness by faith?


        1. Or, do we not have to worry about the poor and powerless anymore because we now have updated software for our gospel?


  2. Reasoning It Out


    1. Read Isaiah 1:18. God says "let's talk this out." Let's do just that. When we read about our red sins become white as snow or wool, is that a picture of righteousness by our works? (No, this is a picture of washing - an external matter which does not change any internal problems.)


    2. Read Luke 10:25. Would you like to know the answer to this question? This will tell us if our salvation software has been updated, right?


    3. Read Luke 10:26-28. Is this the answer you wanted to hear - that your salvation software has not been updated?


      1. Do we now need to put Jesus and Paul in a room to debate righteousness by faith?


    4. Read Luke 10:29. The law expert gave Jesus the correct answer. What does the Bible mean when it says "he wanted to justify himself?" (We all want to justify our actions - which means that we all are looking for a way not to really have to love our neighbor as our self!)


    5. Read Luke 10:30-37. Does this answer help you to justify yourself? (Hardly! This tells us to use our time and money to care for the physical, financial and security needs of a foolish person of another race - even an arrogant race!)


      1. Can you think of a broader definition of "my neighbor?"


    6. Let's take a moment to review here. The question was: "How do I go to heaven?" Jesus' answer is the Samaritan story followed by the instruction to "Go and do likewise." Have we just driven a stake through the heart of righteousness by faith?


      1. If you are a "righteousness of works" person, have we just driven a stake through the heart of your hope to go to heaven because (I'm just guessing here) your puny works don't begin to compare to those of the Samaritan?


    7. Let's bring Paul back into the discussion. Read again Romans 3:19-20. Is the Good Samaritan a mythical person? An unattainable goal? (Yes.)


      1. Do you think that this was Jesus' point? (Imagine the reaction of the law expert if Jesus had directly answered him: "Go to heaven? Believe in Me!" The law expert said "obeying the law is the key to heaven." Jesus replied, "Let me show you what obeying the law means." We know the law expert did not come close to meeting this standard because (like us) "he wanted to justify himself" by looking for a very narrow definition of his "neighbor." He did not get a narrow definition. Jesus showed him the only possible path to heaven was to accept the righteousness of Jesus on his behalf.)


    8. Now let's get back to the problem of our Sodom and Gomorrah friends in Judah. Can you explain why God didn't want their sacrifices or worship while they were oppressing, not helping, the powerless? (Isaiah's audience did not understand they were Sodom and Gomorrah people. Righteousness by faith only works when we rely on it. As long as we think we are good enough, we are relying on our works to be saved. Our works are never good enough. If you doubt that, consider carefully whether you love your neighbor as God loved you. God died for you.)


      1. Gomorrah man (woman), how do you treat the poor and powerless?


    9. Re-read Isaiah 1:18-20. What is Isaiah's message to us about garments? (If you think about it (reason), you will see that your sins can go from red to white in only one way - washing.)


      1. What do the words "willing," "resist" and "rebel" have to do with this one way to salvation? (These are attitudes.)


        1. Does that mean we believe in righteousness by attitude? Our attitude saves us or causes us to be lost?


        2. What about the idea that we can do nothing to merit salvation? Is there a footnote that says our attitude is an exception?


    10. Read Isaiah 1:21-23. What does God mean when He calls a "faithful city" a "harlot?" (The people have turned away from God. They are unfaithful to Him. They are unfaithful to His principles. They are not reflecting His love because they do not treat orphans fairly. Indeed, they refuse to even consider the cases of the widow.)


      1. Is this an attitude problem? (Yes!)


    11. When we speak of "faith," do we really mean "attitude?" (I think so. Faith is not mere words (James 2.) Faith is an attitude. It is an attitude that God loves us so much that He gave up heaven and died painfully for us. Thus we must love Him and our "neighbor" for whom He also died. We know we cannot meet God's "Samaritan" standard. So we accept Jesus' righteousness by faith and in gratitude seek to follow the Samaritan standard.)


  3. The Garment of Splendor


    1. Read Isaiah 61:1-3. Who are the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and the prisoners? (This is not just people who do not have money. This means people who are poor because life is going badly and they do not have the gospel.)


    2. Isaiah 61:10-11. Has the good news of the gospel been updated from Isaiah's time? (Our salvation comes from God alone. He gives us the "garment of salvation" the "robe of righteousness." He gives it to those who realize what the law requires of them, realize their inadequacy to keep the law, and have the attitude of love to the "poor" (of every kind) around them. This attitude flows from the delight and joy of our undeserved salvation. It triggers the gift of love to those around us.)


    3. Friend, has your heart been broken yet? Have you realized that the law holds before you the Samaritan standard for those in need, but that you have woefully failed to meet that standard because you are constantly trying to justify yourself? Why not, right now, admit you can never meet the standard on your own? Admit that you need the gift of the garment of grace and righteousness. Why not let God break your heart and open to you a path of joy, delight and love for those who are poor?


  4. Next week: A Brand Plucked From the Fire.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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