Isaiah 29: What’s the cure for phony worship?

Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8-9. He was rebuking them for missing the whole point of the law. As worship leaders (servants) called to prepare the music for the meeting together of God’s people, we are vulnerable to the temptation to honor God with our lips while our hearts remain far from him. It’s too easy to use our skill and experience to create a worshipy atmosphere and attitude while being completely void of a broken and contrite heart before the Lord. Read Isaiah 29 and meditate on what the prophet was trying to communicate with his warning to the city of David.
Isaiah 29:9-12
The Lord in His judgment blinds them and deafens them to the prophets.

Sometimes the word of God, the songs we sing, the preaching, the friendly encouragement of another follower of Christ will be meaningless and hollow. Our eyes will be shut to see God’s glory; our ears will be closed to listen to His voice. We usually get down on ourselves when we feel “dry” but maybe the Lord is taking us into that desert in order to bring back to the cross.
Isaiah 29:13
Their worship is a charade. It is a religious show. Their hearts are far from God.

This is the verse that Jesus quotes and it fits the Pharisees well. It also fits many of us well. This is an excellent verse for worship leaders to memorize.
Isaiah 29:14
So the Lord will mess up their perspective, He will screw up their misconceptions, He will blow their minds.

The Pharisees in the gospels are always getting thrown into a tizzy by Jesus’ words and actions. He really messes with their heads. Do you ever get completely confused by what God is doing around you? Do you ever get your brain messed up by the words or actions of Christ’s representatives with whom you come in contact?
Isaiah 29:15
Woe to people who come to church with their dirty little secrets hidden away who arrogantly think that God cannot see them.

We all have struggles with sin, and we often feel like sin is constantly beating us up. However, sometimes we get comfortable with our sin and we flirt with it, invite it, and eventually pursue it passionately. Watch out.
Isaiah 29:16
They act like they can tell God how it is, they can make God in their image, and they can twist the truth into justifying their evil deeds.

What happens when the clay tries to move the potter? It still gets smushed. Think of the Pharisees telling Jesus that his disciples didn’t wash their hands. Do we come to worship in the perspective of clay to be molded or as clay that wants to manipulate the potter?
Isaiah 29:17-21
The Lord brings His justice, righteousness, blessings, joy. He opens up the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. When he kick starts His glorious kingdom it will undo the judgment of 29:9-12.

Regardless of whether we want it or not, the Lord’s kingdom breaks loose and his glory opens up our eyes. Paul was on his way to kill some more heretics when Jesus blew his mind open and opened up his eyes. Praise God that there were a lot of ex-Pharisees in the early church. What a gracious, loving God to open our eyes even when we don’t expect it. He humbles us to open our eyes so that we can truly rejoice. It’s a promise.
Isaiah 29:22a
The Lord who redeemed Abraham
the one who called you, fixed you, blessed you freely by grace-
Says to the house of Jacobthe people who received the covenant despite their tricksy ways and conniving deceptions
Isaiah 29:22b-23
Your shame and fear will be healed when you
1) See, behold, get a grip on the Lord’s glory being revealed in the gospel of grace and then
2) Stand in awe of the God of Israel

No one likes the feeling of false worship. It makes you feel ashamed and fearful. I know when I am being a phony and it is scary. The cure for shame and fear is faith in the promises of God, the gospel.
Isaiah 29:24
All your jacked-up ideas of wisdom and coolness (vs 13, 15, 16) will be recalibrated and set right by processing again the gospel (God’s glory, man’s brokenness, God’s loving redemption as a gift.)

Phony worship is a disease, but there is a cure:
-Start by opening up your eyes in order to own up to your sin and your clayish status. Are you dry? Ask the Lord to open your eyes.
– Remember the promises of God, The Potter, to redeem you and restore you in the gospel.
– Stand in awe of the God of Israel (if you really meditate on those first two statements then “standing in awe” comes very naturally.)
– As you are humbled, rejoice. As you are needy, rejoice. (vs.19)

  1. #1 by Tanya on April 26, 2008 - 8:43 am

    Thanks for this post Kirk. I really needed to hear this!
    Blessings to you and your family!!

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