OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE WORD OF GOD DETERMINES THE LEGITIMACY OF OUR WORSHIP
People have all kinds of opinion about what type of worship pleases God.
– Some people think it is all about ambiance – you must have the type of environment that inspires awe and wonder; your building structure and your stained glass windows and your plush pews and your vaulted ceiling and your lofty pulpit should lift your hearts up to truly give God the glory due His name; If this is truly what God desires, we are in trouble here at Solid Rock
– Others put the focus on music – the type of music and the quality of music that creates a worshipful atmosphere. Now their answer might come in different forms. It might involve majestic pipe organs or invigorating rock bands; certainly our emphasis at Solid Rock has not been on the quality of our singing and of our special music
– Others put the focus on the more mystical, experiential or charismatic impact of the service – how close to God did you feel during the service; how were your emotions touched and how were you brought to some type of mountain-top state of spiritual ecstasy? If that is they type of worship that God is looking for, we are missing the mark here at Solid Rock
Let’s read 66:1-6 – Fortunately God does not leave us guessing as to what type of worshipers he approves of; He presents a contrast in these opening verses of the final chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy between those who tremble at God’s Word (as Brian Borgman does, we will shorten that expression to the Word Tremblers) and those who are religious hypocrites – who check all the boxes regarding externals but whose heart is far from God
Beall: This final chapter of the book brings out many of the central themes for a last time: the hypocrisy of the people in their half-hearted worship (in reality worshipping idols) and their judgment; the future restoration of Israel and Jerusalem in peace, and judgment of her enemies; Israel as a light to the Gentiles, who will come and worship the Lord; and the ultimate eternal doom of those who continue to sin against the Lord.
Takes us back to where the book started in chap. 1:11-20 God is addressing people who consider themselves to be religious – not the vast pagan world that makes no claim to be the true Israel of God
OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE WORD OF GOD DETERMINES THE LEGITIMACY OF OUR WORSHIP
I. (:1-2) DISTINCTION BETWEEN HYPOCRITICAL, FALSE WORSHIP VS TRUE WORSHIP – AT ITS CORE
What is the fundamental distinction?
A. (:1-2a) Fundamental Error of Hypocritical, False Worship
1. Worshiping the Symbol in Place of the Reality / Substituting Externals for Athenticity
“Thus says the LORD,
‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?’”
Quoted in Acts 7:44-53 (what was their reaction to the Word of God as communicated by God’s messengers the prophets?) – don’t worship the symbol in place of the reality; not saying don’t build God a temple; the postexilic temple was built at the command of God
1 Kings 8:27, 61 – Solomon got it – obedience to God’s Word was at the core of God’s blessing
– Man-centered religion focuses on the religious trappings, the externals and loses sight of Who God is
– Man-centered religion things that we have something to offer that God wants or needs
Motyer: here it is his sheer greatness that is the topic, his immensity whereby earth itself is no more than his footstool . . . it is a matter of priority – I Sam. 15:22 “to obey is better than sacrifice” – On the one hand, though he is still the transcendent God, filling all heaven, touching earth with his foot. On the other hand, though the house is rightly a centre of sacrifice, the primary call of God to his people is for their obedience to his word
2. Minimizing the Majesty of God – Failing to Understand the Great Gulf Between the Creator (in all of His immensity) and His Creation
“’For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the LORD.”
Don’t minimize the Majesty of God
Motyer: By coming to live in the house he does not become beholden to those who built it, for he is himself the maker of all. Just as his transcendent universality is not limited by his condescending to live in one particular place, neither is his sovereign freedom of action limited by accepting a house at the hands of human beings.
Parunak: A persistent error throughout Israel’s history was trusting in the sanctuary itself, rather than in the Lord whose presence it symbolized.
Recall 1 Samuel 4, when Israel was smitten before the Philistines. Their remedy was to fetch the ark of the covenant to aid them in battle:
1Sa 4:3 the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.
