Friday, April 7, 2023

God of Worship

This one is important. Particularly in an age in which we are told that your preference is the most important consideration in anything. 

As Moses was going through his final instructions in Deuteronomy, he came to the topic of worship. He told the people of Israel what God expected of them as a worshiping people and how, exactly, to offer their proper worship. He told them about feast days and festivals, about bringing sacrifices, about how to offer those sacrifices once they had come. He talked about the presence of the Lord and the altar. 

And then, he said, "You don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is." 

Read that again: you don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is. 

The people were already thinking in their hearts about how they might worship once they reached the Promised Land. They were thinking about how they were going to offer their sacrifices and how to act like priests in their own lives. They were thinking of the proper things to do, and thinking at the same time of "new" ways to do those proper things. Ways that might fit more easily into their lifestyle or that might put them more in charge of their own acts of worship. The people were dreaming of the time when they were more settled than they were in the wilderness, and they were starting to plan what their new lives of faith would look like on the other side of the Jordan. 

And they weren't thinking bad things. They thought they were being earnest. They thought they were being honest and acting with integrity. Their hearts were in the right place - they legitimately wanted just to worship and to offer sacrifices to God and to be thankful to Him. They wanted to celebrate everything that He meant to them and the love that they had for Him. Their motives were pure. 

But you can't just slaughter a lamb in your backyard and call it worship. 

You don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is. 

So the things the people were thinking of doing, the things they were planning - even though they were earnest - were wrong. They may have looked like worship on the outside, but they were not actually worship at all. They were not pleasing to God. God would not see worship if He looked and saw these things. That's what Moses says. 

I said this is important, and it is. We are living in a time that says that worship is whatever you say it is. So you "worship" by going fishing on a Sunday morning and rejoicing in God's beautiful creation. You "worship" by giving your body additional rest and sleeping through times when you could be serving. You "worship" by singing the songs you like to sing, even if they aren't Christian songs, because you're making a joyful noise, right? And on and on and on we go, justifying so many of the things that we do as "worship" because we do, earnestly, love God and want to praise, honor, and glorify Him. 

We have all but pushed out what used to qualify as worship in our world. We have all but pushed out liturgy and solemnity and silence and prayer, all of the things that have been hallmarks of the church for thousands of years. And we have said that in its place, we have put our "worship" - "worship" that fits more easily into our lifestyles or puts us more in charge of our own presence at the altar. And we have called it good.

But is it good?

The truth is, as Deuteronomy tells us plainly, we don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is. 

Is your worship....worship?

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