During the time of Isaiah, the people of Judah thought about God. They offered sacrifices of bulls, lambs, and goats. They recognized the sabbaths and celebrated their feasts. Yes, they even lifted up their hands to God in prayer. Yet, God did not recognize them (Isaiah 1:11-15). But weren’t these good things they were engaged in? How could God not acknowledge the good?
The first article in this series (Wash Yourselves: Cease to Do Evil) examined how the people needed to cease to do evil. The presence of evil – disobedience to God no matter how small or great – is what separates man and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). God needs things done according to the truth He has commanded. He also needs them done according to the Spirit He has commanded. Many believe walking after God in Obedience was an Old Testament phenomena and serving him with the heart is a New Testament Phenomena. However, God never separated two.
1 Samuel 12:24 – Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
1 Kings 2:4 – That the LORD may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul…
Joshua 24:14 – Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth…
John 4:24 – God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The people of Judah may have been performing physical actions based on Truth at times, but they certainly faltered when it came to engaging in actions of spiritual truth. That is worshipping with love in their hearts for God so that they might glorify him. Consequently, their actions were considered evil and God wanted no part in them. They needed to learn to do good.
Doing good is positively something man must learn. When a man is born, he neither does good nor bad. He is an innocent being with no control over his thoughts or actions (Genesis 1:26, Ecclesiastes 7:29, Colossians 3:10). As an individual grows he will begin to act, often without thinking through his or her actions. He may do physical actions which are good or evil, but they are done in ignorance. The actions done against God’s will are still evil and the person’s first encounter with sin (Ezekiel 28:15). They will soon grow to a point of accountability in which they know what is good and evil and they will have control over their actions. One might ask, “Can sin be committed ignorantly?” Certainly! (Ezekiel 45:20, Acts 3:17) The next question may be: “Can a person do something they believe in their heart is good, but in actuality be doing evil?” Again, the answer is: Certainly! (Leviticus 10:1-2, 2 Samuel 6:6-7, Acts 7:46-51) To continually do good, man must be able to grow past his ignorance and beyond his own reasoning (Ecclesiastes 6:12).
Good is doing exactly what God has commanded. This is an understanding always given to people who would follow God.
Deuteronomy 5:32 – Ye shall observe to do therefore as Jehovah your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
Joshua 1:7 – Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
2 Kings 22:2 – And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
Galatians 1:8 – But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Revelation 22:18-19 – For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Man must conform himself to what God desires, rather than what he desires for himself (Romans 12:2). This is easy to say, but application of it to one’s life is not. This is readily seen across the Christian world. The Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 seems to be a good example of many modern churches. They were praised by Jesus as he noted they reproved folks who did evil. They were patient and endured in laboring for God. Unfortunately, it was said they left their first love. Initially, it seems as if these folks were like the children of Judah. They were not serving from their heart, but simply engaging in actions. However, the issue seems to be deeper than this as they were exhorted to return to their first works. Is it possible that they had begun to add to their service items which God had not commanded? That perhaps they were turning aside to the left and right from the authorized direction of God? Consider those who have added instrumentation to their singing, moving to the left and right of what God has commanded (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). How about those who practice spreading the gospel through drama and activities, adding to preaching, which God has singly authorized (I Corinthians 1:21)? How many churches are there that think they are a form of soup kitchen arranging food discounts or preparing meals for the public? This was never commanded by God. These same groups have often chosen to fill pews with bottoms that do nothing, rather than engaging the public with the gospel. These things are not good. These people have not learned good. They have not conformed to God, but to the world.
The purpose of man in this world is to do good works ordained by God (Ephesians 2:10). What is this good that is spoken about? Isaiah mentions four items in Isaiah 1:16-17: Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Add to these numerous other commands including preaching the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15), encouraging the fainthearted, supporting the weak (I Thessalonians 5:14), providing for one’s family (I Timothy 5:8), comforting one another (I Thessalonians 4:18), thinking on things above (Colossians 3:2), strengthening the family (Colossians 3:18-21), and working always as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-25). There are an endless number of good things that man can do in this life. Ultimately, he is to live at peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14). This can be accomplished by being a good neighbor (I Corinthians 10:24) and leading by example (I Peter 3:1). Christians often wonder what they can do to serve God. The list of good a man can do is endless: Write a letter, open a door, say a kind word, care for a child, read a book to a senior, lend a hand to a project, make a meal, visit, sit and talk, give a ride, listen, hold a hand… and on and on the activities could be engaged in. The simple truth is this: many people do not want learn to do or engage in doing good. The nine out of ten lepers did not return to thank Jesus for their health (Luke 17:12-15). Jews feared men of the synagogue more than they desired to do good (John 12:42). The men Stephen tried to share the gospel with turned and stoned him (Acts 7). Felix wanted money to do good rather than to do it because it was the desire of God (Acts 24:25-26). The opportunity to do good is everywhere, but many do not seek it.
God has given direction for good in every area of life (2 Peter 3:2-3), but how is it man is supposed to learn it? How again are the commands of God to be spread from one man to another? Preaching! Man can learn to do good by preaching!
Mark 6:12 – And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
Mark 16:20 – And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Luke 4:44 – And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
Acts 8:5 – Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Galatians 3:8 – And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
Man can learn to do good by study!
2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Ephesians 3:4 – Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Act 17:11 – These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Man can learn to do good by the example of those who do good! Walk in their footsteps as they walk in the footsteps of men who follow God!
Titus 2:7 – In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
John 13:15 – For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
1 Peter 2:12 – Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Man can learn to do good. He can do it through the preaching of men, study, and good examples. When the world of the scriptures is unfolded before an open mind and heart, great good can be done. God’s purpose can be displayed in that individual and all with whom he comes into contact (Titus 3:8).
When man determines not to seek good, he shames himself in the eyes of God. He has become a creation that never achieved its potential. One of the sad results of this is the emptiness the cross represents to those who do not engage in good. Jesus left the glory of heaven, humbling himself into a fleshly form, serving mankind, being mistreated by mankind, being spat upon and crucified by mankind and for what if they do not fulfill their purpose?
Titus 2:14 – [Jesus] Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Isaiah preached of the Messiah, though he did not see His coming or know God’s plan in its fullness. He called Judah to change their lives, to learn to do good. Through His Word, Jesus calls us today to not make His death in vain. Isaiah warned the people that there would be punishment for those who did change. If they did not learn to do good works, there would be unpleasant consequences. This message of God has not changed.
Matthew 3:10 – Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Isaiah’s exhortation to “learn to good” was followed by the direction to “Seek Justice”. This will be the next article in this series of “Wash Yourselves”. Before then, as a final thought, embrace the following:
Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: