Friday, August 7, 2009

Instead of a Show - Jon Foreman

One of my favourite songs at the moment is Jon Foreman’s Instead of a Show. When I first heard it, I listened to it at least 10 times, over and over and over. And I hadn’t done that since I was a teenager listening to a new Bon Jovi album. Then I played it to my kids. Then I played it to my friends. And now I’m going to play it for you. Well, I’m going to include the video here and say please, please listen to it. It really is a brilliant song.

It sounds a bit like harsh when you first listen, especially at the beginning. You could be forgiven for thinking this is sung by a person who really doesn’t like churches – or at the very least some kinds of churches. But the song is actually based on a passage in Isaiah. I’ve included the passage at the bottom of this article.

The song and the bible passage are both a reminder that all our outward expressions of religion don’t mean a thing to God, if we’re not doing what he wants us to do. And I know that Christianity is about grace, not works. Yes, none of deserve God’s forgiveness. And the only way we can be accepted by God is by His grace, not on anything we may do. However, that doesn’t mean that what he wants us to do is not important. It matters more to him than our sacrifices and our worship. There’s no point in raising our hands to God in worship, if we’re going to keep them clenched up and out of sight when someone wants a helping hand.

We feel spiritual because we look spiritual. But God wants more from us than to simply look spiritual. He wants more than a show.

Dare I say it, but a lot of churches put a heap of effort into producing a good show. They have the large worship teams with trained musicians and easy to sing along songs. They have the dancing and the swaying and the screaming and the praying. They have people speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit. They have large auditoriums with an abundance of lights, screens and speakers. They have merchandise stalls set up, where you can buy books and CDs and DVDs that are going to bless you. Going to these churches can be more like attending a rock concert than a church.

But it’s just a show. And it’s not the show that counts.

Here is Isaiah 1:11-18.

11 "The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?" says the LORD.
"I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?

13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.

14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;

16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

18 "Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

(from Bible Gateway)


  1. Thanks for your comment, Courtney.

  2. Also check out Amos 5:21-24 as it matches up with some of the lyrics as well.

  3. Great song. It convicts me on a regular basis. Enjoyed your insight.



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