Worship: True and Biblical

Christians differ on the proper way to do corporate worship.  But we can all agree that it is a matter of utmost importance.  God’s glory is at stake.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 11-13; Mark 13:1-13

Selected Verses

“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you.  Deuteronomy 12:8-9

And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”  Mark 13:2

Reflections

The true worship of God must be offered according to His word, not based on the whims of the worshipers.  This is called the “regulative principle.”  Moses laid down these laws before the Israelites entered the Promised Land.  They would find worship sites all over the land where the previous occupants made  offerings to false gods.  God wanted those worship sites obliterated.  He required that true worship be done according to His law and in the place He would designate.

That place was Jerusalem. Solomon would build a temple there according to God’s law. Later the invading army of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it.  Faithful Jews under Ezra rebuilt it.  But Jesus told His disciples that second temple would not last.  Sure enough, history tells us that in 70 AD, the armies of Rome under Titus destroyed that temple in Jerusalem.  It has never been rebuilt.

Old Testament worship pointed to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfills all the symbols of the temple and the priesthood.  Paul wrote that God’s temple now is His people. They gather around the world in all kinds of places and structures (I Corinthians 3:16-17).  He may be worshiped in truth without the need for a physical temple, but Christ must be central and God must be worshiped in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24;  Matthew 18:20).

Think about it

Yes, the regulative principle still applies to our worship, but sincere believers differ as to exactly how that looks.  We ought to exercise humility and patience with one another as we differ on some aspects of corporate worship.  Meanwhile, let us worship Him daily in our homes and weekly in our congregations with due reverence and awe.

Death at Church

Does God care how we worship Him? Two priests once believed He does not.  The result was death.  Death at church.  Find out more in today’s post.

Today’s reading

Leviticus 10-12; Matthew 26:1-19

Selected Verses

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them.  And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.  Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.  Leviticus 10:1-3

In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.  Matthew 26:12-13

Reflections

Here we have a dramatic contrast between people who sought to make offerings to God.  In the Leviticus reading the two sons of Aaron offer unauthorized fire before the Lord.  In Matthew a woman pours expensive ointment on Jesus.  God punished the former with death; but Jesus honored the latter and made her an icon of faithfulness.

What made the difference here? Why did God accept the actions of one and not the actions of the others?  God is not capricious.  He has made His will clear in His word.  The sons of Aaron were careless and, maybe, arrogant in their presumption.  They exceeded their authority as priests before God, doing what was not commanded in God’s law.  God showed that worship and the offerings to Him were serious business.  Above all, God was to be sanctified, set apart from the common and ordinary. No one may worship Him casually or according to their personal preferences and whims.

Jesus was the Messiah whom God promised to Israel.  One’s response to Him, whether in disbelief or in faith, was and is crucial.  In anointing Jesus with ointment, the woman showed faith which emanated from her love for Him.  As a result the Lord lavishly commended her action toward Him.

Think about it

What makes the difference between an acceptable and unacceptable offering to God?  The unnamed woman glorified Christ.  Aaron’s sons exalted themselves.  If you hold a position of authority in the church, such as a preacher or teacher, remember the warning of the Apostle James: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” James 3:1.  Will you glorify God today?  Seek to lift Him up before the watching world.

The Gift Acceptable to God

What can we, mere humans, give to God? There is nothing that He needs, but there is something He wants from us. Something He finds acceptable and holy.

Today’s reading

Leviticus 7-9; Matthew 25:31-46

Selected Verses

And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.  And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.  Leviticus 9:23-24

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Matthew 25:46

Reflections

In offering sacrifices to the Lord, Aaron was careful to do exactly as God through Moses had instructed him.  It must have been a relief and thrill when God showed His acceptance by sending fire to consume the sacrifice.

Jesus taught that in the final judgment there would be sheep and goats, separated as acceptable and not acceptable to God.  The righteous are acceptable and enter into eternal life but the unrighteous are unacceptable and go  to eternal punishment.

Think about it

Will you be found with the righteous, the sheep, on that day?  Is your sacrifice to God acceptable?  It can be acceptable and you can know that it is.

In Romans 12:1-2 we read:  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We are called to present our bodies to God to serve Him.  But take note, verse 1 says “therefore” which means this call is written in light of what Paul said earlier.  Paul explained the fallen condition of every human. He emphasized the need to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ.  So God calls us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice as the result of our having been justified by faith.  Christ redeems us by His offering of Himself to God.  We offer ourselves to the Lord not in order to earn acceptability before Him.  That is already ours.   If you are Christ’s, you will offer yourself to God and He will find your offering acceptable, yes, even holy.  Think about it.

 

What Matters?

In today’s reading (Psalms 80-85), we again find the psalmist comparing his relationship to the Lord with every other person, thing, or activity.  Sometimes we are offered many distractions and attractions.  If you know the joy of being in God’s presence, you know what it means to say “…a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10a).

May your time with Him be rich, filled with soul-satisfying fellowship with our Creator.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

One Thing

David wanted only one thing from God.  It is clear in today’s reading (Psalm 26-31) that he understood what really matters in life.

May we follow his example in seeking the Lord.  Nothing is more important. Nothing comes close.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Music Worthy of God

Is worship music a touchy topic for you?  Maybe that’s because music in the worship of God is a really important matter.  See in today’s reading how one leader showed the importance we should place on music that is worthy of God.

Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 6:1-7:5

In Ancient Israel, King David put emphasis on music in the worship of the Lord.  It might seem surprising that in those days the king designated professional singers and musicians.  It was a noble calling then and it still is now.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Unbiblical Worship Exemplified

Worship is to be according to Scripture, but that didn’t happen during the reign of Ahaz.

Today’s reading:  2 Kings 14:1-16:20

That worship is to be according to Scripture is called the “regulative principle”.  God tells us how to worship Him in His Word.  That was true under the Law of Moses in Old Testament times and it is true today.  Ahaz blatantly disregarded this principle as we see in today’s reading.

There are variations in the interpretation of the regulative principle.  Some hold that whatever is not prohibited by the Bible for worship is permissible.  Others teach that only those activities and practices which are explicitly commanded in God’s Word are acceptable. Probably many churches are  somewhere in the middle on the subject, between these two positions.   Apparently, Ahaz didn’t give this principle much thought, but we should even if we don’t totally agree with each other on the details.  Worship is for the glory of God and our highest concern should be with pleasing Him.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

God’s Glory and Judgment

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 5:1-8:22

The chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 1).  In today’s reading, we see that the Philistines learned the hard way that if a people will not glorify God, they not only fail to fulfill their purpose, but they experience severe judgment.

Learn from the horrible example of the Philistines.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Biblical Worship

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 12:1-14:29

God warned His people that they were to obey Him in the manner of their worship. Theologians call this the “regulative principle.” Our worship is not to be according to current fads and trends but according to His Word (Deuteronomy 12:4). Be sure your church is seeking to worship God biblically.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Glory and Beauty

Today’s reading: Exodus 28:31-30:21

In recent years, there has been a notable movement of people out of evangelical churches and into Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. No doubt much of this has been due to the attraction of the pageantry and solemnity found in worship in those churches. I am in no way tempted to follow this exodus, but I do pray that reformed and evangelical churches recover something of the sense of glory and beauty in worship.

For more reflections on these passages see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

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