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Godless Worship

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series

"Faulty Worship"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

In part one of this series, we investigated what Isaiah describes as heartless worship. God was
not pleased with that worship, nor did He accept it as true worship. God demands to be
worshipped in a manner which gives Him true glory and honor, not in ways that simply salve our
consciences.

In addition to heartless worship is another kind of faulty worship, that of Godless worship. That
may sound like an oxymoron, but this kind of worship has been attempted by God‟s people in
history, including the description given to us in Jeremiah 7.
Jehovah God must be the exclusive object and subject of our worship. When He is not, there
are problems.

The Examples of Godless Worship

The example within this text

Here in Jeremiah 7 we are given two clear descriptions of Godless worship attempted by God‟s
people. The first is found in verse 9. The people were evidently practicing their worship rituals
for Baal and other gods.

There is another example of this Godless worship later on in verse 18. There, God similarly
indicts His people for their attempts at worshipping false gods, specifically the queen of heaven,
and other gods.

Examples outside of this text

Several other examples exist in the Old Testament, where God‟s people attempted to worship
false gods in addition to or in place of God. Passages like Numbers 25:1-3, Judges 2:11-13, 1
Kings 11:33, or 2 Chronicles 25:14 all mention this kind false worship. The false gods of the
other nations as well as the false worship practices of the other nations were all implemented by
the people in their vain worship attempts.

All these references describe people within the covenant of God, who for whatever reason
chose to worship these other gods either in addition to Jehovah or in place of Jehovah. This is
false worship!

I doubt any professing Christian would verbally claim to be an idolater. Yet, the truth is that
while we claim to be monotheists, many times we become practicing polytheists. God‟s people
have historically struggled with this. Our “gods” become many other things besides carved
wooden or stone images, but they are equally as dangerous and erroneous.The Error of Godless Worship
Godless worship is idolatrous

Throughout the OT, God repeatedly issued warnings to His people to not worship any other god
besides Him. This was explicitly stated in very first of the 10 commandments, “thou shalt have
no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). God also told the people in Exodus 22:20, “he that
sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” God does not
take idolatry lightly, no matter who does it.

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Idolatry is not just physically prostrating oneself to a physical statue; it is bowing the heart to
anything in addition to or in the place of God.

The interesting thing about Jeremiah 7 is that verse 2 tells us that the people were going to the
temple to worship the Lord. It is not as if they were went to do something wrong, or went to the
wrong place to do it. Their rituals were what had been prescribed for them to do, but they were
idolatrous in their lives, which made their worship of God worthless.

Godless worship is Lawless

Verse 9 describes the sinfulness of these people in vivid form. The list includes theft, murder,
adultery, swearing falsely, and idolatrous practices. This list encompasses both parts of the
Law. These people were failing to love God supremely and love others selflessly. Their
idolatrous practices were virtually synonymous with their moral lawlessness. In fact, when
someone worships another god in addition to or in place of Jehovah, it naturally creates room
for a moral shift, because the absolutes of God are no longer absolute.

Idolatrous practices lead to lawlessness. When we remove the absolute truth of God‟s
supremacy, we also remove the absolute truth of God‟s morality. It is no wonder why much of
Christianity today is deeply embedded in immoral practices and lifestyles; our worship is
idolatrous and lawless.

The Essence of Godless Worship

A false view of God

The people seemed to have a false view of God that He either didn‟t see what they were doing,
or if He did see, then He didn‟t care. However, in verses 10-11 God indicates that He cares
about how His people live their lives outside of the walls of the temple. God does know! He
does see! He does care!

A false sense of security

In verse 4 the people had a false trust in lying words, saying, “the temple of the Lord, the temple
of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these.” What did that mean? This describes how the
people believed that the temple was the safety zone for them; that no matter what happened
outside of its walls, they were safe inside. They were putting their trust in the temple, rather than
in God. This is seen also in verse 10, “and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by
my name, and say, „we are delivered (safe) to do all these abominations.‟” They believed that
they were safe in their practice of idolatry because they also came to the temple. That was a
false sense of security.

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A false set of values

God‟s people all throughout history have been duped by a false value system. What we value is
what we determine to be important, what we hold in high esteem, and even what we choose to
love.

For these people in Jeremiah‟s day, they fell under the faulty value system of their world. Their
world valued polytheism: the worship of many deities, not just one. Tolerance, pluralism, and
moral relativism all prevailed in their minds. While they valued what was false, they were also
seeking to give some value to what was right. Yet in reality, no one can serve two masters; one
will always win.

Because God‟s people value the wrong things, our worship is greatly hindered. Our view of
God will be wrong and our morality will be skewed. Our world touts tolerance of all, religious
pluralism, and moral relativism. Yet those values must not infiltrate the church. We must not
remove God from the spiritual and moral throne of life. There is no other God, but Jehovah
God. We as Christians cannot truly worship God and other idols of the heart. Our fleshly
desires want to serve anything, except God.

While we may struggle with this kind of godless worship which the Israelites did, God again
offers hope and His enabling grace.

The Enablement to Proper Worship

Proper Worship begins with Repentance

God offers His solution beginning in verses 3-5 by telling His people to “amend your ways,”
which refers to making things good. They are to stop trusting in what is false, and instead
change their ways. It is not just a change of conduct, but a change of life. This is the essence of
repentance. It involves a change of mind and heart about what you value, what you desire, how
you think, as well as how you live.

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Their idolatry was keeping them from properly worshipping God. They needed to repent of their
sin of idolatry and turn to the one true and living God.

Proper Worship continues with Obedience

God then gives examples of obeying what God wanted them to do in verses 6-7. This people
needed to turn from their faulty ways and follow God‟s plan for their life. True worship of God is
always linked to right living for God. You cannot divorce those two ideas.

True change always begins with repentance. We repent of our sins before God and submit
ourselves to what His Word dictates for us to do. We do what He wants us to do because we
believe that what He wants is right and good. Repentance and faith always go together, and
God calls us to both.

Conclusion

The heart is extremely important in our worship. Yet that is not the only important element of
worship. The object of our worship must be correct, too. God Himself and God alone is worthy
to be worshipped.

Our worship must be monotheistic as well as thoroughly theocentric. God is both the object and
the subject of our worship.

God is not satisfied with people who claim to be His followers, worship false gods throughout
the week, then claim spiritual vitality on Sunday. Not only is this unacceptable, it is implausible.
Jeremiah clearly teaches about this kind of false, Godless worship.

This kind of false worshipper must repent and obey God‟s commands to worship Him properly.
There is hope for faulty worship, and it is found only in God and His Word.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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