- Isa. 28:1-15; 29:13; 28:16-29; 22:1-14; 29:1-8; 33:1; 29:9-21
As Isaiah continues to write GOD’s condemnation of the pitiful state of affairs in Israel and the coming spiritual relapse in Judah, we find a very insightful statement in Isa. 29:13:
13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
The Israelites were pretending to be committed to GOD, honoring Him with their words. However, their actions revealed that their hearts weren’t interested in GOD at all. Rather, just the opposite was true. This was true of the Jews in Jesus’ day also, as He referred to this passage in a rebuke of the religious leaders of His day:
1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 ‘ These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
(Matt. 15:1-9 NKJV)
And this same problem is present in our generation today as well. Religious leaders, pastors, elders, bishops, cardinals, popes, political leaders, and believers everywhere are guilty of teaching their commandments—their understandings of how to apply what GOD has said, or their traditions which have been followed for, in many cases, hundreds of years—instead of simply teaching what GOD has said. This is a most difficult problem to avoid, but it also has a simple solution: Read the Bible and do what it says to the best of your ability.
None of us ever gets every single detail right—we’re not perfect, that’s part of being human. It’s good for us to each have convictions about specific subjects, and it’s perfectly fine to share those convictions with others in an attempt to persuade them to our line of thinking. But what’s not okay is for us to teach that any other way of doing things besides my way is wrong.
Thankfully, on the critical subjects, such as what to do to be saved, GOD has spoken a lot about them in the New Testament. With subjects like this, there is no room for interpretation or differences of opinion. But with other subjects, such as observing holidays, GOD hasn’t told us whether we should or should not do that (see Rom. 14), so He expects us to form our own conviction and follow it. It is these types of subjects that we must be careful not to teach our conviction as “the only way.”
The bigger issue at hand here is where our heart is in relation to GOD. Am I fully committed to loving Him and obeying Him, or am I only saying that I am and then living like I don’t care what He thinks? If GOD has your heart, obedience will follow, because you’ll care what He thinks, and you’ll spend time listening to Him speak to you through the Bible and you’ll allow Him to transform you into the image of His Son Jesus, which is His purpose and intent for your life. That’s meaningful worship! Don’t allow your worship to be meaningless as the people of Isaiah and Jesus’ day.