GOD only honors WORSHIP that is ACCOMPANIED by heartfelt ADORATION: Therefore the Lord said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden." (Isaiah 29:13-14)
God had enabled Judah to gain victory over the massive army that had surrounded Jerusalem. However, His people had failed to gain spiritual insight as they were like drunken sleeping blind men trying to read a sealed book! The prophets and teachers of the law were spiritually blind and drunk (vv. 9-12), and they had failed to grasp the true nature of the spiritual condition of the people. Their religion was purely external as they just went through the motions doing the creeds that they had memorized. They had no understanding of spiritual things nor did they worship God in the way that He had intended for them. Since the intellectual leaders of Israel will not follow the Lord, the deaf, blind, meek, and poor (the Gentiles) shall rejoice in Him! (vv. 18-19)
In fact, the people had appeared to be religious, but they were honoring God only superficially “with their lips”. The people’s mouths and lips spoke the right things, but their inner nature was far from God. However, God looked inside their hearts as He had spoken to the prophet Samuel many years ago: "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). God could discern everything clearly, and He evaluated that the hearts of the people were far away from Him. However, God would shatter human wisdom and planning (30:1–5; 31:1–3) as He would perform a supernatural work of judgment by stripping the keenest minds of wisdom and discernment. God’s marvelous work includes both judgment on the proud and salvation for the lowly (vv. 17–24).
Our Lord Jesus Christ applied these verses to the Pharisees and the other religious leaders as He spoke critically about them as follows: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me…and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matt. 15:7-9, see also Mark 7:6-8). What Jesus was saying was that their fear or reverence was merely an intellectual accommodation taught by the traditions of men. The Jewish people honored God with their mouth and with their lips rather than their heart (meaning, mind, emotions, and will). What we can learn is that God desires expressions of devotion from the heart and hates empty rituals in our worship.
Today the “marvelous work” and “a wonder” that is mentioned in the above referenced passage has been accomplished by the gospel when God has disregarded the ‘wisdom’ and opened the eyes of the ‘foolish’ of this world. In fact, Jesus selected uneducated fishermen as His disciples after disregarding the educated Pharisees and scribes of His day. Apostle Paul has related this passage beautifully to the gospel in the following words: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (1 Cor. 1:18-21)
Let us understand that God wants His people to be fully devoted to Him. Our insincere worship can result in diminished wisdom and understanding. We cannot feign devotion: God knows our hearts and knows whether what we say has integrity. This is the best reason to pursue worship with a whole heart. We are to seek God’s face continually, expressing our wholehearted devotion to Him. True worship must begin with a proper reverence for God and His Word. We should realize that God only honors worship that is accompanied by genuine obedience and heartfelt adoration!