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Summary: The remedy for casual worship calls for humility, contrition, and trembling at God's Word.

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Presbyterian Manor

Wichita Falls, Texas

July 28, 2011

TEND YOUR HEART

Isaac Butterworth

Isaiah 66:1-4 (NIV)

1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD.

“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

3 But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations; 4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”

Among those passages of Scripture that trouble me, there are three that come to mind just now. The first is this one from the last chapter of Isaiah chapter 66. The second is also from Isaiah, the first chapter, in fact. And the third is from the New Testament, from 1 Corinthians, chapter 11. These three are not the only Bible passages that disturb my complacency, but they do have a special significance. They all have to do with worship.

There was a time when I would have told you that going to church was always a good thing. ‘Better to go than not to,’ I would have said. ‘Even if your motives are not pure – even if you’re going to be seen by others, say, or it’s just a habit with you – go ahead and go; God might meet you there and address you in some way.’ That’s what I thought.

I think it’s still a good rule, generally speaking. But there is a danger in going to church. Or, perhaps, I should say: There’s a danger in going to worship – especially if your intent is not to worship!

This passage from Isaiah 66 says so. The Lord himself says so. In verse 3, he says, ‘Whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol.’

Now, you and I may say, of course, that this lets us off the hook. We are hardly likely to burn incense or make an animal sacrifice in our worship! But let’s not miss the point here. It’s not the specific actions that God is condemning with these words; it’s the numbness of heart that lies behind the actions. Remember: At this particular time in Israel’s history, sacrificing animals and making grain offerings and burning incense were the prescribed ways of worship. It’s what you were supposed to do when you went to church!


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