In my last post on worship, I talked about blowing kisses to God, from the Greek word proskuneō. This time, I want to write about a more sobering verse, contained in one of Christ’s discussions with the scribes and Pharisees.
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matt 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7)
This word for worship is sebomai (G4576 σέβομαι), which Zodhiates lists as a synonym of proskuneō. It means to fall before, worship, adore. The word translated “in vain” is matēn (G3155 μάτην). It can also mean, “In a casual sense, meaning groundless, invalid” (Zodhiates). Used together, it means worship that is a vain and idle show of adoration rather than the real thing.
Trying to understand what invalidates a person’s worship of God, I went to the verse Christ was quoting from Isaiah. It reads, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men ” (Is. 29:13).
The state of our hearts is extremely important when we consider what genuine worship involves. It is clear from statements throughout the Old and New Testaments that “the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7) and expects His people to be pure on the inside. The last thing we should do is remove our hearts from God.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23)
And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. (Jer. 24:7)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matt 5:8)
It is equally clear that we cannot fool Him with worship that is not genuine. Read Psalm 139. God knows us to the very center of our being. He is the one who searches the heart and discerns our thoughts and intents (Jer. 17:10; Heb. 4:12). An idle show of adoration certainly will not fool our God, nor will He accept such worshipers when He is seeking those who worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
I want to close with a lovely song, from which I have borrowed the title for this post.