OK, it isn’t the greatest mystery in the world. But, those goods in the store that say “home made,” in whose home were they made? Are stores implying the ingredients for these goods were chosen with loving care then prepared with personal, loving interest, maybe even using an old family recipe? Or do things such as efficiency, packaging, profit margin fit in? Is the consumer really most important? Oddly enough, those questions and more came to mind as I read Isaiah 58 which seemed to feature “home-made religion.”
Isaiah 58 focuses on two religious practices, important and blessed practices: fasting and keeping the Sabbath. God’s Old Testament people had practiced these two disciplines for centuries. Keeping the Sabbath was a matter of obedience to the commandments. Fasting was a matter of honoring God by humbling oneself, giving up something good in exchange for something better. Isaiah addressed worshipers who were fasting and keeping the Sabbath, but the prophet’s message was: God isn’t impressed. One reason He was not impressed was because His “worshipers” were doing their own thing. When they fasted, they fasted to please themselves (Isa. 58:3). On the Sabbath, they were doing whatever they wanted, going their own ways, seeking their own pleasures (Isa. 58:13).
Their choosing for themselves how they would worship is what I call “home-made religion.” It wasn’t developed in the Temple or in the mind of God, it was home-made in their homes and hearts. In a sense, they were following their own “recipe” for godly living. They had looked through the cook book (God’s Word) and had chosen the ingredients they would use and offer to God as worship. Fasting? Yes, but the way they wanted to fast. Sabbath-keeping? Yes, again as they choose for themselves what to do and not to do. Maybe they included tithing, daily prayers, offerings. In each they chose what they would do and how they would do it. They decided for themselves just what worship and service and praying would be pleasing to God and what would not make any difference to Him in the way they lived as the people of God.
Many of us would feel right at home among these worshipers. We are a freedom-loving people who often feel “put upon” when someone says we must do this or that—even if that someone is God. Of course we would not resist God to His face; but, when His Word speaks to us or His ministers imply we are self-serving and not humble, often we resist in our heart. We seem to prefer home-made godliness in which we choose the recipe rather than rely on the Holy Spirit.
We create our home-made religion by developing a view of God that fits with our lifestyle, with what we want God to be—a God who is always willing to help and not be too demanding.
We choose ingredients—elements, practices, doctrines —that are pleasant, fitting in with the “nice” parts of Christian living. We serve God in the way we want, not according to need. We give what we want to give, not according to need or opportunity. We read and study scripture, the parts we enjoy or comfort us, not the parts that convict us of sin or humble us.
We take our home-made religion to church to be with other folks like ourselves, being careful not to expose what we really think or believe. After all, what we believe or think isn’t anyone else’s business is it? But it is God’s business. He is the One who “tastes” our home-made creation.
Isaiah 58 shows God did not like the taste of His people’s fasting and Sabbath-keeping. Are there parts of your life in the Lord that are tasty to you—comfortable, self-serving, self-centered religion—but not to God?