God allowed the ark to be captured. It remained in exile seven months (1 Sam 6:1), and then was stored in the house of Abinadab in Kiriath-Jearim for twenty years (1 Sam 7:1-2).
A hundred years later, when the Babylonian threat drew closer, the people again sought confidence in the physical artifacts of religion. Jeremiah rebuked them:
Jer 7:4 Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. … 9 Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; 10 And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? 11 Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. 12 But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.
Now, anticipating the return, the Lord warns the people that true worship is not defined by architecture but by relationship. . .
Application: In modern church talk, “worship” typically means contemporary music, led by an energetic “worship leader” and accompanied by rock instruments, designed to make us feel happy. Given what we have read, it might be well to recall the Hebrew word for worship, which means “to prostrate oneself.” These verses in Isaiah unfold for us the meaning of true worship—not an emotional high fueled by lively music, but a sober recognition of how hopeless we are before the true God, as we cast ourselves entirely on his mercy with a full awareness of our sin and his majesty. May God give us grace not to be led astray by false notions of worship in the modern church, and instead to see ourselves in our true helpless condition.
Borgman: Man is irrepressibly religious; has innate desire to be a worshiper; but man wants not the God of heaven or truth but a manageable deity that he can control through externals and ritual and religion; let’s do something nice for God and he will be in our debt and do something nice for us; my hands made everything – that includes you; Rev. 5:12; Job 41:11 “Who has first given to me that I should have to give something back”; 1 Chron. 29:14; if I do X then God will have to do Y; you cannot put the omnipotent sovereign into your debt; not some sort of cosmic vending machine where you put in the coins and push the button and get what you want; it does not work that way; what about with raising kids; I did this and this; you were supposed to Lord do that and that; I read the books; I followed the steps; I did the formulas; God says: Did you forget you are clay and I am the potter; you can’t dictate how things turn out; that is my prerogative
God has exposed the error – now He reveals the essence of genuine, authentic worship
B. (:2b) 3 Essential Heart Attitudes for Genuine Worship — Acceptable to God
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble
and contrite of spirit,
and who trembles at My word.”
We live in a vacuum of humility? Where is humility to be found?
No humility in our political process today
No humility in our business world
No humility in our sports heroes
No humility in the world of entertainment
Parunak: The key to true worship is not a sanctuary, but a right attitude toward God. This verse recalls 57:15 —
Isa 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Both verses mention the “contrite spirit,” but the terms are different; all together we have five descriptions of the person who attracts God’s attention.
• “Contrite” in 57:15 is דכא “crushed.” It is used twice in ch. 53 to describe the affliction of our Savior (v. 5 “bruised for our iniquities,” v. 10 “it pleased the Lord to bruise him”). The contrite person is the person who has been crushed under God’s judgment, who realizes his guilt. We are crushed when we recognize that because of our sin, we offend God in the very act of taking up his holy name in prayer.
• “Humble spirit” in 57:15 שׁפל־רוח is literally “low of spirit,” an expression that appears twice in Proverbs as the opposite of pride (16:19; 29:23). Any attitude of self-worthiness immediately disqualifies us for access to God.
• “Poor” עני refers to a socially disadvantaged person, someone without independent means, a “have not.” Physical poverty does not guarantee godliness, but it puts a person in a position in which they may more readily trust in God because they have no other resources. What is more important is that we recognize our spiritual poverty, our recognition that “what things were gain to me, those I counted loss” (Phil 3:7), and our Lord reflects this characteristic when he proclaims a blessing on “the poor in spirit” Matt 5:3.
• “Contrite spirit” is נכה־רוח . The adjective appears elsewhere only in 2 Sam 4:4; 9:3 where it describes Mephibosheth as נכי־רגלים, “crippled in his feet.” The one who attracts God’s attention is “crippled in spirit,” without natural spiritual aptitude or qualifications to seek the Lord.
2. Contrite of Spirit
Motyer: This is not the sense of sin but the sense of the damage wrought by sin in the personality and helplessness to please God.
