Isaiah 65:1–9—Chapters 63 and 64 record pleas from Isaiah on behalf of the faithful that God would be merciful to them. The last two chapters of Isaiah, 65 and 66, are the Lord’s reply. First, He repeats the treats of judgment on those who do not seek Him (vv. 1–7). However, there are also those who have not forsaken Him. To these, He promises that He will not destroy them, but will give them the inheritance, which He had promised to His people. They who are faithful are His chosen ones, and shall reap the benefits of His mercy.
“I have spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts” (v. 2). They admitted their rebellion (63:10), but complained, that Yahweh “turned to be their enemy, and he himself fought against them” (63:10). The LORD responds that he has not been their enemy, but has held out his hands to them (a gesture of invitation), even though they were rebellious—even though they were not walking in a good way—even though they were following their own devices instead of obeying him.
While this verse doesn’t examine motives, it is easy enough to imagine what happened. To people caught up in rebellion, an invitation to return home can seem dull and unappealing. Bright lights beckon. Temptations promise roller-coaster thrills. The tempter whispers that unimaginable wonders lie just around the corner. We assume that the way home will always be open, but in our search for new adventures continue to distance ourselves further and further from the one who could save us.
“a people who provoke me to my face continually” (v. 3a)—the people provoke Yahweh deliberately—openly—wantonly.
“sacrificing in gardens” (v. 3b). This probably alludes to a fertility ritual (Tucker, Preaching, 309) or a nature cult (Muilenburg, 747).
“and burning incense on bricks” (v. 3c). This probably alludes to offering incense in worship of a pagan god.
“who sit among the graves, and lodge in the secret places” (v. 4a)—consulting the dead or spending the night in secret rituals.
“who eat pig’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels” (v. 4b). This could be a feast dedicated to a pagan god.
The Torah prohibits eating the flesh of swine as well as a number of other animals (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:4). “Abominable things” could be any animals prohibited by Jewish law.
“who say, ‘Stand by yourself, don’t come near me, for I am holier than you'” (v. 5a). These people who have been provoking the LORD, engaging in pagan rites, and consuming forbidden meats nevertheless adopt a “holier than thou” stance in their relationship to other people. They separate themselves from other people, lest their holiness be contaminated by other people’s sins.
This sounds very much like the scribes and Pharisees of the New Testament, with one exception. The scribes and Pharisees didn’t engage in pagan rites or consuming forbidden meats. Their sin was focusing almost totally on cultic observance at the expense of “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).
“These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day” (v. 5b). Smoke in the nostrils is probably a metaphor for anger. If so, this verse speaks of the LORD’s continual anger over the sins of his people.
‘Where is the Gospel?’ you ask? You Savior took all of this rebellion, reprobate living and sin to himself. He absorbed your sin as his own while living the perfect sinless life for you. Your mutiny and sin - His. His perfection and faithfulness – yours. And in that exchange you are now forgiven and free.
Collect for Proper 7: O God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things as surpass our understand. Cast out all sins and evil desires from us, and pour into our hearts Your Holy Spirit to guide us into all blessedness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
O God, whose never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth, put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things that are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 Luther’s Seal, copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
 Collect for Wednesday Pentecost 2, For All the Saints, A Prayer Book For and By the Church, © 1995 The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Delhi, NY