What does God think of my worship? Have you ever asked that? That can be an uncomfortable question, can’t it? Is it possible for a person to deceive themselves into thinking that the Lord is happy with their worship, when he’s not?
Yes, it is.
What about the people whom Jeremiah is addressing in today’s passage? What were they doing?
Well, the first thing we notice is that their conduct from Sunday to Friday (since they worshiped on Saturday) was not becoming of God’s people, to say the least. Ironically, this is one of the few passages in which the prophet actually mentions specific sins. Most of the time, he just accuses them of such things as being unfaithful to the Covenant and to the Lord. If they were pricked by the Spirit and actually were curious about the particular transgressions of which they were guilty, obviously he would've told them. The Spirit never leaves us in the dark about a specific sin of which we need to repent.
Here they were guilty of theft, murder, adultery, and “perjury.” An alternate translation of the last accusation is “swearing by false gods.” Basically it’s talking about “false swearing,” and either they were swearing falsely by invoking God’s name in a lie, or they were invoking false gods, whether the facts they were asserting were true or not. Whatever the case, the Lord hated it.
You see, we can’t separate our worship from our conduct. We can’t act as citizens of this world throughout the week and then come into his Presence on our corporate worship day (now Sunday for most of us) and expect him to accept it.
Now you might be thinking “But I don’t cheat on my wife or kill anyone, so I’m fine.” Um, no you’re not. Just to be clear, Jesus specifically warned us that if our hearts are given over to lust and hatred, he sees it as adultery and murder. And how’s about theft? If your boss had been watching over your shoulder the entire time you’ve been on the clock this past week, could he find you “stealing” his time?
And then there was the question of their religious practices. I think that idolatry and sinful conduct go hand in hand. Remember, you’re only as good as the god (or God) you worship. Baal and Molech and the other gods of the Canaanites were vile creatures from Satan’s and man’s imagination, and that fact showed in the typical conduct of their worshipers.
And even if idol worship didn’t lead to immoral conduct, that still wouldn’t justify it. The Lord God of Israel is the only God who truly deserves our worship. He made us and redeemed us. He deserves our wholehearted allegiance. He deserves our undivided loyalty. He deserves the best that we have. He doesn't deserve to be one god among many others or even as a competitor to anything else. He is utterly unique, and he deserves to be treated as such.
This is why God wasn’t accepting their worship. He wasn’t neutral towards it and didn’t have “an open mind” towards it. He hated it with every bit of who he is.
He didn’t accept it then, and he doesn’t accept it now.
The good news? If you’re feeling convicted by this in a particular area of your life, then know this: He loves you, and he’s ready and willing and able to forgive. Raise the white flag, throw yourself on his mercy, and resolve that you’re going to start doing things his way instead of your own. But it all starts with an end to the games. You might fool everyone else, but you’re not fooling him. Not for a second.
Lord Jesus, I have no claim to righteousness of my own. By your grace, the games stop today. Please forgive, and please restore, as only you can.