Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson.
1. Have you ever promised God you would stop doing a particular sin only to find yourself doing it again?
2. If you’ve ever found yourself in this vicious cycle, what did you do to try to escape it?
Read Isaiah 1:10-14
1. Right out of the gate, Isaiah charged the people of God with being a rebellious nation. Why do you think he compared the people to Sodom and Gomorrah, the most detestable cities of the ancient world who were destroyed in a day by fire and brimstone for their complete lack of righteousness? In verse 10, discuss what the prophet gave as the solution to their problem.
2. Empty promises and sacrifices are just that: empty. There is nothing behind them of substance or sincerity. The people were required to make sacrifices for their sin; the cost was the blood of animals. The “Oops, sorry, God!” method of confession clearly didn’t work because God took notice and harshly rebuked them through Isaiah. Talk about what the text describes as “meaningless offerings” and “worthless assemblies” and why God hates them so much.
Read Isaiah 1:15-17
3. What are the costs of disobedience and empty worship? List them. Discuss what it takes to turn away from this pattern.
4. While Isaiah wrote long ago about his vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem, there are many applications we can glean today. How much does selfishness come into play in continuing sin cycles? Read verse 17 and talk about how helping other people less fortunate and in worse situations helps you.
Read Isaiah 1:18-20
5. Confession is simply agreeing with God and admitting that you’re guilty. God’s people had this part down pat. But as soon as they walked away from worship, there was no godly repentance, no turning away from sin or change whatsoever. What is the fate of all those who rebel? Do you think they will they literally die by a sword? Discuss what you think this means for believers today. (Consider that Ephesians 6:17 says the sword of the Spirit is the word of God.)
6. Are there places in your life right now where you are resisting God? Discuss what makes it so hard to be willing and obedient and what excuses people make to justify rebelling and resisting.
7. The key to ending our repeated cycles of sin comes in the refreshing words of Paul in Romans 12:1, 2. Spend some time here and craft a plan of attack to combat sin for your upcoming week.
Conclude your group time with prayer, using the following as a guide.
Lord, convict us of empty promises, confession, and worship. Let us heartily worship you in praise and right living as we turn away from our sin. Amen.
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