Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.Isaiah 1:16-17
What was the proper response once they agreed with God about their empty ritualism? How could they respond in a way that honored God to the diagnosis he was making about their spiritual health? We can see the responses in these verses by just identifying all of the verbs given as commands. Read them as a list:
- Make clean
- Put away
- Judge (or Defend)
There were some things he was calling them to do. We could categorize them by saying that He was calling for them to repent, clean up, stop doing injustice and evil, and start doing right and defending the innocent and vulnerable.
Notice He did not tell them to stop doing their religious practices. God had commanded those things. He wanted their religious practice and their lives to match. He wanted their worship on the Sabbath and their worship throughout the week to not be misaligned. There needed to be worship that came from sincere hearts devoid of hypocrisy. The sincerity of their worship would be substantiated by their willingness to walk away from evil and to do good for those who couldn’t bring them financial, political, or social advantage. This is the essence of “pure religion” as James tells us.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.James 1:27
Worship is not something that happens only on Sundays. It is not limited to singing. Most ministry should not happen in a church building. Worship is what we do as we live our lives every day. Everyone is worshipping something. People worship money, material wealth, other people, false gods, themselves, and almost anything and everything else. For the believer in Christ, we must remind ourselves that our worship on Sunday does not allow for us to live however we want the rest of the week. We must worship the Lord not only with our singing, responding to the preached Word of God, and service on Sunday, but also in the way that we live with our families, live in our neighborhoods, do business in the marketplace, and interact in our communities. No matter what we do we ought to do it as unto the Lord.
This is not to minimize the importance of what we do as a gathered body of believers in weekly corporate worship. Rather, our time together in gathered worship ought to equip us to live lives of honorable worship to the Lord the rest of the week.
The way we live ought to be aligned with the way we worship.
- Is there an area of your life that is making authentic corporate worship impossible? Look at the commands of God in verses 16 and 17 and give yourself some homework due today.