“Stop bringing meaningless offerings!…Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” Isaiah 1:13a, 16b-17a
The man had on a yellow suit. The deep, Darth Vader-like sounds of his breathing scared me, even more so than the mask covering his whole face. Every year, this man attended our school, and my teacher said he was a good guy. He gave stickers out that took off the varnish of my dresser when I removed them later in life.
We learned to stop, drop and roll every year as the firefighters of our little town taught us.
More than fifteen years later, and I heard the sounds of the oxygen pushing into the firefighter’s mask as I read Isaiah 1:13. God, the ultimate firefighter, expounded the lesson. He tried to rescue the Israelite’s lives by repeating “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” He says,
“…wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. ‘ Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:16-20).
We fumble, we argue, we flee, we rationalize. But no matter how logical our line of thinking, God makes it clear what we are to do when things get hot.
Isaiah 1:13a says, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” Okay, gut check! If you didn’t catch it the first time, allow me to bring to a forte what I believe God is asking. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” (emphasis mine). Not put your sin on hold, or wait until it’s convenient, or blame your disobedience on circumstances, or postpone what He’s asking. Stop. Now.
God knows it takes me a few times to really pick up what he’s asking of me. The firefighters came back yearly so the children learned the lesson. After reading verse 13, I continued to lazily read through Isaiah 1, when I saw it again in verse 16b-17a. “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” Exclamation point! I get it! I do appreciate he gives me direction on what to do to fill the void. He tells me to stop doing something bad. It’s hard to take away something without putting something else in its place, good or bad replacements. This is a time to choose a good thing. How do I choose a good thing to fill up what I stopped? God then tells me to learn. There’s no better way to learn than to daily be in his word. It’s great to stop doing wrong, but if you don’t learn to do right, you’ll be the dog who returns to his vomit. (See Proverbs 26:11.)
I don’t want to be a fool, someone who returns to a disgusting habit. Some things are easier to stop than others. God calls us to be “willing and obedient” (Isaiah 1:19). So I have to have some proper motivation on my part to stop. And God forgives me. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” That’s God’s end of the deal. We can’t clean up on our own. We have to take on the duty to stop and learn. Be “willing and obedient.” Stop. Learn.
Stop, drop, and roll. Stop. No caveats. Drop it. And then roll into God’s grace. Reason with him about what you’ve done, get over it, and move on. Not easy, but mandatory. Maybe the prescribed way to put out a physical fire is the best prescribed way to put out an eternal fire. Stop, drop, and roll.