Best of Daily Reflections: When God Doesn’t Like Worship
I will take no pleasure in your offerings that should be a pleasing aroma to me.
When I was a parish pastor, I would sometimes run into truant church members on Sunday afternoon. They had skipped worship in the morning, and were out enjoying themselves when, lo and behold, there was their pastor. They'd look at me with guilty expressions and say something like, "Pastor, I'm sorry I wasn't in church this morning. I really wanted to be there. But, well, um, I just didn't make it." I hoped that they just needed a break, though I worried that maybe they were growing to dislike our worship services . . . or even my preaching. Heaven forbid!
The truth is that most Christians go through seasons of life in which we don't like worship services. We get bored by singing the same songs over and over again. Or it can seem as if the preacher is in a rut and can't say anything new. In fact, even pastors sometimes don't like church services, at least most of us. Our dislike can leave us feeling even guiltier than church members who skip out on Sunday morning worship.
Ironically, there are times when God doesn't like worship. Even though we're doing the things that are supposed to honor him, the Lord may still be displeased. Consider, for example, the latter half of Leviticus 26:31. There the Lord says: "I will take no pleasure in your offerings that should be a pleasing aroma to me." What? Hasn't much of Leviticus been focused on specifying how sacrifices are to be made? Is God saying that even when these are done by the book, he might still be displeased?
Yes, that is what God is saying. In the context of Leviticus 26, we see that the Lord's displeasure in sacrifices comes when his people consistently and intentionally reject him. Verse 27 speaks of the people being "hostile" to God. If their hearts reject the Lord, if their behavior spurns his sovereignty, then even if they offer their sacrifices in just the right manner, the Lord is not pleased.
Leviticus 26:31 points to a theme that proliferates in the Old Testament prophets. Consider Amos 5:21-24, for example: "I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living."
If our worship is to be truly pleasing to God, then it must issue from a heart of love and a life of obedience. God will delight in our hymns and songs, our prayers and preaching, if we are living each day for him. Our worship in church will honor the Lord if it reflects the worship of our daily lives.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever find that you don't like worship? Why? What do you do with these feelings? Do you envision worship as something done in church on Sunday, or as how you live each day? How can your worship be an expression of your daily life?
PRAYER: Holy God, what a privilege to be able to worship you! How thankful I am for the chance to sing songs of praise to you, to lift up my prayers and offer my thanks. Yet, today I'm reminded that my worship is not confined to what happens in church, or to what I do in my personal devotions. Rather, I am called to worship you with my whole life. In fact, if I live a life contrary to your will, then my "in-church" worship will not be pleasing to you.
O Lord, help me to see my life as one, giant worship service. May I learn to worship you when I'm working and when I'm driving, when I'm shopping and when I'm eating dinner with my family. May I worship you in my dreams and my finances, in my public life and my private life. May I offer to you all that I am in worship, all of the time! Amen.