Isaiah 29:1-2, 13 “Woe O Ariel, Ariel the city where David once camped! Add year to year, observe your feasts on schedule. I will bring distress to Ariel, and she will be a city of lamenting and mourning. This people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me.”

Observation: Ariel is another name for Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah is here describing the people of Jerusalem who were very good at their rituals. They kept all the feasts on schedule, they performed all the sacrifices, but God says He will destroy them and cause the city to be filled with lamenting and mourning in place of ritual.

Application: Some things never change! For over 2,000 years God has been condemning ritual, yet still I persist. Why do I think I can come up with my own ways of pleasing God, rather than simply yielding to Him in all things?

My methods, the things I have tried, are not only fruitless, but they are exhausting! How many times have I found myself just going through the motions of loving Him, yet found nothing but dryness within? Why O why would I ever foolishly think my way could be better than His? There is nothing, absolutely nothing, I bring to the table that He values other than obedience. God looks at the substance of my life, at its fruit, and His evaluation of me begins and ends there. 

He sees how I spend my time. He watches what I invest in. And He calls me constantly to turn away from my attempts to look good outwardly. A heart fixed firmly upon Him is the only thing He takes pleasure in. James 1 calls me to endure in the things of God, and in verse 4 says, “Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me today to endure in the right things, in those things that draw me closer to You. Sift me, Lord; examine my heart; look at what I spend my time doing, and speak to me about its eternal value.  Evaluate what I spend money on, and let me hear what You conclude, Lord. Keep me from ritual and pretense; give me Your life instead.