Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of goats.

12 “When you come to appear before me,
    who has required of you
    this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
    incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
    my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
    you shall be eaten by the sword;
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 1:10-20

The way to please God with our worship is to live out a life that reflects God’s love and character in our world. Worshipping God and living right is the working out of the Great Commandments.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Isaiah was prophesying to an apostate Israel who loved to do the ritual thing while oppressing others. They seemed to think that they were doing fine with their liturgy that was ordered by God himself. My sacrifices take care of my sins, don’t they? This ritual is what God has ordered.

The first hint at their error is the fact that Isaiah addresses them as the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah. He goes on to say that they should knock off with the liturgy. He hates it.

Is the liturgy the problem? No. God did specify sacrifices and feasts. But the same law that specified the sacrifices also specified the proper treatment of others.

I think most Christians love their worship times. Some have grown up with some of the beautiful high-church liturgies and have grown to appreciate them greatly. Others of us have grown up with less formal robust forms of worship. Without our preferred form of worship, we feel like something is missing in a church service. But God has a greater concern than our pleasure in our favorite worship form. He is concerned with whether or not our lives match up with our worship. Do we love our neighbors as ourselves?

Do we mistreat those whom we encounter as we go through our day? Do we ignore the needs of those people who live near us, maybe even next door? Do we not know what our neighbors may need because we care so little about them? After all, we have our own lives to lead. We are busy. And it is true. We do have busy lives with lots to do and sometimes we think we just need a break. I’ve earned it. I deserve it. I have to take care of me.

All these concerns are correct, but does our worship please God when we care so little for our neighbors? I need to confess that I am preaching to myself. I tend to get focused on what I am doing and I don’t see anything else. My bad. It is frightening to realize that when I fail to love my neighbor God says my acts of worship, “…have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;

I am finding that repentance is in order for me. I have to begin to intentionally reach out and love my neighbors. I am starting by praying for them. I don’t mean just praying in my private prayer closet, but actually getting out and talking to my neighbors, asking them how I can pray for them and then doing it. Right there. On the spot. In front of God and everybody. I am nervous about it. I assume some will think I am a little nuts but I have already found that some are very pleasantly surprised that their neighbor cares enough to step out and pray for them while not asking for anything in return.

I assume that as I step out in praying for my neighbors I will discover needs that call for action in addition to prayer. Prayer is the first and most important thing I can do to love my neighbors, but it isn’t the only thing I can and should do.

As I bare my heart to you about my need to lovingly care for my neighbors, I ask for your prayers that the Lord will continue to grant me the courage to confront my reticence and obey Jesus.

Do you need to accept the challenge of Scripture and ask yourself about how well you are doing at loving your neighbors? Let’s make our worship really be pleasing to God by living out his love with our neighbors. He died for them, he cares for them, he wants us to show them that he loves them.