10 Hear the word of Jehovah, you leaders of Sodom; give heed to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
To call Jehovah’s people and their leaders by the names Sodom and Gomorrah is to compare their moral degeneracy to that of those cities’ ancient inhabitants. As the leaders of a people generally reflect the people themselves, and as the political and ecclesiastical leaders of Jehovah’s people parallel each other in the Book of Isaiah, their spiritual condition holds little hope for the rising generation. When things reach that point, Jehovah’s people are fortunate indeed if Jehovah offers them a last warning. For those who accept it, there may yet be a chance of deliverance; otherwise, their destruction is assured.
Hear the word of Jehovah . . . give heed to the law of our God. Knowing that Jehovah does nothing unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7), he sends a warning voice before destroying his people. In the Book of Isaiah, that warning voice is Jehovah’s servant, of whom Isaiah is a type. Pointing them to Jehovah’s “law” and “word—to the terms of his covenant—the servant directs them to the one thing that has the power to reverse their circumstances. Replacing current aberrant religious practices with keeping Jehovah’s law and word remains his people’s only hope.
11 For what purposes are your abundant sacrifices to me? says Jehovah. I have had my fill of offerings of rams and fat of fatted beasts; the blood of bulls and sheep and he-goats I do not want.
While the worship of Jehovah goes on as if nothing has changed, its rituals have become a substitute for spirituality. As when Samuel rebukes Saul: “Does Jehovah delight in burnt sacrifices and offerings as much as in heeding the voice of Jehovah? Listen up! To obey is better than sacrifice and to comply than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). The purpose of temple worship—and the measure of one’s devotion to God—isn’t to multiply ordinances. It is to keep the terms of his covenant that assures Jehovah’s people the same privileges enjoyed by ancestors who walked and talked with him.
Offerings of rams and fat of fatted beasts; the blood of bulls and sheep and he-goats. The literalness of the animals—reflecting their ancient use as temple sacrifices—may seem to preclude their relevance to the end-time. Isaiah, however, uses ritually clean beasts as a metaphor of Jehovah’s people (Isaiah 34:1–7; 40:11; 53:7; 60:3–9). In other words, just as sacrificial animals anciently served as proxies for Jehovah’s people who transgressed—thereby forestalling God’s justice—so their end-time relevance applies to the temple-goers themselves: their proxy rituals are no longer acceptable.
12 When you come to see me, who requires you to trample my courts so?
The question asked at the beginning of verse 11 is answered at the beginning of verse 12: Jehovah’s people attend the temple to see Jehovah. If they aren’t there for that purpose, then all else doesn’t count for much. That reveals an appalling paradox: instead of going to see Jehovah, his people resemble the dumb animals that were anciently brought for sacrifice, which were unaware of their reason for being there. Instead of making an offering of their whole souls to God—as symbolized by the burnt offerings and shedding of the animals’ blood—his people trudge about the temple’s courts defiling it.