“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them…So when you spread out your hands in prayer,I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen.” (Isaiah 1:11)
During my counseling days I did a great deal of marital counseling with Christian couples. In the beginning of the counseling process each person would tell in great detail what they thought was wrong with the marriage. After a few minutes of listening to their complaints, you could tell they thought if their mate could change their behavior then the marriage problems would be solved.
Bad behavior and wrong attitudes need to be addressed, but if there is going to be lasting resolution the root cause of the bad behavior had to be dealt with first. That’s because wrong behavior and attitudes are usually connected to a belief system that is part of a much deeper problem.
For example, if someone is angry all the time and they suddenly change their behavior of anger outburst, it’s not going to bring long lasting change. While they are controlling outbursts of anger by self-discipline, inside there is a volcano of anger waiting to erupt. Without first discovering and dealing with why they are always angry, the greater anger building up inside is just waiting to explode.
Couples were often surprised that I seemingly ignored the wrong behavior and started addressing their individual spiritual relationship with God instead. I encouraged them to trust me that their problem was really a symptom and until they dealt with the core spiritual issue there would never be lasting resolution.
After several sessions, they began to see that the root problem of their marriage was not the behavior but a lack of intimacy and meaningful fellowship with God. When there is a lack of ongoing transparency, humility and deep repentance with God, there will be behavior issues that will cause self-centeredness, selfishness, self-destruction, and a general overall dissatisfaction with life.
As followers of Christ, when we are out of fellowship with God then our behavior is most often driven by our flesh. But when we start focusing on building our intimacy with God, repentance of our wrong behavior will soon follow. More often than not, the quality of your relationship with your spouse, friends or family is directly related to the quality and depth of the relationship you have with the Lord.
That’s the message that Isaiah is conveying from God to the tribe of Judah. God is telling his people, I am not interested in all your sacrifices, prayers and songs of praise until you show true repentance by start doing what is right. A right relationship with God always yields repentance from sinful behavior, attitudes and habits.
When you became a follower of Jesus, you became someone your have never been before, a child of God. By a divine act of the Holy Spirit you were born into the family of God. You have a new nature, you are now in Christ. This nature is driven and directed by the Holy Spirit. We no longer have to “do life” on our own.
Because we have this new nature that is to be directed and driven by the Holy Spirit, all that we are, all that we do, and all that we aspire to be should spring forth from our fellowship with the Father. The quality of our relationships is directly proportionate to the quality of our regular fellowship with God.
When I was a kid there was a well known Bible teacher named Dr. J. Vernon McGee that had a daily radio teaching broadcast. My mom would listen to him every day. He would often quote Matthew 12:34. “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” He would usually follow that quote with his own practical translation of the verse. It went something like this; “Out of the well of the heart the bucket of the mouth spills forth.“
What comes out of your mouth is a reflection of what is in your heart. Are you living out of your identity “in Christ”, or are you living out of “being led by the flesh”? The bucket of your mouth will surely reveal which one.