When God Ignores Our Worship
Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?”Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. —Isaiah 58:2-4
Why does God sometimes ignore our worship? Here’s a big reason: Sometimes we’re selfish. Notice the text says, “Behold, in the day of your fast.” The word behold meansjust listen up. The context includes elements of worship like fasting and seeking the Lord. Why does God not show up? He gives us two clues at the end of verse 3: “You seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.” The phrase, seek your own pleasure means that you already have pretty much everything you want, and God is an optional add-on.
God refuses that treatment. That’s why authentic fasting is prescribed in Scripture. It elevates our hunger and passion for God. You cannot have everything your heart desires and God!
This explains why there is so much spiritual apathy in the western world. We think our material benefits are a sign of God’s blessing upon us. Wrong! God’s provision may be more of a judgment than a blessing. Instead of getting our humble attention, having all of our needs met often results in a greater apathy toward God and interest solely in our own pleasure. When our worship is all about selfishly expecting something to inspire us or turn our crank spiritually, God doesn’t participate.
The second clue is, “Oppress all your workers.” While you may appear to stop for worship, your little investment machine keeps going. You may not be a direct employer who insists on a 24/7 schedule for your workers, but your cell phone, tablet, or laptop are always on, and your system of generating income is working all the time. Would you ever think of shutting that down to give your full and focused attention to God alone? Self-employment can easily become worker oppression. God won’t accept you oppressing your workers, even if the only worker is you.
Worship is not for us. Worship is for God. As long as you come to receive and don’t come to serve and worship Him, you will walk out empty and disappointed —even when those around you are meeting God in powerful, life-changing ways. Ask yourself honestly, Am I selfish? Have I been consumed with myself? Am I here to worship God or am I expecting Him to be here for me? What is your answer? Because in one scenario God shows up powerfully—in another, God doesn’t hear you at all.
Father, it is tragic when I go through the motions of worship and don’t sense Your presence. Keep me from the folly of assuming You have to show up, just because I’m at church! Help me to humbly and longingly prepare for worship by seeking Your pleasure instead of mine. May I lay aside the desires that do not align with Your holy purposes and embrace the ways that honor You and exalt Your Son. In Jesus’ name, amen.