God commands worship. But not for His benefit. God does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor does He need to be fed. He does not experience incompleteness in way, physically or emotionally, when we forget to bring Him adoration.
God knows that worship is what we need, the creation coming to honor the Creator, like a deer panting for the water.
Thus, it must have come as a bit of a surprise for God to ask the children of Israel, in Isaiah 1:11, “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
It’s not just a rhetorical question. God had said that sacrifices would be “a soothing aroma” to Him (Genesis 8:21), pleasing in His sight. God Himself commanded many occasions of sacrifice and worship, both freewill and obligatory, especially at the three required feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).
In Isaiah 1, God asked Israel to consider if their sacrifices had taken on a different meaning to God, due to the attitude of their hearts. Indeed, God supplied the answer:
Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? Says the Lord. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
What a shock! Like an angry wife rejecting a bouquet of flowers, God told His people they were wasting their time approaching Him in worship. More vain worship just intensified the insult. The sound of joyful feet approaching the temple in praise had become a “trampling of My courts.” The excitement of assembling for the appointed feasts had become “a burden” to bear. The smell of incense offered to God had become “an abomination.”
If the children of Israel wanted to worship God, they needed to fix their hearts. As long as they were involved in Gomorrah-level iniquity, they were in no position to approach God in praise.
What Are YOUR Sacrifices to God?
Sadly, many today behave as heathen Monday through Saturday, then stumble into church on Sunday assuming that God will overlook the infidelities of the week, or perhaps even cross them out on the basis of sitting in a pew for an hour and partaking of the Lord’s Supper. God doesn’t just ignore such worship—it is revolting to Him!
Here are a few things that Scripture says will spoil good worship:
Impurity. As we have seen in Isaiah 1, a lack of purity will cause God to hold us at arm’s length. God told Israel that if they wanted to restore good worship, first “wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good” (16-17).
Disobedience. King Saul once thought worship through sacrifice would make up for his refusal to obey. He hadn’t thoroughly wiped out the Amalekites, as God commanded, but Saul claimed he spared the best of the sheep and the oxen “to sacrifice to the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:15). Samuel scolded him, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” Obey first, worship second!
Strained Relationships. Practically speaking, it’s hard to worship when we are glaring at someone across the pews, or packing up our Bible and blanket to move to a different spot in order to give a brother or sister the silent treatment. Jesus says “be reconciled to your brother” to be able to focus on worship (Matthew 5:23-24). This is true even of spouses (1 Peter 3:7). Dare we scream at and belittle our wife in the car on the way to church, then attempt to lift up holy hands and lead the congregation in prayer?
Boredom. God warned those bringing the lame and blind to sacrifice, those deriding worship as tiresome, not to “uselessly kindle fire on My altar,” (Malachi 1:10). Better to shut the doors than to mindlessly run through the motions. Best of all to come to worship with love, enthusiasm, and zeal! –John Guzzetta