This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. Matthew 15:8-9
Where is My honor? You priests despise My name by offering polluted food on My altar with blind animals, your second best, as a sacrifice. Would the governor be pleased with that? Oh that you would shut the doors and not light a fire on My altar for I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts…For from the rising of the sun to its setting, My name is great among the nations. Malachi 1
We have a tendency to think that God should be pleased with any feeble attempt that we bring to Him and He should be happy with it. An old boyfriend once chose to go on a card playing weekend with his buddies instead of traveling with me to get a much needed new (used) car at my parents several hours away. It was dreadfully cold and my old car was prone to stalling out. It did stall out in three lanes of traffic, and I was stuck while strangers rescued me, mercifully pushing me off to the side of the busy city street.
He sent me a half of dozen roses after the weekend, most likely a feeble attempt to say “I’m sorry I chose my buddies over you,” without using words. Unimpressed, I didn’t even put the roses in water. Perhaps that’s how God feels when we give Him our second, third or twentieth best. It’s not worship, so don’t even try to pretend it is. To use Malachi’s words, don’t even bother showing up. Yet we do it all of the time and think, “How lucky God is to have me.”
What does God take pleasure in? What worship does He delight in?
Here are a few verses to give us some hints:
- Psalm 50:23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me.
- Psalm 51:6 Behold You delight in truth in the inward being.
- Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You won’t despise.
- 1 Samuel 15:22 To obey is better than sacrifice. Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
- 1 Kings 10:9 The Queen of Sheba said to Solomon: Blessed be the Lord your God who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel!
God delights in thankful hearts, truth, broken spirits, obedience, and He delights in us. John Piper says that “Christ is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” He expands worship to being bigger than just my frame of mind when I go to church on Sunday mornings, or whether I sing along to Christian songs. Here are some expanded thought on that:
1. Our pursuit of joy honors God. It’s a joy that is found because we have come to Him hungry, thirsty and desperate and we know that satisfaction is found only in Jesus. Our thirst honors God because we have come to Him to be filled (not to anything or anyone else).
2. If we pursue God as our joy and satisfaction then it makes worship God centered. If I love to be satisfied in God because He’s the center of my existence, then I am worshiping Him. If my boyfriend went with me to get my new used car because he wanted to be with me, then he wouldn’t be my “old” boyfriend. He consistently chose other things as more important than me. I didn’t like it. Neither does God.
If I delight in God, it is an end in itself because I love God and want to be with Him. And He likes that.
3. When we worship for the sake of God’s greatness and beauty, stuff happens. In true worship, God is at work because the Holy Spirit is free to work. People are drawn to God, conviction of sin takes place, people are encouraged, gifts come oozing out and a positive mojo happens. If we come to church or to God to use Him, to give Him or second or third best, or to put ourselves in the pole position, God isn’t glorified and the Spirit isn’t set free to work–and things don’t happen.
4. All of life is worship and not just church. Again, to requote John Piper: “Christ is most glorified in me when I’m most satisfied in Him.” So if I am satisfied in Jesus, I find my joy in Him, and I pursue my satisfaction in Him then He is going to be magnified in my life. I think about how easily I find my joy and satisfaction in fleeting, temporal things and think that I am no different than anyone else who doesn’t know Jesus.
God, turn my face and my heart to You. My only hope is in You, my only joy is in You. All that I have is in You. I count the rest as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing You. You are the pearl of great price. For joy I will sell all that I have to gain You and Your kingdom.