Worship and Ritual
Isaiah 66:1-2
Thus said the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build to me?…

The desire for Divine communion has ever been strong in man. This desire was originated by God Himself. If not from God, whence could it come? We have no right to suppose it to be self-originated. That finite man should conceive an infinite Deity is an incredible supposition, for, to use the words of Pascal, "the infinite God is infinitely inconceivable." The manner in which God has thus revealed Himself in response to the passionate desire which He originated in man is a study fraught with a singular interest. He made Himself known to our first parents in Eden's garden, and in our first Scriptures we have several examples recorded of revelations made by Him after the banishment to the fathers of our race. By tradition these revelations were spread throughout the earth, and so we find the earliest religious faiths of our world abounding in sublime truths. But He specially revealed Himself to a chosen people. Israel lived under the very shadow of Jehovah, for God dwelt in that temple ann specially manifested His presence in it. But that presence did not restrain the people from rebellion. When not open followers of the idolatries of the surrounding nations, they left worship for ritual and forsook God for observances, and so made that temple to be at once their glory and their shame. It was at such time as this that the words of our text were uttered. Thus are we taught that Divine worship is not material, but spiritual, and that the habitation of God is not the building, but the soul.

I. THE NATURE OF THE BEING WHOM WE WORSHIP. Our text brings before as His omnipresence. He is in heaven, and He is on earth. We have a revelation also of the Divine omnipotence. Not only is He in heaven, not' only is He on earth, but He has a throne. Of course the one includes the other. If He be the omnipresent One, He is also the omnipotent One. That which is Infinite must be Absolute. We, however, distinguish, so as to obtain clearer conceptions. We are in danger of supposing that amidst all. this vastness we can be but of little consequence. But mind is greater than matter, and such ideas immediately vanish when we remember that the vastest material substance can never outweigh a holy thought, a feeling of devotion, a thrill of love. The man who can tell the motions of the stars is greater than the stars. And thus looking at the question, what shall we say of that man in whom God dwells? He who lives in a palace is greater than the palace, no matter how gorgeous it may be; and in the presence of a holy man the whole material creation is dwarfed into nothingness.

II. THE NATURE OF THAT WORSHIP WHICH THIS GREAT GOD REQUIRES. It must be something more than outward. Of all ceremonialism the Jewish was the most gorgeous. It was also of Divine appointing. The temple was built according to Divine plan and under Divine direction. The services were divinely commanded. The priests belonged to a Divinely set apart; tribe. Tokens of the Divine presence were given. But although this ceremonial was thus gorgeous, and of Divine appointment, yet God rejected it so soon as it lost its spiritual significance. All true religion begins in poverty of spirit. There must be a sense of natural defect and a consciousness of our own inability either to atone for the past or to deliver in the future. And with this poverty of spirit there must be contriteness. The heart needs to be broken before it can be bound up.

(Allan Rees.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

WEB: Thus says Yahweh, "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what kind of house will you build to me? and what place shall be my rest?

What God Does Not, and What He Does, Regard
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