Isaiah05 Hollow Worship
Doxology Hymn 330: "God himself is present
Call to worship and Greeting
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:9-10)
Greetings in the Name of the Creator of the universe. Grace to you from God the Father and Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Let us worship the Lord. Let us join our hearts together in prayer before the Lord and pray the prayer He taught his disciples.
The Lord ’s Prayer
Hymn 384: “O King eternal, Sovereign God”
Baptism of Trenna Lyndel Sheperdson (Rev Hugh Gallagher)
Hymn 352 Aaronic Blessing
Hymn no 60: "To Him who chose us first"(Tune Hymn 1)
Prayer of adoration and Confession of sins
Our heavenly Father, who is as wonderful as You are! We worship a personal God; our God is not only a power or a source of energy. Our God created to world, and He is involved in his creation day by day, moment by moment.
With David in Psalm 139 we declare: O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, You know it completely. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1–6)
Your eyes are on the ways of a man, and You see all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity can hide. You do not need to examine a man further, that he should go before God in judgment. (Job 34:21–23)
So Lord, we confess our sins. We admit our wrongdoing and stiff-neckedness. We beg for forgiveness.
Thank you Father that You will not always strive with us, nor will You harbour your anger forever; You do not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is Your love for those who fear You; as far as the east is from the west, so far have You removed our transgressions from us. Thank you for the fact that You as our Father have compassion on your children, and as our Lord You have compassion on those who fear You. Amen (Psalm 103:9–13)
Declaration of pardoning
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Hymn no 397: "Out of my bondage, sorrow and night"
New Testament: Matthew 23: 22 -- 28
Hymn no 120: "You are the way"(Tune 422)
Offering and Dedication
Prayer of Intercession
Old Testament: Isaiah 1: 10 -- 17
Dear brother and sister in the Lord,
Any minister may be tempted to preach a gospel that will be accepted everywhere and anywhere and to anyone. That is always the easiest way out.
It was no different in the times of Isaiah. The popular message of his day and of the other prophets was: "Peace, peace". It was a message that everything was okay, everything was accepted and that God would be happy, as long as the outward appearance is okay.
God detested this form of worship, because the message was not from him. The prophets even prophesied in his Name while they knew that the message was not from him.
It was a popular message nevertheless. It sat easy on the ears of listeners. It did not really require any commitment from their side.
I think it is possible to say that a hollow gospel leads to hollow worship. An easy gospel leads to an easy form of worship. A frivolous gospel leads to a frivolous worship. On the other hand, a gospel which is nothing but the Word of God, leads to biblical worship and brings us in contact with the living God. The Church who is willing to bow before the gospel of the Lord will be will lead to bow before the God of the gospel.
A Man-made gospel
Not so long ago, I saw an ad on TV. It sounded like some Christian message. I can't remember the full message, but towards the end of it I heard something like this: "God will always be there for you."
The question now is, is it true? I will repeat: "God will always be therefore you." What would you make of the sentence like this? Closer examination of the sentence, tells us that we need to qualify it. Question is: "Will God always be there for us?"
Well, that is exactly what the prophets of the Old Testament told the people of Israel. “Peace!, Peace!” And they swallowed the message.
This hollow Gospel led to a hollow worship.
But then God sent his own prophet Isaiah. And instead of the soothing message of “Peace, peace!", he had completely different message. He cut a right into the heart of things by calling the people of the Lord Sodom and Gomorrah. And you can remember how evil the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were? So evil indeed, that God destroyed them, and wiped their names from the face of this earth. These cities were destroyed and buried under the Dead Sea as a witness to God's Holiness and righteousness, one the one hand and their sinfulness on the other hand.
Can you imagine what happened that day when the congregation in Jerusalem heard the message from Isaiah? They who looked upon themselves as God's chosen people, now heard that they were in God’s eye nothing more than Sodom and Gomorrah. It must have been a blow to them. Especially when the Lord told them that He had no pleasure in their sacrifices.
What would you say if I tonight would say that the Lord has no desire in hearing your prayers any more? What if you came to Church only to find that everything is locked up because the Lord has condemned a gathering in his name because He has no pleasure in hearing you prayers?
See, the prophets in the time of Isaiah had a cheap and a hollow message. People went to worship the Lord, but it had no effect on their lives. It was all ritual, and nothing more. Yes, they still brought the sacrifices to the temple, they still burned the offerings, they still burned the lambs and the fat of the fattened animals; they still sacrificed the blood of bulls and of goats; they still burned incense.