How do we demonstrate that we are truly humble and truly contrite of spirit?
By our attitude towards the Word of God!
3. Who Trembles at My Word
You must have a lofty view of the word of God; you must have a desire to hear, to understand and to obey the word of God – regardless how others receive the same word
Ps. 119 – longest chapter in the bible – written to extol the virtues of the word of God:
(:1-8) OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD IS THE PATHWAY TO BLESSING
(:9-16) DEVOTION TO GOD’S WORD IS THE PATHWAY TO PURITY
(:17-24) UNDERSTANDING GOD’S REVELATION IS THE PATHWAY TO ENCOURAGEMENT
(:25-32) COMMITMENT TO GOD’S WORD IS THE PATHWAY TO PERSONAL REVIVAL (= REVIVED SPIRITUAL STRENGTH)
(:105-112) THE WORD OF GOD LIGHTS OUR PATHWAYS ON THE ROAD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
(:161-168) LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD IS THE PATHWAY TO A LIFE OF OBEDIENCE THAT BRINGS PEACE AND HOPE
I. (:161-164) FOUR WAYS TO EXPRESS LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD
A. (:161) Fear God’s Word in Awe and Wonderment /
But Don’t Fear the Unjust Persecution of Men
“Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Thy words.”
B. (:162) Get Excited About God’s Word (Like Winning the Lottery)
“I rejoice at Thy word; As one who finds great spoil.”
C. (:163) Hate Every Lie / But Love the Truth
“I hate and despise falsehood, But I love Thy law.”
D. (:164) Praise God Continually Because His Word is Righteous
“Seven times a day I praise Thee, Because of Thy righteous ordinances.”
Motyer: (Ezr. 9:4; 10:3) denotes a sensitive longing to obey.
Parunak: • The final characteristic of one who attracts the Lord’s attention is that he “trembleth at my word.” He does not seek to evade God’s commands or explain them away, but accepts them as the revelation of the all-powerful creator, and responds with the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10; Prov. 1:7). . .
Constable: It is people who are not self-assertive or preoccupied with their own rights, but rather who delight in the Lord’s Word, that He favors (cf. Exod. 20:18-21; Luke 18:9-14; 23:39-43). . .
The person who relies on ritual to satisfy God is repulsive to Him. . . Burning incense with such an attitude is just pagan worship (cf. 43:23-24; Jer. 7:21-22; Amos 5:21-25; Mic. 6:6-8; Mal. 1:10; Matt. 23:27).
Wrong ways to respond to the Word of the Lord:
– Ignoring the Word
– Perverting the Word
– Doubting the Word
– Disobeying the Word
– Mocking the Word
Example of Temptation account of Jesus and His interaction with Satan – Jesus was one who trembled at God’s Word
Oswalt: If cult is performed to curry favor with God, to satisfy God’s supposed needs, and thereby get something for ourselves from him, we should shut the doors of the temple at once and abandon the whole thing. But if our attitude in worship is the opposite of such arrogance as to think we can do something for God, and is instead the humble recognition that we can do nothing either for or to him (afflicted), the awareness that we deserve nothing but destruction from him (broken in spirit), and the desire to do nothing other than what he commands (trembles at my word), then the expression of such a spirit through the medium of ritual and symbolic worship is entirely pleasing to God. This thought is best expressed in brief compass in Ps. 51:16-19.
