What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts;I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. (Isaiah 1:11)
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:16-17)
Does it surprise you to hear God say, in effect, “I’ve had enough of your empty worship and meaningless sacrifices?” I’m sure it caught Isaiah’s audience off guard. They thought that they were on the right track. They thought they were doing all the right things, following the laws for making God-pleasing sacrifices of bulls, lambs and goats.
God’s not happy. If the sacrifices are nothing more than ritual and you worship is simply going through the motions, you’ve missed the whole point. If He is indeed your God and you really are his people, that reality will show up in every area of your life. You’ll seek God’s forgiveness, follow his paths of righteousness, and help the people around you, especially those who struggled to care for themselves, the orphans and widows.
These continue to be convicting words for today’s Christian worshipers, including you and I. Do our Sunday morning gatherings around Word and Sacrament overflow into the rest of our week, relationships, work and family life? Does the blood of the sacrifice, the crucifixion of Jesus, really mean anything to you? The answer to the question should be obvious to any observer.
The church season of Lent is always a good time to reevaluate, and see how we have let our faith deteriorate into empty ritual. To catch ourselves just going through the motions. Our Lenten disciplines include spending more time each week in scripture, prayer and worship. We seek God’s forgiveness for the sake of Christ, we learn what our Lord wants us to do, and we focus our energy on bringing His mercy and hope to the lives of those around us.
God doesn’t need anything from us. But I’ll bet you know someone who does. Let’s make our worship mean something.
Thank you, Lord, for filing my worship with your grace and leading me to love my neighbor as myself. Amen.