Summary: Attending church does not mean you have actually worshipped. What please God is not fervor but faith. Our faith is placed in God who promised us a future with Him.
Our FERVOR our FAITH and our FUTURE
In our reading from Isaiah, we see that it was a time of great sin and rebellion. The people were still going through the motions of worshipping God, but their hearts were not in it and their behavior was no different from the ungodly folks around them.
They were doing what they pleased and then doing what they thought would please God and the formula didn’t work.
Worship cannot be mixed with wrong-doing.
God is fed up, just as he was with Sodom and Gomorrah.
He tells them that the multitude of their sacrifices doesn’t impress Him. (verse 11)
Ritual doesn’t rectify and sacrifices are no substitute for service.
Their attention to every liturgical detail might bring admiration from men, but God saw it as a hollow mockery because of their complete disregard for his moral demands.
The congregation is made up of men whose hands are bloodstained, whose eyes are lusting, and whose hearts are greedy. There are men whose fortunes are built on crimes and who have hardened their hearts against justice and shut their eyes and ears to the plight of poor little children and abused women.
Could this be said about today’s contemporary church?
To see evil and do nothing is to be complicit in it.
What we are must verify what we say.
We must match in character and conduct.
God wants his people to imitate His justice, goodness, truth and mercy toward our fellowman, rather than observe religious ritual while our hearts are still wicked and the world around us is still in need of ministry.
It is the business of the church to make the love of God known in the world by our loving actions.
So what should they do…close down the temple? Have no more sacrifices, no more prayers, no more festivals?
“STOP DOING WRONG,” God says in verse 16.
God is not unreasonable to the ungodly but he cannot forgive the unrepentant.
God offers them a chance to come clean.
They washed ceremonially to go to worship, but God wants their hearts washed clean from sin.
In the most well known verse (18) He says,
“Come now, let us reason together.
Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.”
It is impossible to sin more than the blood of Christ can wash away, but it is the choice of the sinner to come to the invitation of God to be cleansed, or to remain in sin and rebellion against God.
It is not ritual worship but real repentance that makes the difference.
Then what you DO becomes much more important than what you DON’T DO.
In other words….get busy DOING something good, not just
acting like you are good at times of worship.
Verse 17 says, “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed,
Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
We’ll become tired of church if church does not deal with our fundamental human need, with our need to be made new, our need to be forgiven, our need to be refreshed.
If FERVANT worship doesn’t result in compassion for the hurting people around us then it is hollow and meaningless both to us and to God.
If you want to please God, then faith in action is what pleases God.
That brings us to the second passage we read from Hebrews and the second point of FAITH.
Many of you probably know Hebrews 11:1 by heart. I learned it in the King James version which says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” But here it is in several newer translations:
Hebrews 11:1 (Living) What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it ahead.
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NAS; RSV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (AMP) Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of reality (faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses).
You hear the term, “different faiths” sometimes used to refer to different denominations, and that is really not true.
All Christian denominations are of the same faith: that is, faith in God and in His Son Jesus Christ.
Different “religions” however are like Buddhists, Muslims, etc. All religions have the common denominator of faith or some kind of a belief system.