Read Isaiah 29:13
The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (NIV)
We may have seen the shells of cicadas flapping emptily on the bark of trees. The cicada has gone to live its life elsewhere. The shell remains. Perhaps some followers of Jesus can identify with such a picture. Faith is somehow still there,but the essential life has gone. What remains is like an empty shell.
Which is what Isaiah was speaking of in our text. The so-called ‘faith’ of the people was a sequence of religious routines. The right words were in place but there was a disconnect between the heart and those words. And the rituals and expressions of faith had been reduced to the repetition of human rules,a going through habitual motions.
It is so easy to do. To retain the form and forsake the substance. To keep up appearances whilst neglecting the inner reality. For those who have been Christians for a while and are very familiar with ‘doing the Christian things’,it is deceptively easy to let the passion and heart seep out of our lives and be content with doing the done thing.
And the remedy is not some adrenalin injection via a hyped up speaker and manically excited crowds (though even these can have their use!). The remedy is to admit our dryness and our hypocrisy and turn to the one who has promised to give us new hearts. So that there is a renewed connection between who we are on the outside and who we are on the inside. The empty shell is filled.