8 “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:8–9, NKJV)
The heart we bring before God in worship must be pure, holy, and pious. Our worship must be “in spirit” (Jno. 4:24). The actions we bring before God in worship must accord with His word. Worship must also be in “truth” (Jno. 4:24). Today’s text teaches the value of doctrine (truth) in worship by contrasting it with the vain worship produced by men’s commandments. Many people and churches say doctrine is not essential as long as your heart is sincere. By doing so, they have forgotten what Jesus taught in today’s passage. By applying Isaiah 29:13, Jesus said hearts are corrupted (“far from Me”) when people try to worship God while following the commands of men. Vain worship results. Our attitude in worship is to be reverent and humble (Psa. 5:7; 89:7). Worship is not a casual affair that honors people; it is a time of holiness before the Lord (Lev. 10:3). Our actions in worship are to follow God’s truth, not men’s traditions bound upon worshipers (Mk. 7:6-9). Worship is accepted by God when worshipers respect Him and bring before Him the worship His word approves (Rev. 5:13-14). God seeks true worshipers, not vain worshipers (Jno. 4:23). Therefore, let us scrutinize our hearts (spirit) and our hands (conduct) and worship Him “in spirit and truth.”
1 Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1–3, NKJV)
Psalm 2 is a prophetic proclamation of the coronation of Christ, the Son of God, as King. The divine declaration of the psalm is undeniably Messianic. Its fulfillment is announced and applied to Jesus repeatedly in the New Testament (Acts 4:24-28; 13:32-33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; Rev. 2:26-27; 19:15). God accomplished His purpose to crown Christ despite the opposition of Gentile and Jewish rulers “against the Lord and His Anointed” (v. 1; Acts 4:24-27; 2:23-24). We take heart and boldness of faith that man never thwarts the purposes of God (v. 2-3; Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:31). Like those who fought against God’s redemptive purposes in His Son Jesus Christ, you will not succeed if you fight against the will of God (Acts 5:39). Surrender to the will of Jesus in faith, repent toward God, obey the gospel of Christ, and He will save you from your sins (Jno. 8:24; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-41; 10:34-35). Take the yoke of Christ and find rest for your soul instead of living in the bonds and shackles of sin (Matt. 11:28-30).
12 When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:12–15, NKJV)
Acts of worship do not conceal evil hearts and sinful conduct from the eyes of God. God took no pleasure in the many sacrifices Israel offered Him (Isa. 1:10-11). Her heart was far from God; her hands were full of death (Isa. 29:13). Even when Israel offered sacrifices and observed days taught in God’s law, He refused them. This shows contempt for God and for His holy worship. True worship must combine a pure heart of reverent honor for God with the acts of worship God’s word approves. This is worship “in spirit and truth.” This is the worshiper God continues to seek (Jno. 4:23-24).