This is an example of how easy it is to develop false notions and misconceptions about God and how to worship or honor Him. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had become so accustomed to elevating their traditions to the level of God’s word that it began to replace God’s word as the standard of worship. People began to treat the traditions of men as the commandments of God.
What is vain worship? True worship?
Can you worship God even though you have not keep His commandments? Moreover, if your heart is full of wickedness, then He would rather hear a prayer from you (of repentance) than a praise (, ).
What is true worship
Should we make exceptions to our rules or traditions?
What is a hypocrite?
What is a hypocrite?
Who were the scribes/Pharisees? What were their traditions? Why did Jesus call them ‘blind’? Hypocrites?
How do we draw near to God?
What’s wrong with traditions? Traditions emphasize having clean hands rather than clean hearts. (It’s interesting that the Pharisees wanted the disciples to wash their hands, while Jesus invited the Pharisees to wash their hearts by using their hands—Luke 11:41).
What does God want? He wants true worship.
What is true worship? In spirit and truth (John 4:24)
What is false worship? Lip service rather than heart service (). Throughout the Bible we learn that God is against formalism ().
Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees concerning their traditions. It’s not that Jesus is objecting to ALL traditions. He’s simply making the point that our traditions must never become more important to us than what God has said.
The traditions of the Pharisees were making the word (commandments) of God of “none effect.” This statement is deeply significant. The words “none effect” means to remove the authority of a thing (to disregard or lightly regard a thing). Therefore, their traditions were given precedence over Scripture.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Have we been guilty of giving priority to our traditions over what God has said?
Have we’ve been more concerned with how people are dressed (in suits or plain clothes) or whether the song we’re singing is contemporary or traditional than we are in people worshipping God the way He commanded them?
The term “doctrines” refers to those laws and commandments God has given to His people. Thus, the Pharisees were treating their traditions like they were the commands of God. Moreover, Jesus says that if your worship is based on man’s traditions and not God’s word, your worship is “vain” (useless). In other words, it’s no point in you worshipping God. You might as well give up on it!
Religious people have their own traditions. Church used to be a place where you came for public prayer, worship and the word. Now, there are so many other things we do in addition to these things. Sometimes church becomes more about these ‘traditions’ than about what God really commanded. For instance, if we come to church and there’s no coffee stand in the lobby we complain and our experience is ruined. If there’s no nursery for our 2 year-old, we’re up in arms. If our young people have a gymnasium to play in when they get to church, we’re ready to change our membership. Therefore, we have made the commandment of the Lord of ‘none effect’ (disregard or lightly regard) by our traditions. The idea is that traditions are given a higher importance than what God has said.
Have we been guilty of such worship—worship that involves our mouths, but not our hearts ? Worship where our mouths draw near, but our hearts remain at home (Mark 7:6)?
Unfortunately, this has become common in Church. The time of worship has become a performance. We have become accustomed to putting on a show in Church rather than giving a genuine expression of how we really feel/think.
The word “vain” means void of result (ritualistic). The word “worship” means devotion. In other words, worship is the way in which we show allegiance and devotion to God. Worship is often expressed by observing certain rites. It common for people to observe the outward ‘signs’ of worship (veneration) without making it a genuine expression of how they feel/think. We put on a show. We give the impression that we are a certain way when we’re not that way. We give the impression that we’re into God (submitted to Him) when we’re not really all that into serving Him. This is vain worship. So, it’s not ‘vain’ because we perform it in a formal way. It’s vain because we do not involve our heart. It is not a true expression of how we really feel/think. Now, some people hear this and say, “See, that’s why I don’t go to church. I know better than to be playing with God. I don’t want to be playing with God so I don’t go.” Well, giving God false worship (heartless worship) isn’t the only way we prove ourselves vain. Not giving God ANY worship also results in vanity (). Therefore, many Christians are vain in worship and many unbelievers are vain in their imaginations. So, it’s not just the religious folks that are offering God false worship that He’s angry with. He’s also angry with those non-religious folks who are offering Him no worship. God is angry with the religious folks because they are endorsing a false worship, and He’s angry with the non-religious because they are endorsing no worship.
In these cases our worship is vain, not because we’re dressed in long robes or suits, but because it’s not an expression of how we really feel or think.
For some people, this is the very reason why they don’t come to church. They suspect that the majority of people who attend or worship God in Church are just putting on a performance in front of people. And, since they know better than to play with God, they stay home. As a result, we’ve exchanged our FALSE worship for NO worship at all ()!
The word “hold” (verse 18) means to hold in check or to lessen the intensity of a thing. Why are people “withholding” their worship? Sometimes they are doing it out of rebellion, but some times they’re doing it out of fear of out of feelings of inadequacy.
So, you have refused to give God ANY worship because you don’t want to play with God? What do you call what you’re doing now by not giving glory to Him? Are you not tempting Him and putting His patience and His grace to the test? Never confuse perfection with worship.
I’ll tell you what we call it. We call it tempting God and putting Him to the test. Again, the reason we are doing this is because we assume that only those who are perfect have the right to worship God.
The word “hands” represents evil acts we do with our hands. “Hearts” represents evil things we imagine in hearts. “Sworn” represents evil things we say with our mouths. So, anyone who comes to worship God must do so with hands, hearts and mouths that are clean!
Now, when we read that we immediately conclude that we’re disqualified from worship, because we know that there are things we have done with our hands or with our hearts or with our mouths that we’re not proud of.
However, we intentionally left out one verse—5. One translation says, “The Lord will bless them and save them…He will declare them innocent.”
However, we left out one verse—verse 5! One translation says, “The Lord will bless them and save them; God will declare them innocent..”
The Lord will bless them and save them;
Therefore, when we hear God’s requirement of “clean hands” let us not assume that if our hands aren’t clean, then we’re automatically disqualified. We forget that the one who requires that our hands be clean is the same person who’s prepared to wash them ()!
God will declare them innocent..”
In other words, the God who requires that our hands be clean is the same God who is prepared to cleanse us ()!
So, when we come to church and we know that we have done things with our hands, and have meditated and looked on things in our heart, and when we realize that we have spoken horrible things with our mouth…
If we come with a broken spirit, if we confess our sin and ask the ‘God of our salvation’ for a ‘blessing’ and a fresh supply of His grace, He promises to cleanse us from our sins and declare us righteous! Then we’ll be really to offer sacrifices of praise. Then God’s commandment will not be made of none effect by our rebellion or made void by our hypocrisy.
Then we will be really to offer sacrifices of praise. Our worship will not be defiled by our rebellion or made void (useless) by our hypocrisy. This is really the point Jesus was getting at. He criticized the Pharisees not because they associated being clean with worship. He criticized the Pharisees because they were more concerned with sanctifying their outward man than they were with sanctifying their inward man. Furthermore, He’s also upset with the non-religious man because he uses his sin as an excuse not to be clean when He declares to all men that He is the God of their salvation. He is not simply the God who requires salvation. He is the one who gives salvation to all men. Moreover, a broken and a contrite heart God will in no wise despise!
This is really the point Jesus is getting at. He criticizes the Pharisees not because they wanted to ‘clean up’ for worship. He criticizes the Pharisees because they were more concerned with cleaning their outward man than they were with cleaning their inward man. He’s also upset with non-religious men because they are using their sin as an excuse not to worship when He is offering to cleanse them if they would simply repent. He is the God of our salvation and not just the God who requires salvation!
He will cleanse your hands, He will declare you righteous and He will draw near to you.