Summary: Sermon contrasts religious form with spiritual substance with reference made to decline and need for revival that occurred in Israel’s history.
The Real Deal
Our story opens this morning in 2 Samuel 6:12-15
“Now it was told King David, saying, "The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.”
What does the ark of God represent? It represents the presence of the Lord. In this scene God’s people are experiencing genuine, Holy Spirit-anointed worship. David is wearing priestly attire and dancing before the Lord with all his might. It is a time of Spirit-filled joy and celebration in the Lord.
I begin with this brief passage to simply remind us of the rich relationship Israel had with God during this time in their history. During David’s life most of the Psalms were inspired by the Holy Spirit and written. During this time God was prospering and blessing the nation. Their relationship with the Lord was real and fulfilling.
But later in Israel’s history they lost something. They lost their heart-felt love for the Lord. They lost the dynamic of life in the Sprit. They lost the joy of the Lord. They lost sweet fellowship with God. All the life was gone out of their religion; but they continued with the external ceremony and ritual. Later in their history they claimed Jehovah as their God. But it was nothing like it had been before. All they were doing was just going through the external motions of worship. Their lips continued to draw near to God; but their hearts were far from Him.
Look at what God says to His people in Isaiah 1:10-17.
“Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah:” Is this message literally addressed to Sodom and Gomorrah? No. The context tells us God is talking to His people, Israel. But He is confronting their self-deception. He is getting their attention. They think because they are at God’s house, externally worshiping the true God, everything is OK—they consider themselves godly people because they are by name Israel —God’s chosen people just as we would call ourselves Christians today. But here is the shock factor. God refers to them as Sodom and Gomorrah—words that translate into wickedness and ungodliness. Their Bibles had taught them that those cities were destroyed because of God’s judgment on their wickedness and ungodliness. So immediately we know this message through Isaiah may not be what these folks want to hear.
Verse 11 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? "Says the LORD."I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. 12 "When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies --I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
God is saying to these people, “I don’t like your church services. You supposedly gather in My name to worship Me. But it is a farce. Your sacred meetings, your sacrifices and offerings stink. I’m not going to church with you anymore!”
Why would God say such a thing to people who had the inspired Word of God—people who gathered together in His name and sang their songs and said their prayers? What’s going on here? We would expect God to say such things to pagan idolaters, Babylonians, nations who overtly worship false gods. But God is saying this to people who claim to be His people. Now let’s read verses 15-17 and find out what the problem is:
“When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. 16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean ; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow .”