“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” (Isa. 29:13)
These people could talk the talk, but they couldn’t walk the walk, because their hearts just weren’t in it. To hear them talk, one would have thought God was the most important Person in their lives. On closer examination, however, we find out that on the contrary, they had chosen to move away from Him, placing their true affections elsewhere. I don’t want to get into speculations about the actual relationship of this kind of person with God; I’m merely pointing out the principle this verse lays out: Some people’s devotion to Him is simply “from the teeth, out,” as I’ve heard the Irish say.
The rest of the verse gives us an idea of what can cause such shallowness. “[T]heir fear toward [God] is taught by men.” When people are placed under condemnation (not the same as conviction) according to man-made regulations, instead of God-made laws, their Christian lives are reduced to petty nit picking. And this kind of activity leaves precious little time for true Spirit-initiated heart searching—the kind that weeds out malicious roots and heals bitter wounds. Such daily, personal dealings with God are what keep our relationship with Him “up close and personal.”
Unless God has our whole hearts, and unless our standard for life is His Word alone, our Christian lives will always lack the depth of commitment required of a true disciple, no matter how well we speak the lingo. And make no mistake; following the precepts of men will earn you the praise of man, but only obedience to the precepts of God will win you the smile of Deity.
Oswald Chambers said, “The real crisis of abandonment is reached internally, not externally. The giving up of external things may be an indication of being in total bondage.” To abandon oneself in total submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the precepts of God is where true liberty is found. So says the Psalmist:
“And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.” -Psalm 119:45