What is worship God accepts? It’s not just ceremony or sacrifices. It’s not parades, gifts, or pious meetings. It’s not even lifted hands.
True worship can only come from clean hearts. No matter what form worship takes in your church or in your home or car, God will not even pay attention if your heart is harboring sin. Clap your hands, jump up and down, work up a sweat, or shed some tears. None of it matters unless your heart is right with our Holy God.
Isaiah begins his book talking about the rebellion of God’s people. And then he tells us what God thinks about their acts of worship. God is sick of it. He gets no pleasure from it. In fact God says He hates their worship celebrations. Their worship has become a burden God wants nothing to do with.
Then Isaiah tells us what God requires from those who want to worship Him:
Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (16-19)
Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we can go into a worship service like we are attending a concert or ballgame. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we ought to get something out of worship. It’s not about us.
Let us go into worship, whether in our closet or in the sanctuary of our local churches, with clean hearts, sober-minded with fear and trembling before a Holy God who demands holiness of any one who worships Him. I think God is very clear to say that before we sing the first note of any praise song, we had better have sincerely prayed:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:11-12)
Then and only then, will your expression of worship be acceptable to God. True worship, worship He demands, comes from holy people.