I just started reading Isaiah the other day and was hit by these passages from the first chapter. I’m using the NKJV but love what The Message says.

13 -17“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. Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good. Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

WOW, we know from countless other passages that God doesn’t like empty worship (vs 13-15). The NKJV actually uses the word futile to describe the religious practices. The Nelson Complete Study System notes say the actions were futile because the people did not celebrate them out of love for God. In the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 Jesus says that the religious practices alone aren’t enough, but you must “go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor. ”

I have actually heard Micah 6:8 be used to define worship. It says:

8But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously

Not only does this sound like the exact opposite of what is occuring in Is 1:13-15, but it also sounds precisely like verse 17.

In summary, all the “religous practices” do not add up to much without loving God. Mark 12:28-34 is helpful in understanding what loving God means. Quoting verses 30-31

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Isaiah is calling us to give up futile religion and love God by loving those around us.

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