“Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
What is it that makes worship true and meaningful, and acceptable to God? Is it when the worship makes us feel good? Is it when our worship appeals to the appetites of the unsaved or unspiritual? Is God obligated to accept any form of worship, simply because it is what we offer? These are questions that should be considered by Christians and church leaders in our self-pleasing society. These questions are also addressed in our text. Jesus rejected the worship of these religious leaders. Jesus said in quoting from Isaiah, “in vain they do worship me.” Their religious activity was vanity.
Could it be that there is much worship today that could be described similarly? Could it ever be that our worship would be categorized as vanity? The word “vain” means “to no purpose.” Their worship was meaningless; it was a waste. Obviously, they considered their worship to be of some purpose, but God did not accept it. He did not accept it because it was offered in hypocrisy. They were not sincere worshippers, but hypocritical worshippers. They were like actors, putting on a show. Jesus said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” They were acting like they were something that they were not. Their words were declaring something that was not consistent with what was in their hearts.
A lack of sincerity and honesty makes our worship vain. If we would be honest, there are times that we can be just as guilty. If our hearts are not surrendered and we sing “I Surrender All,” that is called hypocrisy. When we sing “I Am Satisfied With Jesus” and we are resisting some area of His will, our worship is not sincere.
Secondly, their worship was in “vain” because they honored the traditions and commandments of men over the Word of God. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Worship and service that is not based on or in agreement with His Word is not acceptable to God. Our worship should be “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).