When Worship is Worthless

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Worship that doesn’t change the attitudes and actions of people is worthless.

Isaiah’s message, 700 years before Jesus walked the earth, was powerful then and definitely needs to be heard today.

This is how God reacts to acts of worship that are not accompanied by love and justice.

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.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
(Isaiah 1.15-17)

God-Pleasing Behavior

What kind of behavior does God want from his children? Here is one of many expressions of what God desires from us.

“So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

“And to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being” (Deuteronomy 10.12-13).

As our heavenly Father, God desires the very best for his children. He knows the extraordinary value that we receive in a personal relationship with him. That is why he insists that we live in a personal love-relationship with him.

God knows that our very well-being is dependent on how we live with him and treat other people. If we align our lives with his guidance, he will enable us to live the best life possible.

A Deceptive Inside Condition

Jeremiah knew how deceptive our inside condition can be. He wrote,

The heart is deceptive above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
(Jeremiah 17.9)

If our worship experience makes us feel good, but does not change our inside condition, Isaiah says it is worthless and Jeremiah says it is based on a deceived heart.

God desires our well-being and he knows that we cannot experience the best in life and base our lives on deceptive thinking.

He strips away feel-good religious experiences. When I Isaiah 1.12-16, this is how I understand their meaning.

Verse 12 – You may feel good about your worship experience. God reacts to it as if we are wiping dirty feet on the carpet of his throne room.

Verse 13 – God is completely out of patience with our solemn sounding words that produce no change in our attitudes and actions.

Verse 15 – God will not listen to our prayers, if our raised hands in prayer are covered in the blood of oppressed people.

If we are to experience the best life possible, our actions will resemble the guidance of Deuteronomy 10.12-13 or God’s direction through Isaiah.

We will to the following.

Verse 16 – We will wash and make ourselves clean by ceasing all behavior that God defines as evil.

Our two grandsons love worms. If they mistook a small, poisonous snake for a worm, I would do everything in my power to keep them from being harmed by it.

When God demands that we turn away from evil, it is not that he is some tyrant, who demands our unquestioning obedience.

He knows the danger of evil to our well-being. Out of fatherly love, he strives to protect us.

Verse 17 – God’s command is, “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.”

The 7.9 billion people who populate the earth are not a collection of individuals, but we are all inter-connected. If the corona virus has taught us anything, it is that the behavior of individuals affect each another.

God seeks not only the well-being of individual people. He also seeks the prosperity and good fortune of all of us.

The Old Testament list of vulnerable people includes the oppressed, the orphan, the widow and the immigrant.

How we treat the vulnerable will affect both our relationship with God and our inside condition. We should readily accept God’s counsel and do our part to rescue, defend and seek justice for the “least of these” among us.

Worship and Life

God’s complaint is that we attempt to separate our worship experience from behavior.

Jesus summarized the two greatest commandments. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

“This is the greatest and first commandment.

“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22.37-39).

The worship that God desires incorporates these two great commandments into our lives on a daily basis.

About This Blog

Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.

Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.

If you have a prayer request, please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.


  1. The verse from today’s plan our Wednesday group is doing in the Bible app is Micah 6:8 which ties well with Isaiah’s words. Micah says that the Lord requires us to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with Him. Over and over again, prophets had this same theme in their teachings. And over and over, Jesus reiterated these same truths. There simply is no room for “self” in a Jesus-kind-of-life. The only way I can follow is to get out of the way. And if I don’t…if we don’t…the consequences are dire.

    Thank you, Bob, for these blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Two years ago I read the Bible in chronological format – I need to do that again because my memory is poor but it really made a difference seeing how the history fit together.


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