Summary: We worship God in the way we live. Worship is a matter of obedience and service: if we love God with all of our hearts and treat others as if they were Christ, we are worshiping God faithfully. Church ritual will never replace real worship. We must repent
Everyday Christianity with Pastor Kenn Shedenhelm
Biblical and theological thoughts on life and events in life. Some will come packaged as sermons- some simply as reflections.
Like most of Israel’s prophets, Isaiah was concerned with matters of mercy and justice, and like his contemporaries, Isaiah railed against the abuse of the powerless and the lack of concern for the needy. Instead of caring for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, the leaders in Israel were abusing and neglecting them. They were worshiping themselves and pretending to worship God. They would take the coat off of a debtor’s back and use it for a cushion in church. They would take a poor man’s last dollar and put it in the offering plate. They had come to believe that they could exchange God’s commandment to love Him exclusively and to love the least among them as they loved themselves… for a ritualistic sacrifice and a modest offering. They'd come to believe that God would ignore their disobedience and willfulness if they showed up at the temple and offered a gift from time to time. They had fooled themselves into believing that God could not see their idolatry and lies... but they were wrong! Like the prophets before him, Isaiah told them "the way it was" in God’s eyes. Like the other prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah could read the future, but his fundamental job as a prophet was to "read the writing on the wall" and speak for God. Therefore, he told them that their self-indulgent worship would not stand. In fact, in words that we would be afraid to use in our time, Isaiah let the people know that God had had enough! Israel’s self-indulgent leaders and self-righteous clergy were behaving as if they lived in Sodom and Gomorrah… and they would surely face the same consequences… unless they repented and began to worship God as if He were Lord.
Bear with me as I paraphrase Isaiah’s passage in my own words. Listen to what God is saying to the great church of Christ today.
Hear the word of the Lord, you leaders and people of the church. Your ritualistic sacrifices have become a burden to God. They mean nothing. You’ve been dragging your offerings… to God's altar forever and a day… but you’ve never offered your hearts. You’ve brought your sin offerings and your guilt offerings, and God has seen them. But He's also seen the blood of injustice on your hands, and He's heard the cries of your victims. He's seen the animals that you’ve offered, and He knows that it was an act of giving. But giving ought to be a way of life. He's received the meal and flour you’ve presented. He knows they involved a sacrifice of time and labor… but you should’ve devoted the same time and labor in showing mercy and breaking the bonds of injustice. In the beginning, these rituals of yours seemed to have a place, but they were never… meant… to replace love and justice. When God spoke to your ancestors at Mt Sinai, He commanded them to love Him with all of their being and to love their neighbor as themselves. He said that they would be His people… if they lived…as if they were His people, but you've brought shame on yourselves by disregarding His word and abusing your neighbors.
Where did your covenant go so wrong? When did you get the idea that, instead of living for God, you could live for yourselves and offer Him a token gift from time to time? How could you possibly believe that a covenant based on His grace and your obedient love could be replaced with a manipulative and self-serving ritual… that you call worship? How many times must He repeat that it is justice and righteousness that He seeks, not polity nor piety. Don’t you know that, as liberated slaves, you ought to liberate slaves; and that as a people whom I fed day by day in the wilderness, you ought to give others their daily bread; and that as a people who had to struggle for life quality in a land in which you were aliens, that you ought to pave the way for all of the struggling aliens in your land? Don’t you see that you’ve been saved to serve… and that your service… is worship to God? Some day, God will establish a new Jerusalem and it will be a place or complete joy and real love. There will be no tears there, no fears either, or wounds that can’t be healed. People, all people, will eat like Kings, and all of the Cinderellas will be Queens of the Ball. There will no need for judges, or counselors, or unemployment clerks… because everyone will be treated with respect and love. Justice and righteousness, love and obedience, health and life- don’t you see that these are God's goals? Don’t you know that loving me with everything you have- your heart, your soul, your all- and loving your neighbors- male and female, black and white, straight and gay- is why… you were created! Amen!