“Israel has built many altars to take away sin, but these very altars became places for sinning! Even though I gave them all my laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them. The people love to offer sacrifices to me, feasting on the meat, but I do not accept their sacrifices. I will hold my people accountable for their sins, and I will punish them. They will return to Egypt. Israel has forgotten its Maker and built great palaces, and Judah has fortified its cities. Therefore, I will send down fire on their cities and will burn up their fortresses.”
Spiritual disciplines can open a door for God to work and can nourish a relationship with him. But spiritual disciplines can decline into legalistic rituals when we remove our heart from the practice. If a person’s heart is far from God, these disciplines become meaningless motions. Spiritual disciplines are only helpful if they are motivated by love for God.
God didn’t want the Israelites’ rituals. He wanted their hearts. The people’s sacrifices had become mere ritual, and God refused to accept them.
We have disciplines, too: attending church, observing a regular quiet time, celebrating Christian holidays, and praying before meals. Because they are repeated often, they can drive God’s lessons deep within us. But rituals can be abused. We should not reject the disciplines of our worship, but we must be careful to remember why we do them. Why do you worship? What is the motive behind your sacrifices and offerings?