"'Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a city under siege. Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have been like Gomorrah.'" NIV translation
Now, God's words describe the effects on the nation that are the result of their abandonment. God still gives them some encouragement as he reminds them that He left them some survivors (unlike the city of Gomorrah). This is referring to the destruction of the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah as described in Genesis 19 where they were totally destroyed.
This same comparison can be used for many nations today as we have turned away from being led by God to our own ways. Sodom & Gomorrah had become a haven for all sorts of detestable sexual sins before their destruction. The parallel with our society today is scary and one can only wonder how long God will delay His judgment.
"Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!" NIV translation
Now that the people have been told about the effects of their idolatry, God gives another plea to them to listen. He is not simply calling on them to listen to the words but to repent and put the words into action. The same plea is going out to us and to the local bodies of believers today.
"'The multitude of your sacrifices- what are they to me?' says the Lord. ' I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.'" NIV translation
God is not a god of meaningless religious activity. The people were going through the motions of religious activities but their hearts were not right. God tells them that he doesn't need their sacrifices to sustain him. The same can be true of us today in that God does not want us to just have a routine and go through the motions. He wants us to have the close personal relationship that Jesus has with the Father. We may not bring animal sacrifices as the people of this day did but many times we can see our attendance at worship or other activities as our sacrifice to God. He doesn't want that from us anymore than He wanted their animal sacrifices in an unworthy manner.
"'When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.'" NIV translation
God continues to tell his people that all of their religious activities meant nothing to him and in fact they have become a burden. You can almost feel the way the people grudgingly went about their religious duties instead of truly worshiping God. The same can be said of many of us today only we now call them "ministries". Many are doing so through their own power and without the anointing of God much like the "trampling of my courts" that God speaks of in this passage.
"'When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean.'" NIV translation
God even tells his people in this verse to stop praying and to "make yourselves clean". This is not talking about the ceremonial washing of the hands but points to the coming Messiah. This can be a reminder to us as well that there are requirements for prayer and that it is a privilege for God's children.