V. 10. Hear the Word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom, for as such Jehovah addresses the princes of Jerusalem; give ear unto the Law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah, whose conduct was characterized by pride, the lust of the flesh, and lack of mercy. The thought underlying this turn of the prophet's solemn appeal is this, that the Jews might have desired to object to his rebuke by pointing to the apparent splendor of the Temple-worship.
V. 11. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord, for the people were still observing the letter of the Law with great exactness, depending upon this outward fulfillment of God's command as sufficient to gain and retain His good will toward them. I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, He is surfeited with their dead worship, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats, such sacrifices indeed having been commanded by the Lord, but not in a lifeless, mechanical form of worship, for such hypocritical conduct is ever an abomination to the Lord.
V. 12. When ye come to appear before Me, namely, in person, to attend any of the festivals of the Jewish Church, who hath required this at your hand to tread My courts? The presence of a person's body in the place of worship, without worship in spirit and in truth, is of no value, for all hypocrites and Christians in name only trample the Lord's courts and waste the Church's property without benefit to themselves.
V. 13. Bring no more vain oblations, offerings of vanity and lying, the reference being to such as were made of flour, principally in the form of fried and boiled cakes; Incense is an abomination unto Me, namely, if brought by a mere mechanical act; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, as it was solemnly done at the direction of the priests and rulers, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting, rather, "I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly," namely, as practiced by these people.
V. 14. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth, they are a matter of loathing to Him on account of the total lack of spirituality in the people; they are a trouble, a grievous burden, unto Me; I am weary to bear them, He must soon shake them off and reward the hypocrites according to their deserts.
V. 15. And when ye spread forth your hands, in a gesture which is a caricature of true prayer, I will hide Mine eyes from you, His eyes, as it were, finding themselves unable to look upon such hypocrisy; yea, when ye make many prayers, in the foolish belief that mere lip-service is sufficient before Him, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood, for the people of Jerusalem and Judah were guilty of violence and injustice before God, by which they had become murderers in His eyes. Those who do not serve the Lord in spirit and in truth also lose all true love and mercy over against their neighbor, and therefore the sighing of the afflicted becomes an obstruction between them and the Lord and hinders the effect of their prayers.
V. 16. Wash you, in a true and thorough cleansing of the heart, make you clean, namely, from the polluting effect of their wicked behavior; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, so that it will no longer be within the range of His vision, these three admonitions being the negative demands made by the Lord; cease to do evil, withdrawing from its influence, overcoming it by a steady wrestling against its influence;
V. 17. learn to do well, not the mere knowing, but the doing being emphasized; seek judgment, doing that which is right in the eyes of God, relieve the oppressed, aiding them in obtaining justice, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow; for orphans and widows, those deprived of their natural protectors, are in the ward of God, tinder His protection, in a special sense. Thus the Lord demands repentance, a change of life. From this it does not follow that man, by his own reason and strength, is able to change his heart and mind in the sight of God, but the Lord's admonitions are a powerful factor in bringing about such a change. The Lord now pictures the situation as it obtains.
V. 18. Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord, the case being brought to trial before His tribunal, the children of Israel standing before Him as condemned culprits. Though your sins be as scarlet, blood-red with guilt, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, the color apparently fast and fixed beyond the possibility of fading, they shall be as wool. Such is the remarkable sentence of the Lord. His people, though laden with guilt, are not condemned to everlasting damnation, but God gives and imputes to them perfect righteousness. Here the meaning of justification becomes clear, for God declares the ungodly, the guilty, to be innocent, clean, holy, and righteous in His sight. Cp. Rom. 4, 5. And this righteousness is obtained and transmitted through the redemption gained by the blood of Christ. The sentence of God is passed regardless of the attitude of man; it is spoken for His own sake, by virtue of the perfect righteousness and the complete atonement of Jesus Christ. But the sentence of God is now proclaimed to sinners in order that they may accept and believe His offer of grace and salvation. V. 19. If ye be willing and obedient, hearing and believing His joyous verdict concerning the forgiveness of sins, ye shall eat the good of the land, become partakers of salvation, of eternal life; v. 20. but if ye refuse and rebel, despising and rejecting the grace of God obtained by the vicarious suffering of Christ, ye shall be devoured with the sword, become victims of eternal destruction; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. "He that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16, 16.
- from Paul Kretzmann, 'Popular Commentary of the Bible'