Although I have heard the phrase, “lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut,” many times, I did not know where it came from.
From some very brief research, I found the phrase is used by pilots who fly “lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.” It is also used as a description of a terrible comment or deed.
There are people who, when they are in their comfort zone, they are in a “rut.” They tend to do things the same way over and over and are comfortable that way. To defend the comfort zone, they say, “people are creatures are habit.” I’ve used the phrase myself, but now I’m not comfortable using it because I don’t believe it is necessarily true.
We humans sometimes love routine. We often live as a matter of routine. We wake at the same time, go to work at the same time, do the same tasks the same way, leave at the same time, arrive home at the same time, sit down in the same place, eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores. We may even worship God the same way in a kind of rote memorization that doesn’t require too much attention because it’s the same thing every Sunday and becomes part of a routine.
See, that’s wrong. This is something of which the Jews and the Gentiles were guilty. Their services at a temple were routine. They’re prayers were also routine. Jesus said of them, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matthew 6:7 ESV). The phrase, “empty phrases,” is from the word βαττολογέω, which means “to speak without thinking,” (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon of the Greek New Testament).
In other words, humans (who are famous for routine) sometimes get in a rut. This, we must NEVER do with God. God expects us to worship in “spirit and in truth,” (John 4:24). That means we must worship God in accordance with the right attitude and according to the truth. Mechanical worship, just like mechanical instruments, are an abomination to God. God wants us to THINK, not to speak without thinking.
God didn’t give the Jews the Tabernacle service to them so they could turn it into a ritualistic banality. So, Jesus said this same kind of thing in Matthew 23:5 in their hypocrisy. In both Matthew 6 and Matthew 23, the problem is the same: they do these things to be SEEN, not to truly worship God.
Jesus said, “Do not be like them.” We ought to remember that the next time we worship without thinking.