Westlake Community Baptist Church
Lips without Hearts
  • Love The Lord
  • Let The Praises Ring
  • Holy Is The Lord
  • Give Us Clean Hands
  • I Must Tell Jesus (Orwigsburg)
  • Isaiah 29 ESV
    1 Ah, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped! Add year to year; let the feasts run their round. 2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be moaning and lamentation, and she shall be to me like an Ariel. 3 And I will encamp against you all around, and will besiege you with towers and I will raise siegeworks against you. 4 And you will be brought low; from the earth you shall speak, and from the dust your speech will be bowed down; your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost, and from the dust your speech shall whisper. 5 But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff. And in an instant, suddenly, 6 you will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire. 7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, all that fight against her and her stronghold and distress her, shall be like a dream, a vision of the night. 8 As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating, and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking, and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched, so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion. 9 Astonish yourselves and be astonished; blind yourselves and be blind! Be drunk, but not with wine; stagger, but not with strong drink! 10 For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers). 11 And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.” 13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, 14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” 15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? 17 Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? 18 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. 19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. 20 For the ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off, 21 who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right. 22 Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: “Jacob shall no more be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale. 23 For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. 24 And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction.”

    Woe to Ariel

    When David encamped against Jerusalem in 1005 BC, he conquered it and made it the capital city for Israel. In Isaiah’s prophecy, Ariel is the symbolic name for Jerusalem. The name can literally mean Lion of God, but an "ariel" is also the name of an earthen hearth (think of a fire location setting for sacrifices). God declared that He would make Ariel into an ariel. The play on words is not a happy ending, for God will encamp himself against Jerusalem and turn the city into a place where blood and ashes are plentiful. This will be the result of Judah's disobedience. And by pronouncing a "woe" (the English word "Ah"), Isaiah gives the listeners an understanding of how they are to respond. Judah needs to respond with great concern toward their future path of choices and consequences.

    God Intervenes

    In verse 5 and 6, God promises to visit Judah with judgment. He promises to bring his judgment toward the enemies of Judah and Judah herself. Both will experience the mighty power of God to correct His creation. Through destruction, God will accomplish many things that will be of great blessing. He will ultimately restore Judah, but not just yet. There will be a time of discipline. Those who think they can be successful at avoiding God's justice are like dreamers. They may dream of a pleasant reality, but they will experience a rude awakening.

    A Spiritual Coma

    Verse 9 introduces the theme of spiritual insensitivity. The heart that continually refuses God will develop a spiritual dullness. Things of God become seemingly invisible to rebellious eyes and silent to stubborn ears. Isaiah states that God has caused their rebellion to go deeper to its logical conclusion. If they refuse God, then God will allow them to become spiritually distant. This is not something God would desire for His people, but the wise, loving Father knows that sometimes the wandering children will have to experience the consequences of their choices. God will allow us to refuse Him, and He will allow us to experience those consequences.
    This spiritual coma is ironic because the people continued with the festivals of the covenant in verse 1. Jerusalem was the spiritual center for three important pilgrimage feasts for Israel's people: Passover, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the Feast of Tabernacles. God concluded that they might have an appearance of drawing close to God, but they are actually very distant. The issue is a disconnect between their outward actions and their inner commitment to God. They "looked" like the people of God at a quick glance, but a closer look would reveal that they rejected God.

    One More Woe

    Isaiah declares an additional woe toward those who think they are more clever and wiser than God by hiding their sinful acts. They lived hypocritical lives on the outside when their hearts proved they lived a lie. They fooled themselves to ignore that God knows what goes on in the dark, what appears hidden, and in the inner chambers of the heart. We can not hide things from God.

    God will transform

    Should we end Isaiah's words in verse 16, we might be discouraged and give up any chance of change or hope. But God does not delight in the destruction of His people. He wants to continue the plan, and He promises that after they are brought low, He can and will restore Judah. The discipline of God will have the effect of awakening the lives of those who will repent. He will rebuild with a remnant of the people who are brought low. So Isaiah is able to confidently proclaim that Jerusalem will one day become the community of people committed to following God who obey Him with their whole hearts.

    Hope and Judgement

    How does God love His people? We may be surprised to know that God can send hugs and warm thoughts sometimes, and at other times, He sends harsh rebuke and warning. This chapter contains both elements. We should not be amazed at the spectrum of His response. God will speak whatever needs to be said to the heart, so that one turns to Him. This is part of His covenant commitment. God will always speak the correct words that are needed to bring us closer to Himself so that we may find life.
    Think about it. How do you respond to the harsh words of scripture? Do you welcome the convicting power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you recognize that God will do it because He has your best interest in mind?

    Lips without hearts

    In Isaiah's day, the people treated the covenant's festivals and rituals with a disconnected heart. This means that they did the outward actions of worship but missed the point of worship. In Isaiah 1:15-17, we see that they appeared to worship but neglected righteous and just living.
    Isaiah 1:15–17 ESV
    15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
    God made a covenant with Israel that He would be their exclusive God and provide for all their needs. God gave them the festivals as part of their responsibility to depend upon Him and to teach the next generation what it meant to be the people of God. But eventually, they began to regard these activities as human rituals rather than a worshipful response to God.
    "Consequently, Jerusalem's religion has become only performance with themselves as the audience. There is no real connection between the worshippers and the One being worshipped. They go through the motions with no expectation of any real encounter with the living God. Their religion has lost all sense of wonder." John N. Oswalt
    And the people of Jerusalem had a false perception that they were immune from judgment because the Temple was located there. And instead of looking only to God, the people sought their hope and dependence through alliances and treaties with other nations.
    Why did this occur? Did they forget that God had preserved them, delivered them, and continued to be active in their daily lives? Did they wander in their hearts because they envied the other nations? Did they forget because they had become "too busy" with life, and they only did the festivals to at least do something?

    Empty vs. True Worship

    Their worship shifted to become more like the worship of the other nations.
    Since Hebrew worship was similar in form to that of the pagans, it was easy for the Hebrews to fall into a pagan understanding, namely, that because certain human activities have been performed, the gods must do certain things...Thus the attitude of the worshiper's heart has no real effect on the efficacy of the ritual performed."
    John N. Oswalt
    The ancient people often sought to gain the upper hand over their gods through ritual. It became a form of control so they could get what they wanted from the god. But Christian worship is God-centered, and because of Christ, we already have all we need. So we are to respond to God's grace with a heart of gratitude for His mercy. May we never seek to manipulate our God, for we can never exercise control over Him.
    Scripture also reminds us that our worship includes our actions and intent. While we may be only able to see the outside actions of a person, God is able to look into the center of the heart and determine if it is honest or deceptive. Jesus taught His disciples the importance of inner obedience alongside our outward actions. A person may not commit adultery but can commit the sin of lust in the heart, just as one may not kill another but harbor the sin of hate in the heart.

    A Warning from Jesus

    When Christ quoted Isaiah's words, he pointed out another facet of this disconnected devotion to God.
    Matthew 15:1–9 ESV
    1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
    The Pharisees appeared around 150 BC and may have roots from the early exiles in Babylon. They emphasized obedience to the Law. While this was honorable, by the time of Jesus, they had developed into a group that held to a tradition of a strict interpretation of the law accompanied with oral teachings to ensure that one would remain pure and obedient before God. Pharisees developed a pious attitude toward themselves and often acted as a spiritual authority, although they did not have any official position within the Temple. In Matthew 15, they were outraged at Jesus and his disciples because the disciples did not perform the ritual hand washing before eating. The disciples may have had clean hands, but they did not observe the tradition from the Pharisees. So the Pharisees concluded that the disciples were impure and that Jesus was not a very good Rabbi because He did not instruct His disciples on the "holiest" of manners.
    When questioned by the Pharisees, Jesus answered with a question concerning their hypocritical sense of obedience. They held to a tradition that allowed them to neglect the care of aging parents. God commanded His people to honor their mother and father. This implied more than just respect; it included caring for the physical needs of parents who cannot care for themselves. To avoid this, they could declare their current and future resources as perpetual gifts unto God, and therefore, it would be wrong to give those to parents since it was intended for God. In reality, they could use their resources as usual but keep it toward their own expenses. Jesus pointed out that this tradition negated God's desire for them toward their parents.
    Jesus quoted Isaiah's words toward those who superseded God's laws through their interpretation and traditions. Their hearts were just as distant as the people 700 years earlier. Today, we ought to recognize the various ways we may convince ourselves that we are pure, obedient, and devoted to God when our hearts may be distant.

    Modern Examples

    Let’s consider a list of common ways we may have lips without hearts:
    A weak knowledge and view of Scripture.
    Mistaking ritual for heart commitment and daily relationship with God.
    Seeking God sporadically or when convenient. Weekend Warrior
    Satisfied with being busy to avoid a quiet listening heart.

    God Desires a Heart that is Close to Him

    We might find the grace of God to be "too good to be true". But this is our God. He will tell us the truth. The truth He shares is for your good. If it is a harsh warning, He means to respond and avoid the sinful and foolish consequences. If He comforts, we know that He wants to bring us closer to himself. God desires that you always stay in a close relationship. May we always draw near to Him.
      • Isaiah 29ESV

      • Isaiah 1:15–17ESV

      • Matthew 15:1–9ESV

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