I imagine that the title is quite provocative. In all honesty, it is not a title that I came up with on my own. I actually borrowed the idea from the Lord. He makes this proclamation in Isaiah chapter 1. I would like to examine the passage to discover what kind of worship is useless in the eyes of God. Could any of this describe us today?
As we dig into this passage, we are going to discover that God does not pull any punches. In His description of the way that His people were acting, He is not nice. I say this because, as Voddie Baucham says, “we all know that the 11th Commandment is, Thou shalt be NICE (and we really do not believe the other 10)”. In our modern world, we have been conditioned to be nice. Now, there is nothing wrong with being nice, but, nice does not always equal “godly”. Case in point, let’s examine how God deals with His people.
I. God’s Description of His people
We will begin in verse 2 of Isaiah chapter 1.
2 Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me.
3 “An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”
4 Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the LORD, They have despised the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away from Him.
5 Where will you be stricken again, As you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick And the whole heart is faint.
The whole purpose in speaking like this to His people was to get their attention. They had lulled themselves to sleep by going through the motions of “loving” God, yet, their hearts were far from Him. Could we say that things are different today, or, pretty much the same? God uses harsh language to snap them out of their stupor. We need to hear this harsh language so that we too may be snapped out of our stupor. We are comfortable going through the motions, just as they were back then. Oxen and donkeys are stubborn animals that will fight against things that are good for them. Does that sound familiar? God exclaims that oxen and donkeys are better off than His people because they are not as stubborn as His people are. Ouch!!! That is a gut punch. But, we need it. The root of the problem is their rebellion. This is the heart of sin. God’s people were claiming to follow Him and even showed up for worship, yet, they were rebellious in their hearts and it showed in their actions. Verses 6-8 show us the consequences of this kind of lifestyle.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head There is nothing sound in it, Only bruises, welts and raw wounds, Not pressed out or bandaged, Nor softened with oil.
7 Your land is desolate, Your cities are burned with fire, Your fields -strangers are devouring them in your presence; It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.
8 The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.
The people of God were so used to going through the motions that, as things were falling apart in their lives and all around them, they continued on in a stupor. I see the same things today. Many people who go through the motions of Christianity and are living lives that are falling apart. They continue on with the status quo, not realizing the root of the problem. This is so easy for us to see in others (the children of Israel) yet we are blind to it in our own lives. Let these harsh words of the Lord be a wake up call for you and for me. In the midst of all of this turmoil, they faithfully went to worship services and “worshiped” the Lord. How did God feel about that worship? We don’t have to wonder. He lays it out very clearly in this passage.
II. Useless Worship
The Lord is not manipulated like we are. We think that He can be manipulated and we give it a try but, it is useless.
10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah.
11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.
15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
God compares this people who worship Him with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Wow!!! Do you think He can be manipulated today? May it never be, in the words of the Apostle Paul. These people were bringing multiple sacrifices to God with lots of pomp and circumstance. Yet, God tells them that He has had enough of their offerings. He takes no pleasure in worship that is full of pomp and circumstance but does not come from a person who is obedient to Him. God calls this worship worthless (useless). In fact, He tells them that He cannot endure this type of worship. He would prefer that they go away and quit going through the motions. Ouch!!! If this is not a message for the church in 2019, I do not know what is. When the people take part in this kind of worship, God hides His eyes. When people who take part in this kind of worship pray, God closes His ears and does not listen.
This is all bad news but, it is a set up for the good news. God never criticizes without offering a solution because criticism without a solution is simply complaining. Let’s take a look at God’s solution for His people, then and now.
III. God’s Solution
Read verse 16-20 to find out what God’s solution is.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
“Let Us Reason”
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
19 “If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land;
20 “But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword.” Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
There are many commands given here and we will examine them. I love the way that the Lord wants to reason with us. His plan makes sense. If that is the case, why do so many not want to listen to Him? Why are we okay with simply going through the motions? A transformation needs to take place. Maybe, you are not a born again follower of Jesus Christ and even though you attend church and worship, you need to repent. Or, maybe you are rebellious against God in your heart yet, for the sake of the people around you, you continue to go through the motions. Repent and allow God to restore you so that your worship will no longer be useless. Remove the evil things in your life. You know what they are. They are the things that you do in secret that you would die if others found out about. Instead, learn to do good, seek the Lord’s justice. Reprove those who are walking in disobedience. Defend those who cannot defend themselves.
There is a final warning at the end. We have two choices, we can consent and obey or, we can refuse and continue to rebel. That means that we will continue to go through the motions of worship yet, God is not there and is not listening. Come, let us reason together. One of these paths makes sense while the other is illogical. Unfortunately, many have chosen and will continue to choose the illogical path.
Are you just going through the motions of worship? Are you rebellious in your heart? Are you suffering the consequences of your rebellion yet, you still refuse to accept what you are doing? Are you like the ox and the donkey or, are you going to have a teachable spirit and listen to what the Lord has said? May we choose to reason with the Lord and cease acting like stubborn donkeys.