I was preparing for our Sabbath Scripture study tomorrow when I decided that our lesson should be shared. Not only is it an important question for believers, but I think it has a broader application for the whole of society. So, I ask again:
Does God care how we worship Him?
This is actually an easy question to answer — mostly because Yeshua answered it directly. The problem most people actually have is that they do not read their Scriptures, so they do not know them. Instead, they depend on others to read and explain the Scriptures to them. I can’t help but wonder: how many people do the same thing with other aspects of their lives?
Well, in this case, I will cite two of the most direct passages relevant to this question:
Matthew 15:1-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Tradition and Commandment
15 Then some Pharisees and scribes *came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
Mark 7:1-23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Followers of Tradition
7 The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
In both passages, Yeshua is responding to the Pharisees justification of breaking YHWH’s commandments in favor of their own traditions. The Yeshua quotes Isaiah, in which YHWH, speaking through the prophet, Isaiah, says that people who do such things worship Him in vain:
Isaiah 29:13-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”
15 Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord,
And whose deeds are done in a dark place,
And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?”
16 You turn things around!
Shall the potter be considered [as equal with the clay,
That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”;
Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
And echoed by Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 33:30-33 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
30 “But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’ 31 They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. 32 Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. 33 So when it comes to pass—as surely it will—then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst.”
If you have eyes to see, and ears to hear, then how can you not see and hear that YHWH has spoken? He has told us how He wishes to be worshiped, and we are not free to change the way He set forth. Or do you not understand that this is exactly what Yeshua is warning about in this passage: people who claim to know the Messiah, but who did not obey His commands:
Matthew 7:21-23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
Notice: these are people who claim to be believers. How can we know this? Because Satan does not claim to work in the name of Yeshua, but these people claim they have done so. This should scare all who fear the Lord. How could a believer be told they never knew Yeshua? The answer is in the last verse:
“you who practice lawlessness.’
In other words, all who seek to worship YHWH their way, and not His. And herein lies the application of this lesson for the rest of society. The United States has a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution. They are joined documents, and they are law. If we do not agree with the system they establish, or we wish to change it, they provide several methods by which we can alter or entirely re-write them. In short, they establish a proper way to do things. If we decide we can make changes outside of this prescribed process, then, while we may be citizens of this country and its several States, we are not Americans. Nor can we claim to believe in the rule of law, or even democracy, as this system was established by these two principles, and the process set forth to change that was, as well. Choosing to just do as we wish — for whatever reason — is as much a violation of this nation’s laws as worshiping however we wish is a violation of YHWH’s law.
BTW: The principle of obeying civil law that I just outlined… Yeah, you’ll find that in your Scriptures, too. Or didn’t you know that? See, this is why we need to read the Scriptures for ourselves. It can save us from destruction:
Hosea 4:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being My priest.
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.