Isaiah 66:2b-3 (ESV)
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;
he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood;
he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;
Slaughtering an ox, sacrificing a lamb, presenting a grain offering, making a memorial offering of frankincense, these are all acceptable forms of worship according to Jewish Law, so why are they compared to such odious activities as murder, idolatry, and sacrificing dogs and pigs? The point of these verses is the very thing David understood after his sin with Bathsheba.
Psalms 51:16-17 (ESV)
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
God is not pleased with external obedience if there is no inward brokenness first. Some might call this repentance, but repentance is the change of mind that transitions one from brokenness to faith. David acknowledges that God wants “a broken and contrite heart.” Isaiah says that God is looking for those who are “humble and contrite in spirit.” When James and John asked to be acknowledged as someone great, Jesus responded, “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). God is looking for humility and brokenness, not self-confidence and pride.
God’s harsh assessment of their worship is based on his assessment of their lives. “When I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight” (Is 66:4). We have a tendency to dissect our lives into disconnected segments. We worship on Sunday. We work Monday through Friday. We play on the weekends. We do family in the evenings. But, none of these things connect. How we work, play, or relate to family too often has nothing to do with our worship. There is a disconnect.
For God, all of life is connected. Worship should affect how we work, play, and relate to others. How we work, play, and interact with others clearly affects God’s perspective of our worship. Worship is not a disconnected activity we do. It is the expression of a heart connected to God, and intersecting with life. It cannot be dissected from the rest of life. All of life is worship, or none of it is. There is no in-between.