Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil. Isa 1:16 NKJV
Let’s look at the history and context of this verse.
Isaiah is one of the major prophets in the Bible. His name means “Salvation is of the Lord”. In Isaiah’s day, Egypt, Assyria and Babylon surrounded the tiny country of Israel, much like today, Israel is surrounded by Egypt, Iran, and Syria. In his day Israel was in the center of wars between those nations. Again, much like it is today.
By the time Isaiah came into Israel’s history, the Israelites had been in the promised land for almost 700 years. At first, they were one nation, but because of their pride, they wanted kings like the other nations instead of making God their king. Thus, the nation of Israel, because kings were not after God’s heart, the nation was split. To the North, the nation of Israel remained and to the south, the nation of Judah was formed. This happened around 720 BC. The nation of Judah remained loyal to the God of Israel, Yahweh.
In Isaiah 1:1, the prophet Isaiah receives a vision. In verses 2-4, the text tells of God’s complaint against the nation of Judah. In verses 5-9, the text speaks of the desperate condition of Judah. In verses 10-15, we are told how God hates meaningless religious ceremonies. And that leads us to verse 16 that gives us a remedy to the first 15 verses.
God wants us to repent from our sins, but isn’t that what we should do in our daily lives and not just toward God but toward our fellow man? We should cease to do evil. Whether in our homes, our workplaces, community or our nation. Taking stock of who we are and shining a bright light on our frailties as humans is difficult. It’s terribly difficult. We don’t want to do it. We don’t want to see how far we’ve come from that child-like innocence to corrupted adult.
Turning away from sin—whatever that sin may be—is hard. It can’t be done on our own. We need the Lord to help us to do that. And we will struggle with it for the rest of our lives but turning to Him is the only answer. He loves us. He loves you. All you have to do is ask. God sees it all, anyway.