Generally we don’t see the words “bad” and “worship” side-by-side. Most people assume that worship, in and of itself, is a God-honoring activity.
However, worship is just like anything else we do: it can be good or it can be bad. The difference lies in the object of the worship and the motivation of the worshipper.
For instance, in Isaiah 1, God expresses His disgust with the worship of Israel. Although the object of the worship is the one true and living God, the motivation of their worship does not reflect His glory.
In fact, their worship is so repulsive, that God refers to the worshippers as “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:10). Biblically speaking, that’s harsh!
Through Isaiah’s prophesy, God declares Israel’s offerings as an “abomination” (12), their gatherings as a “burden” (14), and their hands as “full of blood”(15). He exclaims that He has “had enough” of their offerings (11), and will cease to listen to their prayers (15).
What was wrong with their worship? It was all show. Everything was external –a series of rituals for the sake of appeasing or impressing God.
However, God is not impressed with man. And certainly, there is nothing man can do to appease God’s wrath toward sin.
Rather, the idea of worship is to submit one’s entire being to God. It has nothing to do with impressing God, but being impressed by God. And it has nothing to do with appeasing God’s wrath, but rather clinging to His grace.
The Greek words translated as “worship” in English, comes from the idea “to kiss the hand of” or “to bow down.” In other words, worship is complete submission and affection toward God.
The cross is the centerpiece of our worship. Christ is the fulfillment of the rituals and offerings presented in the Old Testament. For those in Isaiah’s day, the blood sacrifices and incense were all meant to point the worshipper’s heart toward Christ.
Similarly, today, Christian worship points us to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who defeated death and conquered the grave.
That’s why, in verse 18, God shares the remedy for bad worship to his people saying, ““Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
You see, worship is not “bad” or “good” based upon a style of music, order of service, or length of sermon. Instead, the acceptability of worship is a matter of the heart.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not a proponent of “do anything you want in worship as long as your heart is in it.” Scripture describes elements that should and should not be included in corporate worship.
Further, if a person’s heart is truly submitted to Christ, that person will want to please God through Scriptural elements of worship.
All I am saying is that even when we are doing all of the “externals” scripturally, if our hearts are not submitted to Him, it is not God-honoring. Anything less than a heart submitted to Christ is just “bad worship.”