God makes it abundantly clear in this passage found in Isaiah that He is interested in our hearts, our personal relationship with Him, not our rituals, the things we do out of habit or to impress others: “Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody” Isaiah 1:13-15 (MSG).
The word Christianity often has a bad reputation in today’s world because of hypocrisy, people paying lip service and foot service without heart service. Sometimes I think we as Christians believe we have the market on hypocrisy, but clearly this has been a problem since before the time of Isaiah.
This passage might seem a bit harsh at first and a little hard to hear and digest, but it makes one thing abundantly, and perhaps painfully, clear: God does not want our ritualistic worship—worship that says all the right things, wears all the right clothes, attends all the right meetings, and avoids all the wrong places. In fact, God says that He is going to stop listening to these “prayer performances” and stop watching these “worship charades.”
To be clear: This passage is not saying that any of these things in and of themselves are bad, but that if they are not done out of a heart overflowing with love for God, out of a sincere and honest heart, we are wasting our time.
Our God is a God of heart action, not lip service. He wants the act of worship and obedience to come not from habit, obligation, or ritual, but out of our deep abiding love for Him—out of our strong desire to know our Creator intimately, personally, and eternally.