I’ve recently spent some time in the book of Isaiah – just the first couple of chapters so far. But wow, have I been challenged.
As I read and pondered and read some more in Isaiah chapter one, I was struck somber over what God told Israel to do.
Or rather, what He told them to stop doing.
He told them to stop offering sacrifices He had commanded them to offer.
He told them to stop celebrating feasts He had commanded them to celebrate.
He told them to stop giving gifts He had commanded them to give.
He told even them to stop praying prayers He had commanded them to pray.
And He didn’t use polite language (like when Southerners say, “Bless your heart” when we really mean, “I can’t stand the sight of you”).
(Not that I’ve ever done that. Ahem.)
God just puts it all out there, with no shiny words to conceal the depth of His anger.
“I have had enough.”
“I cannot endure.”
“My soul hates.”
“I will hide My eyes from you.”
“I will not listen.”
Nothing prettified about that.
What prompted Him to say such things to His beloved people?
The worship God hates
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly!” (verses 2-4a)
“They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.” (verse 4b)
“Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.” (verses 5-8)
What made the Israelites’ worship so disgusting to God?
The answer is really pretty simple:
Their hearts weren’t in it.
And Scripture is clear from beginning to end that God doesn’t want our cliches or our platitudes. He wants our hearts.
And He doesn’t want our worship if it’s void of love.
The worship God loves
Later in Isaiah 1, God reveals the worship He wanted from the Israelites. It’s not complicated, and I suspect it’s the same kind of worship He wants from you and me today.
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil.” (verse 16)
It makes sense, doesn’t it? How much can we love God, after all, if we continue to embrace the things that are most offensive to Him?
“(L)earn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (verse 17)
Contrary to the apathy of ignored illness and abandoned cities we see in verses 5-8, the worship God loves requires action.
I don’t know about you, but I long to give God this kind of worship.
Yet I’m all too aware of how often I fall short of this worship He loves. Like the historic Jews in Isaiah’s time, I find myself lulled to complacency by my satisfaction with a host of “vain things that charm me most.”
This probably shouldn’t be a big surprise to me. Paul tells us in Ephesians that before our encounter with Christ, our sin nature had rendered us dead, without God and without hope in the world.
Ah, but God.
Two of the sweetest words in all of history, “But God.”
Because of the richness of our God’s mercy and the great love with which He loved us…
I still struggle, but God gives me victory.
I’m not perfect, but God is still working on me.
I have a long way to go, but God can use me — yes, He wants to use me — right now as I surrender to Him each day.
Does God have your heart today, dear one? Are you giving Him the pure and passionate worship He loves? Let’s together commit our hearts afresh to Him.