“For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory,” (Isaiah 66:18)
In the final chapter of Isaiah, the prophet calls for pure worship, not religiosity and legalistic ritualism. To achieve this purity, the Lord will perform an act of creation in forming a new nation, an act which will take place suddenly. This new creation emerges full grown. This is God’s kingdom, the church. It will be a source of light and peace to all nations, thus fulfilling God’s command to national Israel, a command which she ignored. The nation and people of Israel will be punished for their rejection of God’s covenant and their acceptance of blatant idolatry.
Despite this and other prophetic warnings, by Jesus’ day, Israel still pursued idolatry but in a different form: legalism and religion for religion’s sake. The leaders of Israel taught (and still teach today) that serving God is by following the letter of the law. Many modern Christians and churches continue to do the same. This religiosity distorts true faith as it focuses on outward appearances of piety, offices, rules, rituals and hypercritical moralizing while neglecting the inner profession of faith and the demonstration of love and mercy. Religion also breeds superstition and a works-oriented mentality as people think that their deeds of outward righteousness will make them right with God. Such loveless religion also breeds injustice, selfishness, neglect of the poor and needy as well as violence in the form of persecution in the name of the Lord. No wonder the Lord hates religiosity.