Empty Worship

Scripture reading for July 26th: Isaiah 28-30

“The Lord Says: “These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.  Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.”” (Isaiah 29:13) .

Man has a deep inner need to worship God.  That is his ultimate purpose and greatest delight.   God chose Israel as His special treasure and chose to dwell among them, first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple at Jerusalem.    They were given laws and strict rules about where and how they could approach God safely to worship.   When Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, they were warned by example that worship in an improper manner could result in sudden death.  (Leviticus 10:1-3)

Throughout their history, the Israelites struggled to worship God from their heart with all their strength.   They drifted into idolatry again and again.  They would sometimes worship God and then go up to an idol temple and offer sacrifices there.  Sometimes, they just went through the motions and really had no personal love or care for the Lord Himself.

In our reading today, Israel is involved in this empty worship.  God seeks to wake them up and warn them through Isaiah’s prophesy.  “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting Me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge.” (Isaiah 30:1-2)  Israel worshiped God, but then ran to Egypt for help without consulting God.  They made plans to protect themselves, but failed to rely on the Lord for their refuge in time of trouble.  Their worship was empty words and rituals, filled with unbelief that God could provide for them and protect them.

The Israelites wanted things in their control.  They told the prophets to tell them pleasant things (illusions) and quit confronting them with the Holy One! (Isaiah 30:10-11)  Empty worship and illusions go together.  A false understanding of God leads to judgment and destruction.  The American church must wake up to the warnings of Scripture.  God requires repentance and rest in His care and protection.  He wants His people to wait upon Him in quiet confidence and to see His salvation come to pass.  (Isaiah 30:15)

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