Isaiah cuts to the chase as he talks to his people about their worship. The people were worshiping, but their worship was not about God; it was about them. They were going through the form but have yet to make any real effort. Giving God less than your best is not worship. The prophet voices God’s words, “But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses” (Isa 43:24).
God found their worship wearisome. He said his people had become impatient with their worship and a burden to endure. They were coming with unrepentant hearts, which offended God, and their worship became irksome to God.
It didn’t matter how many or how much the people were sacrificing; it was unacceptable to God. He wants his people to be unburdened of their sin and desirous of meeting with him, and yet they were coming to his temple with a burden and leaving burdened. God says, “I have not burdened you.” They brought their sin and left with their sin. They came with their worries and went away with them.
God intended that worship should unburden the sinner and that it lift and free us from our bondage and disappointment. When we serve God out of obligation and self-dependence, we not only do not find freedom in worship but also insult God. God promised to send his presence to his people, but only to the thirsty, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants” (Isa 44:3).
God offers to pour his spirit on us. He doesn’t have to. We don’t deserve it, but he offers it anyway—that’s grace. The grace of God only ministers to the humble and the thirsty. Only the thirsty receive when God pours his spirit out.
When we are thirsty, we become dependent on God because we come to know him as “… Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first, and I am the last; apart from me, there is no God. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isa 44:6-8). They know him; he alone is their source of strength and joy. They don’t look to anyone or anywhere else for satisfaction in this life. They know God is their redeemer; he is the LORD God Almighty—the first and the last. He is their Rock—their only Rock.