Read Isaiah 1
Focus on verse 14-15
I always get a little uncomfortable when someone refers to me as a “religious person”. Even the term “Christian” can be problematic in some contexts. The reason I avoid calling myself religious, is because I don’t believe God cares much for religion. What God is after is a relationship with us. He wants us to know Him the way He knows us. Unfortunately, in my experience, it would seem that the more religious a person becomes, the further that person drifts from really knowing God because so much of our religious activity is just that…religious activity. It does little to bring us closer to God, or to prompt us to walk in obedience to Him.
Today we begin reading the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet whom the Lord had called to warn His people of the impending judgment that was to come if they did not repent and return to obedience to God. It was not that the people were not going to the temple, or offering sacrifices and keeping the feasts. They were doing all that quite religiously! The problem was their hearts were no longer in what they were doing. They were going through the motions believing that they could somehow manipulate God to bless them by it, instead of genuinely coming before Him in humility, expectation and worship. So Isaiah tells them this is what God says of it:
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates;
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you;
Even though you make prayers, I will not listen;
Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:14-15)
It would seem that this prophecy might be just as applicable to our current American church culture as it was to the nation of Israel. Many of those whom we might name as Christian in this nation are very religious about how they express their Christianity outwardly when they are in the presence of other Christians, yet in their attitudes and actions there is little difference from those who make no claim to be religious. In this way some of us religious folk are not unlike the Pharisees who falsely accused Jesus demanding the Pilate have Him crucified to protect the honor of Caesar.
The point Isaiah is making is that God is not interested in our outward behavior as much as He is interested in our inward attitude toward Him. Ironically, when our heart is right with God, typically our outward actions begin to reflect that relationship. On the other hand, no amount of religious activity will ever make up for the absence of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.