The psalms are full of reminders that God isn’t interested in our “just going through the motions” kind of worship. He often asks the Jews, who were given the sacrificial system by God Himself, if they thought He actually needed those animals. He owns ALL the animals in the world, so why would they think He placed some special value on one of His own animals burning on an altar? The sacrificial system was never about the animal, except as a picture of Jesus. That sacrificed animal was about sin, about the sinner’s heart condition before Holy God.
Warren Wiersbe in his “Be Worshipful” commentary on the psalms said this in reference to 50:14-15):
“What the Lord wanted from His people was thanksgiving from their hearts, obedience to His Word, prayer, and a desire to honor Him in everything. But the Lord doesn’t want ritualism or formalism. He wants our worship to come from the heart.” (David C Cook publisher; 2009; page 182)
I can hear all the contemporary worship proponents shouting WOOHOO! Told ya!
But haven’t we simply replaced tradition with a new tradition? We may have stopped worshiping with hymnals in front of us, but now we worship with screens in front of us. Where hands and heads used to be bowed in worship, we’ve replaced that with hands and heads lifted.
We’re told to smile, look joyful, move our bodies, be free (but they usually don’t mean you are free to worship with your head bowed and hands folded). We are no less concerned about ritualism, we have just changed how ritualism looks.
I believe that is no less offering God a “going through the motions” kind of worship than before. And I believe that is still worship that God rejects.
“Surely you desire integrity in the inner self…purify me…wash me…turn your face away from my sin…create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me...”(51:6-10)
“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit…” (vs 17)
Stop focusing on how people look when they worship. Stop organizing worship around what people like. We have got to focus on worshiping God with clean hearts, not upraised hands. We need to worship God in purity and not worry about whether people are clapping their hands or not.
You can have a rocking worship service, and still just be going through the motions.
The worship God accepts is only that which comes from people who have dealt with their sin problem first, who approach God in His holiness through the blood of Jesus. Clean hearts. Purified. Washed.
Anything else is ritual and formalism and simply going through the motions.