Apart from this, which could happen in the middle of the week, they had New Moons and Convocations and Sabbaths. Sabbaths once a week, New Moon festivals every new month (or every 28 days), and on top of that special gatherings. In between they still said their prayers. In short, they probably did far more than what we are doing at this stage. If they had cars then, the whole parking area around the Church would be full for the best part of the week. There would probably be more activities in the week too. Their bank account would look far healthier.
And yet, the Lord asked the question. "Who has asked that is of you, this trampling of my courts?"
This is the result of a man-made gospel - gospel that preaches that God will always be there for you. It is a message that always stumbles across the love of the Lord, without keeping in mind the righteousness and holiness of God. A message that says: "Do as you like, God's love will tolerate your unholiness.”
Do you know what God thinks about this form of worship? Listen to this:
I have more than enough of burned offerings offer lambs of the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. You are trampling my courts. I cannot bear your evil assemblies. You are burdening me. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I'll hide my eyes from you; if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.
In short, I will not always be there for you!
God is not like a vending machine, always ready to spit out something as long one puts the money in. In this sense of the word, God will not always be there for us. Such a gospel would be an abomination in the eyes of God. It will lead to a hollow worship of the living God. It will be dead set against the first commandment, because by this we will fashion our own God for us.
We can only worship God according to his standards - in private in my everyday walk; but also incorporate worship as his church. Much is made of worship “styles” these days. Traditional styles of worship are looked down upon. New so-called “styles” are developed as if we had a menu to choose from. There are the contemporary, the modern, the user-friendly; the Gospel-seeker worships. More than that: singing (and shouting!) hollow, meaningless, self-satisfying individualistic, emotional and sentimental choruses are dished up as, not only part of worship, but as the main element of worship. Worship styles are designed to make people feel welcome and good. But of the worship of the Holy God, in whose presence sinners can feel immensely uncomfortable, nothing or very little is said. Worship services become therapeutic experiences so that attendee’s can feel relieved from daily stress and unhappiness.
The question remains: who asked of you to worship Me?
Who required you to worship?
How do we answer this question? If it is us who want to worship, then surely we can set the standard. If it were our church, then surely you may expect of the elders to listen to you everyday needs, and to accommodate your requests. But the question remains: Who asked you to worship?
Adam and Eve thought that they could do away with God's commands. But then in his holiness, God visited them in the garden and exposed their sinfulness. They had to cover themselves and hid from God.
King Saul thought he could worship God in his own way, only to find out that God was tearing away the kingship from him. Wilful religion never pays. It is nothing short of idolatry, and therefore an abomination in the eyes of God.
God honouring worship cuts right into the heart. It brings one in contact with the most holy, most awesome Creator God. Before his face you fall down and pray: "Hallowed be your Name, Your will be done, your kingdom come." It takes us to chapter 6 of Isaiah: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." And when the prophet saw the holy God in all his glory and Majesty, he fell face down on the floor and cried out: "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I a man of unclean lips, and live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!"
My brother and sister, he who worship the living in the holy God cannot come into the presence of God, and then turn away unchanged. He who comes into the presence of the living God has no other desire but to ask of God to reveal to him is sinfulness and God’s will for his life.
(Quote from “Mind Siege” p. 218 – statistics; and p. 221: “Americans are as God-loving … We are the Pharisees of the new millennium.”
He brings far more than just praise on his lips. He brings himself, he brings his heart, he brings his whole being! His whole life changes and there is only one desire and that is to do the will God. This cuts out all forms of wilful religion, which is nothing less than idolatry. He who worships God according to a man-made worship and religion stands condemned before God as a covenant-breaker.
I preached a gospel of the Lord tonight. It is a free gospel, but it is not a cheap gospel. It is not a hollow gospel. It's a gospel about bringing everything you have into the service of the Lord. It's a gospel about committing yourself heart, soul, mind, body and strength to the service of the living and holy God. It is a worship that is only acceptable in the name of Jesus Christ, He who gave his life to ransom for our souls. He gave everything; He held nothing back, and so He became our righteousness before God.
As bond slaves to Him who bought us with imperishable blood, we need to fall down before Him with one prayer: “What is your will for my life! What can I do in your service, God who rescued me from everlasting hell?” We need to submit to Him, our Lord, our Saviour, our King.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
That is the only acceptable worship before God. And only after we have done that, can we say: "God will always be there for you."