Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.
This is being spoken to Israel. In verse one Isaiah mentions Ariel saying Ariel, the city where David dwelt. Where did David dwell? In Jerusalem. In earlier chapters we see the invasion of Judea and then the deliverance. Their reproof is in verse 13. The Lord always had trouble with his people. They just went through the motions. Religion became routine. We’re all capable of hypocrisy. In Isaiah’s day it was lip service. They still went to the temple. They still offered their sacrifices. They were doing what the scriptures told them to do. Why was God finding fault? They were going through their rituals, but it wasn’t coming from the heart. We can be guilty of that. God judged them because of it. We sometimes sing “O How I Love Jesus” while thinking of other things as we mouth the words. I’ve had to ask the Lord to clear my mind before. We don’t always worship as we should.
When a man refuses to provide shelter, electricity, phone, and clothing for his wife and children but goes out and buys a new truck, would you believe him if he said “I love you?” to them? We would not. If he doesn’t have the money, that’s different. If he spends it on himself, he doesn’t really love them. God wants the heart. The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks . What’s in the heart comes out the mouth. I learned long ago that you cannot browbeat someone to church. But if you get them to really fall in love with the Lord they will live more like he wants them to.
Malachi 1:7-8 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.
The people brought polluted, blemished animals for sacrifice and then asked how they were not pleasing God. They knew Leviticus 22:20 which says But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. These are direct guidelines on sacrifices. They were violating it. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice needed. If any blood could do, there would have been no need for him to die. His blood was perfect and sinless. He was tempted to sin, but never surrendered to it. He was qualified to go to the cross. Since the sacrifices set up for the temple represented Jesus, an imperfect animal was not acceptable. It got so bad that when the people brought sick animals the priests accepted that blemished animal. They should have sent them away. Sometimes the animals may have looked good; the owner may have been commended for giving such good animals, but they weren’t and the owners knew it. Malachi told them to try paying their taxes with these imperfect animals. See if the governor will accept them. Spiritually speaking, a lot of sick cows are being offered to God. Give the Master first pace, the best you have. God gave his best for us. Should we not give him our best? Let’s not give him our leftovers.
Matthew 15:7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees they were substituting man’s teaching for God’s. They taught their doctrine and said it was from God. Back in verse 2 they said to Jesus why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. They called their law the tradition of the elders. He asked them why they allowed men to transgress their own commandment of tradition. People were not caring for their parents because they claimed corbin. They claimed their substance was a gift to God and not available to care for their parents when it really wasn’t true. Jesus asked them why they allowed this tradition to be broken. They were overruling God’s teachings on many things and placed their traditions above God. We know this Bible is our guidebook. But then we’ll add our traditions as commandments. We get pet peeves or think something is wrong. Sometimes a person may be convicted over something that is not really a sin, but God has shown them he’s not pleased with it in their life. He cannot apply that to everyone. That’s a way of placing your own tradition above the Bible.
Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
There was a problem with Sardis. They had a good name among others, but God said it was a dead church. Man’s evaluation of himself may not be all that bad, but sometimes God’s evaluation is altogether different. Sardis thought it was all right. Other churches thought it was too. They pointed it out due to its reputation. But the truth is, it was dead. They were artificial Christians. Artificial flowers now look pretty good, but they are still not real flowers. Sometimes people look like the real thing as Christians; God says otherwise. Have you ever gone up to a bowl of fruit only to find it was not real? They looked real on the outside, but the inside was definitely not the real thing. Outward appearances can be deceptive. I’ve gone up to people who would use profanity when talking to me. I tell them I’m a preacher and their story is this: “Oh, I’m a Christian too.” Who we are on the outside is only makeup. In Isaiah’s day, in Malachi’s day, in Jesus’ day, and in the church of Sardis’ day, they were alive on the outside but dead inside.
History reveals the same attitudes for many including Thomas Jefferson. He was a deist. He accepted a belief in a higher Creator but rejected the belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind. To this group he’s out there somewhere. But he’s unconcerned about mankind and they are unconcerned about him. There are times the Lord is so real you feel you can almost touch him. But there are times he seems far away. James 4:8 tells us Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. If we move an inch closer to God, he will do the same toward us. Move a foot; he will. We can be as close to God as we want. If he is far away, it’s because we chose to be there. Do we give God leftovers in our time and resources? People will come to see a live church just to see what’s going on. Get a fire in your heart.
If God looks on an individual and says he is pleased, that’s all we need. Lift up Jesus. Don’t offer him lip service. Don’t give him leftovers. Be the real thing, the real Christian. He will be pleased.