“… in vain do they worship me”
The religious leaders in Israel in the time of Jesus were zealous in their rituals of worship: the same can be said of the main forms of Christianity down through the centuries. Today in Matthew 15 we see how Jesus confronted the “Pharisees and scribes” (verse 1) after they had confronted him! First, they said,
“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat”.
The focus of their thinking was on observing rituals they created by embellishing the laws that were given through Moses.
Jesus challenged them
“… for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” (verse 6).
We must not add to or change what God and His son command, yet this has been done down through the centuries, such as the invention of christening! But Jesus and others “went down into the water” to be baptized. Peter in his first epistle, after observing it was “through water” that Noah was saved, then says,
“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
The Pharisees did not have a “good conscience”. Let us make sure we have; let us never make the word of God void. How powerful – and how apt – is the way Jesus now quotes Isaiah to them,
“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me …’”.
Let us meditate on how we worship, our heart must be fully involved. There is a lesson in the life of Saul, he claimed he had obeyed God, but he did it his way, not as the Lord had commanded, Samuel told him,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” (1 Samuel 15:22).
We must read God’s word to understand it and obey it – especially where it applies to life in serving Christ today.
Saul finally sank to the depths of despair, as we read today in chapter 28, in consulting a “medium”. There are many kinds of ‘mediums’ today which people consult, such as ‘financial gurus’ in their godless planning for a future they see as ‘godless’. We know all this is “in vain”.
The Creator invites us to “worship me” and now his son – for he is our advocate at his right hand. The first letter of John has wonderful words for us,
“I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1).