“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship [fear/respect/reverence] of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (NIV Isaiah 29:13)
The NLT footnote on this verse reads. “Greek version reads Their worship is a farce, / for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. Compare Mark 7:7.”
The key to understand this verse is at the epistemology or presuppositional level. The NIV and some other helpful translation says their reverence/worship of God starts at the “human” presuppositional level rather than at Divine revelation level. That is, it is the epistemology of human speculation as a starting point of knowledge vs God’s revelation.
Today the common phrase for this respect/worship/fear of God is worded as “God-centeredness,” or “gospel-centeredness,” or “for the glory of God” (etc.). What makes this particularly deceptive is that fact that we are dealing with the topic of being humble and respectful to God, which sounds very humble and God-centered. However, the Jews in Isaiah’s time and in Jesus time had a problem with this. Today many still have an issue with it. The cross-roads of this issue is that man starts with himself (human starting points with inductive logic (i.e. superstition)) to come up with what God-centeredness looks like. Vincent has been helpful on this topic saying, “A truly God-centered theology would ask God to tell us what it means to be God-centered, but this is not what we are presented by those who claim to be the most God-centered in their theology. If you ask man what it means to be God-centered, then the product is only a seemingly God-centered religion founded on a man-centered foundation. It is a man-centered opinion on what it should mean to be God-centered. It still ignores what God thinks about himself. It still ignores how God wants us to relate to him. So it is still a man-centered religion, but more hypocritical. What we need is a God-centered religion on a God-centered foundation.”
And so, it is a man-centered view, in what it means to have a God-centered view. This one extra layer of deception confuses many people it seems; however, it does not confuse God.
As the verse says, God knows the heart. Also, as Jesus says the tree will be known by its fruit, and Jesus said this in context of the idle words spoken by the religious leaders. These idle words included the blasphemy of the Spirit when they gave a demonic definition to the holy and awesome work of the Spirit. They thought they were respecting God, but the opposite was the reality, being exposed by their words.
Let us use the example that Jesus used in Luke 14:10. To be humble is to take a place in the back, and if you really are an honorable man in God sight, God will come to you and ask you to come sit closer to the front. You will not need to promote yourself, God will do it Himself. He will say, “you ARE my righteousness,” “you ARE a son of God,” “you have acknowledge me before men, I will now acknowledge you before angels, and elders,” “through My Son’s gift you deserve this.”
The deception in the man-created view of humbleness is glaring. It will take a seat up front, but then say debasing things like, “I am such a sinful man,” “I am the worst of sinners,” “God’s ways are not like my evil ways,” “I don’t deserve this.” That is, they promote themselves, and give reasons why they deserve this, and they disguise their pride in self-debating phrases. God comes up to this man and says, “yes you have spoken truthfully, you are a rebellious sinner, so go sit in the back.” As an example God told the Israelites that God has given them the Land; that He is with them and against the inhabitants. The Israelites said “they could not do it,” and God in response said, “because your idle word were spoken in unbelief, then you will live out what you said.” You will not be strong enough to take it, just like you said it.
As a contrast to real humility consider the man that John the apostle rebuked for healing in Jesus’ name. Luke 9:49-50 (NLT) “John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”” To cast out a demon in Jesus name is humility because it is not your name but Jesus’. It is His power, not yours. Jesus’ response is that such a man has God’s approval. Or that is, John took this man and made him sit in the back, but Jesus approached him and took him back to the front. What God and men value is often opposites. Do you remember what God said gives Him glory? “Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory (Psalm 50:15 NLT).”
Considering David’s gross sins, what did David say? He said what a horrible thing He did. However, also in these contexts, David ask both for mercy and prosperity (Psalm 118). How is asking for prosperity humble in context of asking for mercy for great sins you committed? Many reasons for this, but we will focus on a few. One is that it obeys God, we are commanded to get all we have from God and seek His good promises. We are always to both seek spiritual and natural benefits from God, all the time. Also, asking God to give shows God as the true value and power. Furthermore, asking for prosperity right after asking for mercy, shows that you truly believe God has imputed Jesus righteousness to you. It means, you believe you are the righteousness of God, and so you have the foundation to ask for all of God’s good things.
The man, who beat is chest in Jesus’ parable, was humble and respectful in the right way, in the context it was given; however, the woman, with the flow of blood problem, is equally as respectful and worshipful of God when she took, without asking (or stole), Jesus’ power for her healing. The fact that God let her have the power for healing, is like God walking to the back of the room and asking this woman to come sit up front. Faith pleases God. When you have faith, it is God’s mark of His approval on you. When you have faith for all of God’s goodies (Psalm 103, James 5:15), it is God showing you off in front of everyone else, by asking such a humble and righteous person to sit up front with the nobles and princes. Faith in God’s promises is an act of the highest respect, fear, worship and reverence of the King of Ages. When you have faith in God, you do not need to self-debase yourself, because you are living what true worship and reverence to God is. Do not look to man. Do not look to human speculations or the kingdom self. Live by faith. Live a life of true worship to God. Forget man’s approval. Get God’s approval.
 Vincent Cheung. Faith Override. (https://www.vincentcheung.com/2016/04/08/faith-override/) From Sermonettes Vol. 9. 2016 Pg.9