Mocking God (verses 1-7)
Did the people think that they could deceive God with their ‘religious’ services? He was well aware of what was going on! Sin is not something that we can safely dabble in; it is habit-forming, and it takes us prisoner by erecting barriers of guilt and shame. “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) A point can be reached at which the heart becomes so hardened that repentance is impossible (verse 4).
What is the solution? The Israelites fondly believed that they could return to God simply by making a few more sacrifices – only to find that He was ‘not at home’. They had left it too late. All their sacrifices were pointless; the resources that they poured into their religious observances were totally wasted.
Warning signs (verses 8-12)
Now God’s judgement is announced – and it is to be proclaimed in the border region (Gibeah, Ramah and Bethel), so that Judah can also hear it. For Judah’s ruling class were also being corrupted; they were already pushing the moral boundaries to see what they could get away with (verse 10). And already God was beginning to punish them: slowly but surely, the fabric of their society was disintegrating.