Empty Worship: When God has had enough!

It’s Sunday morning and the sights and sounds of worship are unmistakable. Individuals from every corner of the community are gathered together in an assembly of worship. Each, from his or her own life experiences, brings to the sacred gathering an offering of praise, of devotion, of commemoration, and of sacrifice. This collective expression is rooted, however, in the heart of each worshipper individually. Each one participating to bring glory to God, or perhaps, for another reason altogether.

Some people worship because of habit. At some point they made a decision to be faithful in their attendance to worship and have ever since habitually been present. But are they? Present, I mean. Others worship out of a sense of guilt. They reluctantly participate because they feel they have to. What would family and friends think if they did otherwise? Still others worship from a disposition of obedience. They have determined that God wants them to worship and that it is pleasing to Him when they do.

The prophet Isaiah uncovers a disturbing truth about God’s disposition when worship is done for the wrong reason. Our Lord declares: “When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! I want no more of your pious meetingsI cannot stand them!” (Isaiah 1:12-14)

There appear to be two issues that conspire to invoke God’s judgment regarding worship, and worshippers. First, there is the way (how) we worship. And second, there is the why (motive) we worship. An individual can be faithful in worshipping in the way God instructs us to worship, but still not be pleasing to God. Consequently, the “why” an individual worship can get lost in the “trappings” of worship.

So, when did worship become empty in the current culture? Perhaps our story is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Like the children of Israel, we have the “forms” of worship down pat. We know what to do, but do we embody “why” we should do them. Apparently, even God has His limits. He observes the empty worship of “going through the motions” and it troubles Him to the point of turning a “deaf” ear to our praise. He sees our pageantry (entertainment) driven worship as empty and without meaning. Worship such as this is a waste of time, and energy.

The truth about worship that is pleasing to God is that it must be transformative rather than a matter of habit, guilt, or even obedience. God’s people worship not because they have to, but because they want to.

The worshipper, then, doesn’t crawl into worship, but more nearly, leaps into it. Of this, God never gets enough! Why do you worship? Is it because your soul aches for communion with a loving Father? Why we worship matters to God. Authentic worship is… worshippers expressing praise because they cannot get enough of Him!

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