Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.(5:23,24)
The reason for the LORD’s judgement becomes clear. It’s not that he objects to the songs of Israel’s worship as such (though I’m sure that there were as many excellent and as many dubious worship songs then as there are now). Rather, it’s that Israel’s worship is in a sacred box that doesn’t bear any relationship to the conduct of her life. Praise-songs and exploitation of the poor, rousing sermons and denying justice to the weak, don’t go together in God’s sight.
In church life, we can get very tied up in the quality and style of our worship – but by that we usually mean what we do in the hour and a half or so we spend together on Sunday. That gathered worship only has real meaning if it brings together the quality of the worship we offer while we are apart during the week. Not just our prayers but our actions, our shaping of society and our care for others. If our Sunday words and our Monday actions don’t match, then our offerings of praise just give God a headache.