Monday, October 02, 2006

Rituals, or changed hearts? Gee, I wonder...

There seems to be a sort of religious impulse in humanity - an impulse to build places of worship and a desire for ritual. God is not always happy about these, and in Isaiah chapter 66 he talks about the temple without a lot of fondness. He's made heaven and earth, he says...
"All these things my hand has made
and so all these things are mine," declares the Lord.
"But this is the one to whom I will look:
He that is humble and contrite in spirit
and who trembles at my word."
Isaiah 66.2
He then goes on to say that he doesn't like the animal sacrifices (which he instituted himself in Leviticus) any more.

What he seems to be after now is not so much buildings and rituals but a transformation of our hearts. Speaking for myself, there's a part of me that, as Donald Miller says in Blue Like Jazz, prefers a sort of vending-machine god. I do this and that, to make him happy, then check that off the list and go on my way.

Which I guess is why God talks so much about this in the Bible. He says again and again that empty ritual is just that; that a relationship, a change in our hearts, is what he's after, and is the thing that will make us better.

And who is adequate for that? Boy, do I need help! And the good news, as always, is that God is here, as he says - this is the one to whom he will look (the NIV has "esteem"). Not to the mighty, not to the great, but to the humble, to the one who trembles at His word.

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