This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel . . . “I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator and King. I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.
“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. . . .
“But, dear family of Jacob, you refuse to ask for my help. You have grown tired of me, O Israel! You have not brought me sheep or goats for burnt offerings. You have not honored me with sacrifices, though I have not burdened and wearied you with requests for grain offerings and frankincense. You have not brought me fragrant calamus or pleased me with the fat from sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your faults.” (Isaiah 43:14-19, 22-24)
Back in Moses’ day, God led his people out of slavery in Egypt. Over a thousand years later, the divided nation of Israel had broken the covenant with God and would now face the consequences of their behavior. Afterward, they would cry to God, and again he would hear and deliver them. A new exodus would take place through a new desert. The past miracles they experienced in the wilderness were nothing compared to what God would do for his people in the future.
Through Isaiah, God also reminded his people of the half-heartedness of their worship. They had the right sacrifices, but were not fully devoted to him. Calamus (43:24) may have been an ingredient in the incense used in worship. A sacrifice required both giving up a valuable animal and pleading with God for forgiveness. The people of Israel, however, did not seek forgiveness. God wanted them to seek him anew—to desire to be forgiven and cleansed.
God wants us to come before him, sorry for what we’ve done wrong, and willing to be made right. What, if anything, do you need to confess to the Lord? Talk to him, then accept his forgiveness and grace.