We like to think about God as a loving God. And he is. 1 John says it twice: “God is love” (4:8, 16). 2 Corinthians 13:11 calls God “the God of love.” The testimony of Scripture is clear that God is a God of love.
But it may come as a surprise to some Christians that the God of love… hates. But isn’t hatred a sin? Not when it is directed at sin.
Isaiah 1:10-31 speaks against religious hypocrisy. The Israelites were experts at external ritual, but were rotten inside. They did all the religious festivals and holidays and gave all the right sacrifices, but because of their sinful hearts, it all meant nothing to God.
In fact, God said, “My soul hates” these hollow religious rituals (1:14). Those are strong words from the almighty God of love!
This is not the only place God speaks of hatred for religious hypocrisy. Amos 5:21-27 shares a number of thematic and lexical links with Isaiah 1. It’s worth quoting in full (Scripture in ESV):
Amos 5:21-27 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
25 “Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 26 You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god–your images that you made for yourselves, 27 and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.
Notice how many ties this passage has with Isaiah 1. God also says he “hates” the religious assemblies of the Israelites. He mentions their burnt offerings and fattened animals in both texts. He says in Amos that he will not look upon the sacrifices or listen to the worship songs of his people. In Isaiah, he also speaks of stopping up his sight and hearing, this time in relation to the prayers of Israel. Both prophets speak of justice and righteousness. Both prophets speak of exile as the ultimate judgment for such sin. It might help to know that Amos was a prophet who spoke to northern Israel, a contemporary of Isaiah, who spoke to southern Israel/Judah.
What does God hate? Religious hypocrites. Let the words of these prophets penetrate your heart as you consider the offering you bring to God.