To illustrate the severity of sin and the completeness of the coming Savior’s sacrificial work, Old Testament saints were given detailed instructions on how to approach God in worship: blood sacrifices, particular clothing, specific days and times, always with reverence and a holy fear. This is what God desired of them. But when their heart of worship undermined their acts of worship, God began to detest what He had desired:
“‘What are all your sacrifices to Me?’ asks the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires this from you – this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to Me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies – I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with them. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.'” (Isaiah 1:11-15)
Thankfully, the New Covenant in Jesus’s blood has done away with Old Covenant forms of worship that included blood sacrifice and meticulous, legalistic standards of designed reverence. But is God not the same today as He has always been? Is it possible that the heart of our worship sometimes undermines the acts of our worship? And that when this happens, God detests the very things He has desired of us?
In modern worship, those who are cleansed of sin – redeemed by the blood of the sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29, Revelation 12:11) – bring an offering to the God of the Ages. But any act of worship that is not born from a repentant and reverent heart of worship is just as detestable to God today as it was in Isaiah’s lifetime. God desires communion with His children in authentic, meaningful worship. But unrepentant sin is the great divider – the great destroyer of our proper communion with God. How often have you stood in the fellowship of the redeemed on Sunday morning singing songs, giving offerings, and listening to the Scripture read and preached, but just not “connecting” with God? Chances are the acts of worship are not the cause of your disconnection. It was not because the music wasn’t catchy enough, the offering plates weren’t new enough, or the pastor wasn’t funny enough. Chances are it’s much deeper than that.
In verse 16, God reminded the Old Testament saints how they could begin to connect with Him once again in their worship:
“‘Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil.'” (Isaiah 1:16)
The truth is… our offerings of worship are often nullified by our unrepentant sin. God does not just desire reverent acts of worship – He desires reverent acts of worship that are expressed from the overflow of a proper heart of worship. It’s not about religion. It’s about relationship. It is a sad myth that we can defame Christ’s name during the week, then worship God in the splendor of His holiness on the weekend. Our actions, words, thoughts, social media posts, and other disobediences that offend God’s holiness are all factors in our ability to worship Him properly. “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil.” THEN, we can approach God with acts of worship that are born from a proper heart of worship. THEN God will no longer detest what He has desired from us.
When I come to worship services prideful and unrepentant of my sin, I make God’s desire something He detests. But when I come clean, I commune with Him in a powerful way. Maybe worship is about so much more than musical styles, instruments on the stage, Bible translations, whimsical speakers, technological advancements, and comfortable environments. Apparently we can get all of that right, but still make offerings to God that are very wrong. Maybe worship is more than an act thing. Maybe it’s more of a heart thing.
Grace and Peace,