August 5

Isaiah 1: 1, 10-15

“When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” vs. 15

Isaiah had harsh words for Jerusalem and its rulers during the years of his ministry. He was filled with the Spirit of the Lord and saw clearly the hypocrisy of their religious posturing. It wasn’t that they were neglecting the temple rituals or avoiding sacrifices. On the contrary they were making a pageant of religion…the calendar was filled with festivals and the altars filled with offerings. The stench of blood and the sweet smell of incense provided sensory overload for all who came near. The temple was a happening place! And Isaiah called it all an offense to the Lord. That’s how it is with so many religious efforts. Human intention has been good…we’ve wanted to worship God…but again and again we’ve gotten sidetracked by the details of our rituals and liturgies. Many times religious activities have become allied with national interests as political and religious leaders form unholy alliances designed to curb dissent and preserve power. It’s not that we should abandon all external forms of worship…it’s good to come together as communities of faith and offer praise and thanks to God. And for that, rituals and liturgies are a necessity…but they’re only tools for our worship and never ends in themselves. God’s main concern is what we say and do after we’ve said “Amen!”

Thought for the Day: What is the heart of worship?

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