The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Israel’s problem was what we would call mechanical religion, meaningless, external conformity to a performance of religious things. This is a grave danger. When you feel yourself becoming spiritually dull, it is a warning sign that says, Watch out! You are headed for trouble. This happens to all of us on occasion. It is healthy to ask yourself at times, Have I lost my zest for God? Do I sing the hymns mechanically? Do the truths of Scripture appear to me dull and common place? Have I lost the sense of joy in my Christian experience? That is a danger sign. That is what this woe is referring to. God’s provision for this is found in the latter part of verse 5 and in verse 6:
Suddenly, in an instant, the Lord Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. (Isaiah 29:5b-6)
Suddenly God will send into your life some experience—a disaster, perhaps—something that will get your immediate and undivided attention. That is God’s action to wake you up to the danger of drifting away from the vitality of a spiritual walk.
I have always appreciated the story of the two students at Duke University who went to a costume party dressed as blue devils, the mascots of Duke. They started out to the party, but by mistake they stumbled into a prayer meeting, setting off a great exodus through the doors and windows. One lady became wedged in a pew and began to scream in terror. Forgetting that they were causing her agony, the two young men rushed forward to help her. As she saw them advancing she raised her hand and said, Stop! Don’t you come any further. I want you to know that I have been a member of this church for 25 years—but I’ve been on your side all the time! That is what we call a moment of truth. It is a very valuable experience.
At times God will send something that wakes you up suddenly to the drift in your life. This is why he has spoken so helpfully through the prophets and the apostles, warning us of the danger of spiritual drift and the danger of living mechanically as a Christian.
Thank you, Lord, for your relentless pursuit of me when I fall into mechanical religion. Open my heart to the great riches that are waiting for me through living in vital fellowship with my living, loving Lord.
God’s love for us does not tolerate pretense and external worship. Do we gratefully acknowledge His wake-up calls as His loving pursuit?