Friday, June 14, 2013

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday June 16, 2013
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MEANINGLESS WORSHIP
(The condition of our hearts and lives influences our worship)
(Isaiah 29:9-16)

Many pre-dominantly African-African churches are well-known for long Sunday worship services that feature loud gospel music, and praise dancing. We even see hand clapping, and outstretched hands to GOD, even while they are performing “demonic miming” in the church. We seem to have developed a knack for “honoring GOD with our lips” and “dishonoring HIM with our actions and hearts”, at one and the same time.
However, great prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel provide strong warnings to all people who attempt to entertain and impress each other with a public display of religious ceremonies that tend to veil a heart that has no genuine connection to GOD, or, to JESUS CHRIST.  
Isaiah 29, verses 9-24, like the passage of verses 1-8, comprise of a prophecy that consist of two parts;
·         The first part (Vs.9-16) is actually made up of three short prophecies of judgment, likely from the years leading up to 701 B.C., and the threatened invasion by the Assyrian King, Sennacherib, into Judah (2 Kings 18). The three short prophecies all have the same subject, which is the blindness and the lack of understanding of Judah’s leadership.
·         The second part (Vs.17-24) is a prophecy of salvation that is reminiscent of parts of Isaiah chapters 24-27 (Isaiah’s apocalypse) and chapters 40-55. The obvious pattern of “sin”, “judgment”, and “hope” seems to strengthen with each catastrophe, and continues throughout the book of Isaiah. Here also (Vs.9-12), the way Isaiah seems to go about his mission, may very well remind us of Isaiah’s vision in the temple in chapter 6,verses 1-13.
In verses 13-14, which are also about “blindness”, we see that, because of the hypocrisy of Israel, its leaders would be deprived of the resourcefulness that is needed to guide the nation through a difficult crisis ahead. The original context of this prophecy seems to speak of a time when irresponsibility and short-sightedness led to the devastation of Judah. However, as it stands, it can be taken as a general attack on the “lip-service” of GOD’s people who were faithfully attending acts of worship, mouthing the words of prayer and hymns, without actually taking seriously, what they were saying and doing.
The LORD judged Judah’s hypocritical attempt to maintain a show of worshipping HIM, while actually living as though HIS ways were not important at all. The people had replaced “true worship” with “lip-service”, “man-made rules”, and bible text that they merely memorized and reduced down to justchurch talk”. While using their mouths to flatter GOD, their hearts remained far from HIM, and in truth, they loved many other things more than they loved GOD.
GOD hates “false worship” and so HE promises to confound Judah with many wonders. The LORD would demonstrate that HE alone is worthy of worship and praise, and in the midst of HIS wondrous acts, the wisdom of the wisest men in Israel would vanish, and all understanding of the people would be hidden. Whenever we separate ourselves from a right relationship with GOD, our human wisdom fails us, and here we clearly see GOD saying that HIS power will confound the very best of “human intellect”.
In verses 15-16 we see just WHO is sovereign and in charge in this world, and that, of course, is the LORD. Hypocritical worship grows out of selfish pride, and selfish pride leads to self-delusion. It is very possible for a person to convince himself, or herself, that they can hide their plans and actions from GOD. Here in these verses, Isaiah confronts those who were going to great lengths to keep their unfaithfulness secret from GOD.
Such attempts are not just limited to Isaiah’s day, but perhaps, are even more common here in the twenty-first century church. In today’s church we surely seem to need reminding that nothing is hidden from GOD, and we would do well to adopt what I call “the attitude of Hagar”, and become convinced that the GOD of Abraham is “the GOD WHO sees me”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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