Isaiah 29:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”
Whether they acknowledge it or not, every church is liturgical, has a liturgy that directs their public worship week by week. Liturgies are inescapable. For what is a liturgy? Webster defines “liturgy” as “a series of … procedures prescribed for public worship in the Christian church.” In other words, it is simply the order in which the activities of public worship are arranged. Sometimes these liturgies are simple and straightforward; other times they are intricate and complicated. But every church has a liturgy.
The question that must be asked, therefore, is not whether we should have a liturgy at all – that much is inescapable – but whether the liturgy we have reflects the principles given to us in the Word of God. And one of the first principles given us in worship is that it must come from the heart. As human beings we are always in danger of replacing genuine, heartfelt worship with hypocrisy – speaking “holy” words, doing “holy” actions, thinking “holy” thoughts all the while our hearts are far away from God.
Such hypocrisy is an internal problem that comes from the human heart and not an external problem that arises from our circumstances. Hence, hypocrisy infects all types of liturgy, whether a low church Pentecostal service with its planned spontaneity or a high church Anglican service with its elaborate script. Both types of liturgy are prone to hypocrisy because sinners plan and participate in both. And it is this sin of hypocrisy into which Israel had fallen in Isaiah’s day:
Therefore the Lord said: “… these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”
So what of you? Have you become distant from God? Are you attending the divine service out of mere habit, giving no attention to the words spoken, putting no heart into the service? Have you become a mere spectator thinking that worship is some sort of entertainment for your personal pleasure? Have you become dull of hearing? Or are you actively engaged? Confessing your sin? Learning your role in the service? Singing your part? Contributing your voice? Joining the one leading in prayer? Listening attentively to the sermon?
Brothers and sisters, Isaiah warns us to beware hypocrisy, to beware mere externalism, to beware drawing near to God with our lips when our hearts are far from him. God takes such hypocrisy seriously and threatens His people with His fatherly correction if we fall into such sin. So reminded that when we come to worship, we are to come with our hearts engaged, loving and cherishing the Lord and His law, let us confess that we often draw near with our lips while our hearts are far from him. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.