Look at examples of those in Scripture who failed to Tremble at God’s Word:
Hypocrites – despite trying to pass themselves off as genuine worshipers of the true God —
– Sin of Achan – Joshua 7:21
– King Saul – 1 Sam. 13, 15
– Ananias and Sapphira – Acts 5:1-11
“God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
II. (:3-4) ESSENCE OF FALSE VS TRUE WORSHIP – IN ITS PRACTICE —
RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY CANNOT BE SUBSTITUTED FOR GENUINE HEART WORSHIP
A. (:3a) 4 Illustrations – The Sacrifices from Unclean Hearts are Themselves Unclean
1. Sacrificing an Ox From an Unclean Heart
“But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man;”
Motyer: contrasting the lawful with the sinful
No value on human life
Oswalt: statements here clearly framed for their shock value
2. Sacrificing a Lamb From an Unclean Heart
“He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck;”
Motyer: contrasting the lawful with the meaningless
No value on God’s instructions regarding what is clean and unclean
3. Offering a Grain Offering From an Unclean Heart
“He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood;”
Motyer: contrasting the lawful with the unacceptable
No regard for God’s instructions regarding clean and unclean
4. Burning Incense From an Unclean Heart
“He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol.”
Motyer: contrasting the lawful with the apostate . . .
The distinction between the two lists is that one expresses a consent to the word of God and the other is deviationist. The building of a house means nothing of itself; the sacrificial cult divorced from “trembling at the Lord’s word” is sinful, meaningless, unacceptable and apostate. When Amos said “Go to Bethel and sin” (4:4-5) his meaning was the same – ritual conformity without moral obedience only extends sin into another area of life. It is possible to be religiously meticulous and at worst incur guilt, at best achieve nothing. The word of God is the key to everything.
“’Enter Bethel and transgress; in Gilgal multiply transgression!
Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithese very three days.
Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened,
And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known.
For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,’ Declares the Lord.”
B. (:3b-4) Hypocritical Religious Practitioners Will Be Severely Condemned
1. For Their Scandalous Choices
“As they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
so I will choose their punishments,
And I will bring on them what they dread.”
Prov. 10:24 what the wicked fears will come upon them
2. For Their Stubborn Choices
“Because I called, but no one answered;
I spoke, but they did not listen.
And they did evil in My sight,
And chose that in which I did not delight.”
Root problem = rejection of God’s word
Repeating 65:12 “Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight.”
III. (:5a) KEY TO LEGITIMATE WORSHIP = OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE WORD OF GOD
A. Prime Importance of the Word of God
“Hear the word of the LORD,”
B. Proper Attitude Towards the Word of God
“you who tremble at His word:”
Gives a word of comfort to the Word Tremblers
IV. (:5b-6) HYPOCRITICAL, FALSE WORSHIPERS WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR SHUNNING OF GENUINE WORSHIPERS
A. (:5b) Genuine Worshipers Will Be Mocked and Shunned
“Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake,
Have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.’”
Motyer: Because of my name may express the motive behind the would-be excommunication: they really think that the name of the Lord is more truly honoured and the good of his people better served by their compromises and their willingness to accommodate theologies without foundation in the word. . . The Lord holds out to his beleaguered word-tremblers the hope of the eschatological reversal.
Young: cf. Matt. 10:22; John 15:18; 17:14; 1 Thess. 2:14
B. (:5c-6) Mockers Will Be Paid Back in Full With Shame and Destruction
“But they will be put to shame.
A voice of uproar from the city,
a voice from the temple,
The voice of the LORD who is rendering recompense to His enemies.”
Word of comfort to those experiencing persecution — 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 6:11
Martin: People in Israel who professed to know the Lord but who actually hated and discriminated against God’s people would be shamed by His discipline when the temple would be destroyed by the Babylonians.
Oswalt: The outcasts are those who wish to keep God’s covenant carefully form the heart, treating the poor equitably, avoiding intermarriage with pagans, carefully observing the Sabbath, and performing the rituals exactly as God has prescribed. By and large, they are not the persons in power. Those who are doing the casting out are the wealthy, the priests, and the nobles. Their major concern is their own aggrandizement. Their religion, their marriages, their treatment of the poor are all designed for one end: their own benefit. Careful obedience to God’s Word is not important to them. To appear to be religious is of some significance, but the thought of a life of self-denial for the sake of others as an expression of determined obedience to God was almost ludicrous.
What would I like engraved on my tombstone: “He trembled at the Word of the Lord”