The Fullness of Worship

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. 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.”

Isaiah 1:15-17

In the time of Isaiah, Israel continued to do the things associated with worship: offering sacrifices, keeping the festivals, and lifting up their hands in prayer. But God’s people were not honoring him in the way they lived their whole lives. They were seeking their own advantage rather than that of others. Those in power took advantage of the weak. The rich abused the poor.

God’s response was shocking, given the fact that he had called his people to worship him through sacrifices, festivals, and prayer. Yet this kind of worship, however valuable, was not enough. Full worship includedsliving a life of faithfulness, justice, and compassion. If Israel would not serve God fully, then he would not heed their prayers.

We who belong to the Lord through the New Covenant do not make ourselves clean through our good works. We receive such cleansing through the once-for-all work of Christ. But, for us, full worship includes more than prayer and praise. Through our good works, we honor the Lord and walk in the ways he has chosen for us (Eph. 2:10). As James writes in his letter, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27).

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you think of your worship? Do you limit it to matters of prayer, going to church, singing songs, etc.? Or do you see your whole life as a means for worshiping God? How are justice and helping the oppressed a part of worship in your life?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, how easy it is for me to think of worship too narrowly, only as that which I do on Sundays in the “worship” service, or as offering you prayers and praise in private. To be sure, full worship includes such actions of devotion. But you challenge me through Isaiah to worship you, not just in obvious ways, but also in how I live my life each day.

May I worship you, Lord, by caring for those around me. May I worship you by reaching out with love to my colleagues and neighbors. May I worship you by working in this world justice, especially for those who need it most. Let my worship be full, Lord, as I offer to you all that I am all of the time. Amen.

A P.S. from Mark:
So far in these Daily Reflections I’ve worked my way through Genesis and Matthew. As I return to the Old Testament, I’m focusing on Isaiah, the first of the prophetic books. If you’d like to read a brief overview to Isaiah, check this link.