Anyone who has ever gone camping, cooked on an open fire or just been around a pile of burning debris knows how invariably, the smoke is going to hit you in the face sooner or later. And, you already know just how it will burn and irritate your eyes and throat, and maybe even cause you to have a fit of coughing. The prophet Isaiah, wrote of some within the nation of Israel who were as smoke in God’s face. He said, “…These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day” (Isa. 65:5). In other words, there were attitudes and actions that these people were guilty of that were irritating to God, as smoke in the nose. It is true that God is love (I John 4:8) and God is longsuffering (II Pet. 3:9), but He can still be angered and “…it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). It would seem that it would be wise to take a look and see just what kind of things these people were guilty of which were considered smoke in God’s face, lest we unknowingly find ourselves guilty of the same offensiveness. From the first seven verses of Isaiah chapter sixty-five, let us note just three of several of these attitudes and actions.
First, we note that they were guilty of walking after their own thoughts (Isa. 65:2). In a land and time in which multitudes are being encouraged to just be sincere and true to their heart, we need to realize that though sincerity is required, what we think or believe is not the standard of right and wrong and thus the stamp of God’s approval upon our actions. Just a few chapters prior, Isaiah had said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). It was Solomon who wrote, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Secondly, we see from verse three that their worship was not acceptable to God. They are said to be offering sacrifices and burning incense, but rather than being pleasing to God, it was smoke in His nose. It may be that they were offering this worship to an idol, such as Baal or the calves that Jeroboam has made. Few today would bow down to such idols. However, we can make idols out of all kinds of things. That which one serves is their god. Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16). Thus anything we place ahead of God has become an idol to us. Recall that Paul warned against “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). But, there is another very clear illustration in this verse of something that really displeases God. It is attempts to worship Him, but contrary to the way He has commanded. The fact was, they were offering worship to God, but God was not pleased with it. Jesus said that one must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). In other words, it must be from the heart, but it must also be just what God commanded. The first example of worship that was not pleasing to God is found in Genesis 4:3-7. Cain offered of the fruit of the ground and the text says, “But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect” (Gen. 4:5). Cain did not do what God had said to do. How do we know that? God told Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:7). Cain had sinned and sin is the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4). How serious is trying to worship God our way? Well, when Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron burned incense using strange fire, “…there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
The third puff of smoke in the face of God was that they had defiled themselves with that which was unclean (Isa. 65:4). Israel was to keep herself separated from all that was deemed by God to be unclean, yet they indulged anyway. This was like smoke in God’s face. When one becomes a child of God, he has become clean and pure (John 15:3; I Pet. 1:22). It is required of us then to do all that we can to remain clean and pure. James tells us that “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Paul said concerning those things not of God’s way, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6:17). John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (I John 2:15). James wrote, “…know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
As we close this brief article, we warn all, please do not blow smoke in the face of God. The end result can be eternal destruction. Note that in Isaiah 65:6-7, God would recompense, they would receive what they deserved for their actions. “…Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:30-31).
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]