To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?Isaiah 1:11-12
We can understand what is going on in these verses by asking a series of 4 questions.
- Who is being questioned?
If you examine the previous verses, you find that the people of Jerusalem and Judea are in view. God is the one questioning them through His prophet Isaiah. He had referred to them as Sodom and Gomorrah in verse 10. He had told them to listen and obey.
- What were they doing?
While they were living in a way that made God call them Sodom and Gomorrah, they were still practicing religious ritual. They were making offerings to God. What were they offering? The verses reference sacrifices, burnt offerings, and the “fat of fed beasts.” These were all in keeping with the ceremonial law that God prescribed in the Torah. The problem was not with their ritual in and of itself. In that part they were somewhat obedient. The problem was that they were living as if God was okay with immorality and then performing these rituals out of tradition, habit, or some other motivation.
- What did God ask?
God asks them two questions that revealed the emptiness of their rituals. He said, “to what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?” The right answer would have been to worship the Lord and atone for their sins. The other question he asked was “who hath required this at your hand?” The right answer would have been, “You, God!” But the problem was they were doing this without being worried about worship. They obviously did not care about their own sins. They weren’t doing these offerings to please God. They were doing them without the proper heart and motivation for doing them. God was not the object of their worship, nor the audience to which they focused in doing these rituals.
- What was God’s response?
Look at God’s response. ” I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats.” It’s as if God was saying I don’t need your dead carcasses, your burnt offerings, or the blood of your animals without your heart and obedience. Doing this ritual without the right heart attitude behind it is empty, and is an abomination. It means nothing. It was offensive to God.
God is not just interested in what we do. He is also interested in why we do it. This was expressed by Samuel to King Saul earlier in the Old Testament. Notice what he said.
And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.1 Samuel 15:22
Is it wrong to sing our praise to the Lord, to preach, to teach, to give our offerings, to take communion, to baptize, to read scripture or to memorize scripture? Is it wrong to pray? Of course not. It is wrong if we do not participate in these spiritual disciplines. The problem comes when we do those things out of tradition alone. The problem is when we have unrepented sin in our lives and practice these things by “going through the motions” without our hearts being right in doing them.
Is unconfessed and unforsaken sin making your practice of spiritual disciplines empty and ritualistic? Confess that sin today!