Scripture Memory Meditation | Isaiah 29:13-14
“The Lord said: These people approach me with their speeches to honor me with lip-service, yet their hearts are far from me, and human rules direct their worship of me. Therefore, I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise will vanish, and the perception of their perceptive will be hidden.” Isaiah 29:13-14 (CSB)
These verses are an oracle of judgment from God to the Israelites because of their worship. First, God explains the problem. The Israelite’s worship has been reduced to rules and rituals. Their hearts did not match their actions. The implication is that this “worship” is not true worship. Israel’s prophets had failed them by letting the people fall into worship similar to the surrounding pagans. True worship that springs from a “fear of the Lord” understands who God is and responds with thankfulness and love by conforming one’s life to God’s statutes. Israel was no longer “drawing near” to God but settling for the “do’s and don’ts” commands, which was automatic and unthinking.
Second, God explains the solution to the problem of Israel’s rote worship. God will work a wonder to wake up the people and remind them of His power. Two themes in the book of Isaiah are God’s ability to work wonders and his refusal to fit into a pre-arranged category. So often, religion is reduced to bringing God into the realm of man and trying to fit him into our lives in a way that is convenient. We need to be aware of this temptation and seek to understand God’s word carefully in order to know God as he truly is, not as we want him to be.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees carried on the hypocritical spirit of their forefathers. Jesus quoted these verses to the Pharisees when they asked him why his disciples disregarded some of their traditions (Matt. 15:8-9, Mk. 7:6-7). Jesus made the same point as Isaiah—the heart is the source of true worship. Outward rituals and actions do not indicate a pure heart. The Pharisees looked good on the outside by following rules and laws beyond God’s commands, but were selfish, prideful, and lawless on the inside (Matt. 23:27-28).
Looking at our own lives, it will not take long to see the need for application of these verses. It is easy to just go through the motions of the Christian life. Many times we have Pharisaical hearts. We need to remember the wonders that God has done to shock us out of our unthinking worship habits. Jonathan Edwards said, “In nothing is vigor in the actings of our inclinations so appropriate as in religion, and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious.” God works miracles today by transforming legalistic hearts into hearts that love God and grow in worship of him.
Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, NICOT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 269.
Davis, Andrew M. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Isaiah (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2017), 165.
“When the Bible speaks of the heart it’s usually speaking about what we would call the mind—about our thinking, our attitudes, our way of making decisions (to refer to emotions, the Bible more often uses words referring to the guts or the soul).” John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone, Old Testament for Everyone (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2015), 107–108.
Edwards, Jonathan A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections: In Three Parts ... (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), 5.