18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light; 19 As when a man flees from a lion And a bear meets him, Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall And a snake bites him. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, Even gloom with no brightness in it? 21 “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. 23 “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. 24 “But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 25 “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? 26 “You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. 27 “Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.
In Exodus 20, God begins listing the 10 Commandments:
2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 "You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing loving-kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Later, in Matthew 6, Jesus makes clear:
24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
God deserves to be number one on our list of worship and service. With all the distractions in this world, it is easy to get that out of order. I think God makes a very distinct point here that we must be careful to observe. The Jews didn’t just worship these other gods, but they also paid tribute to God Himself. They still burned offerings and sang songs of praise, but their allegiance was divided. Because they were not wholeheartedly serving and worshipping the One True God, what they did offer was rubbish to Him. The reason is that truthfully, they were all lies.
The songs of worship and symbols of sacrifice symbolize man’s honor of God. It’s worshipping Him for who He is, what He represents, and what He has done for us. Yet here, we see evidence that Israel was paying homage to other false gods as well. We read in Romans 12:9:
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
God was exposing the hypocrisy of the Jews at this time because they didn’t really mean what was sung in their songs nor what was represented by their sacrifices. They were going along with the motions thinking everything was ok but God saw it otherwise. It makes perfect sense, because even we don’t like halfhearted praise or gifts, do we? If someone gives us something out of obligation, it isn’t as meaningful as it would be if they were to give it to us with a cheerful heart. If someone sings praises about you, wouldn’t you want them to mean it instead of just doing it because they thought it was the right thing to do or even worse, because they thought it would make you love them more? Ancient Israel isn’t the only group of people that fell into this trap. We continue to do it ourselves by not honoring and worshipping God wholeheartedly today.
Jesus always taught about the hypocrites. In His sermon on the mount, He referred to the religious elite as hypocrites because their actions and hearts didn’t match up with what they proclaimed. In Romans 10, Paul makes a case for this:
8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart "-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
We tend to skip right to the confessing part without believing with our hearts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer detailed this dynamic of faith and deeds in his book The Cost of Discipleship that if we truly believe with our hearts, we will have no option but to confess Jesus is Lord. Furthermore, our belief carries us to continue worshiping and serving Him the way He has called us to and seek out His righteousness. Yet, we let the world distract us and pull our allegiance towards other things and we slowly start worshipping the things of this world and try to mix it in with our worship of God. We think that going to church every Sunday is “good enough” and even our daily rituals revolving around God that we have created give us enough credit with God. But then we spend the rest of our time worshiping others or ourselves. This is a lie the enemy has fed us since the beginning of time and continues to convince us that this is acceptable to God.
The word hypocrite comes from ancient times to describe actors on the stage. It signifies one who wears a mask and pretends to be something he is not. This was Jesus’ favorite description of those who worship God only in deed but not in their hearts. On the surface, they seem religious, holy, and righteous, but their hearts are plagued with worldliness and contempt. They seek worldly stature and recognition instead of understanding who God is, what He has done for us, and why He deserves all the praise.
How have you falsely worshipped God lately? If you worship God and confess He is Lord, do you believe it?