Isaiah 65 – In Which the People of Israel Front a Lot

Isaiah 65 Bible with Green and Blacks Organic Mint Dark Chocolate (60% Cacao)

Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic Mint Dark Chocolate, 60% Cacao

Today’s PassageIsaiah 65

Wine Watch: v.8, “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,’ so I will act on behalf of My servants in order not to destroy all of them.”

I can’t read the opening verses of this chapter without thinking of the MC Frontalot track “Indier Than Thou,” which precedes each of its verses with spoken lines quoted from Isaiah 65. “I have spread out My hands all the day unto a rebellious people,” intones a booming voice, “who say, ‘Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou!’” (2, 5). God is disgusted by his people’s hypocrisy, as they claim holiness as a sign of social status while ignoring both God and his law. In his song, Frontalot humorously casts himself as a religious devotee of “indieness” in the mode of the Israelites, seeking to garner indie cred through a mixture of obscurity and ignominy. As he puts it: “Should I ever garner triple-digit fans, you can tell me then there’s someone I ain’t indier than” ([*]).

But it’s not Israel’s avoidance of mainstream popularity or embrace of weird nerdcore rap that disgusts God. It’s their insincerity. Even as they play ranking games of who’s holier than whom, God cites their violations of his own standard of holiness, the Torah: “[They] sit among graves and spend the night in secret places; [they] eat swine’s flesh…[T]hey have burned incense on the mountains and scorned Me on the hills” (4, 7). In the Torah, dead bodies are a source of contamination, and contact with one requires ritual purification (Numbers 19:11). Moreover, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s commentary posits that these secret visits to graves are for purposes of necromancy, an activity also forbidden. Eating pork is clearly banned as part of observing kosher, and that incense the people are offering on the mountaintops? They’re going up to the mountain shrines in the pagan tradition of sacrificing to deities in high places, as close to heaven as they can get, in the vein of the Tower of Babel: the people of Israel are practicing idolatry!

And in all this, they still have the audacity to say, “Hey, you, know your place–I’m the holier one here, you stay over there with the second-tiers!” They’re flagrantly breaking the law, but they’re still proud as hell of their moral superiority in their own eyes. And it turns God’s stomach. He says, “These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day” (5). Ever choke on smoke? When I mix up a batch of dry rub and prep my fajita steak with too much of it, it starts burning in the pan. When the smoke hits my nose, it’s like a kick in the face. And Israel’s offerings are that acrid burning ash-gas in God’s metaphorical sinuses, bitter and malodorous from the spicy fajita-seasoning contaminants of idolatry and necromancy and dietary disobedience.

They don’t care about God and his call for their lives; they only care about getting to feel good about themselves and feeling better than other people. Yes, God instituted the notion of “holiness,” but he’s grown sick of what his people made it into.

God himself is ambivalent about religion.


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