07/09/15 Rituals of Religion and Futility of Prayer

READING: Isaiah 1-4

TEXTS AND APPLICATION: The prophet Isaiah ministered during the reigns of four kings of Judah, beginning with Uzziah (Isa. 1:1). It is the prophet’s words about worship that give me much pause today. God’s people were apparently faithful in their rituals before God, but faulty in their relationship with God. Listen to the condemnation expressed through the prophet:

Isa. 1:11-15 “What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires this from you—this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to Me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies—I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with them. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood."

How much this text says to our churches today! Our people—beginning with me, I’m sure, at times—go through all the motions of worship. We establish our rituals and follow them as if they were written in a concrete worship bulletin. We give our offerings and celebrate our fellowships. What we do not do is deal with the sin in our lives. Like the Hebrews, we assume our worship rituals equal a strong relationship with God — and we fail to see that God “cannot stand iniquity with a festival.” 

Our worship rituals without repentance become nothing more than trampling on the court of God; we might wear out the carpet of a worship center, but we give God no room to wear out our heart in contrition.   

Then, we wonder why God does not respond to our prayers with our hands lifted high. The answer should be clear . . . .

PRAYER: I want to know that my individual worship and the corporate worship of my church are pure offerings before God. Pray our worship would be genuine and our prayers would consequently be heard.  

TOMORROW’S READING: Isaiah 5-8