A people who provoke me to my face continually. . . . These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. Isaiah 65:3, 5
Clearly there is a kind of religion that God does not like! Isaiah identifies several forms of religion that are offensive to God.
1. Hypocritical Religion. “A rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good” (65:2).
Here are religious folks who talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. They claim to know God, but they do not do what is good. God says, “That offends me!” If you have been offended by people who claim to know God but they do not do what is good, then you agree with the God of the Bible here. God is provoked by the double standard of claiming to know him, yet walking in a way (that is, following a pattern of life) that is not good.
2. Personalized Religion. “Following their own devices” (65:2).
This means you just assume that God is “for” whatever you are for, and that he is “in” whatever you are in. It is remaking God in your image, so that your god becomes a personalized projection of your own preferences, prejudices, and desires. And God says, “That offends me! It provokes me to my face continually!”
3. Ritualistic Religion. “Sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks” (65:3).
Rituals, rites, and disciplines don’t change lives. You might expect that God would be very impressed with people who are constantly offering sacrifices and burning incense. But such a religion is ultimately empty, and God says that this provokes him!
Which of these approaches to religion is most attractive/tempting to you? Why?