What was I created for? What is the purpose of the Church? The answer to both questions is the same; we are made to worship. Check out our video that begins a new series on the practical theology of worship.
After expressing his displeasure at improperly brought worship ( see Nadab and Abihu – Lev 10 ), God commanded that the following steps be followed in meeting Him on the Day of Atonement.
- Locate a young bull
- Locate a ram
- Bathe thoroughly
- Put on the linen tunic
- Put on the linen undergarments
- Tie the linen sash around waist
- Put on the linen turban
- Locate two goats without blemish
- Locate another ram
- Sacrifice the bull for the atonement of the priest and his household
- Light a censer get two handfuls of incense
- Take these implements behind the curtain
- Put the incense in the censer to create fragrant smoke, protecting the priest from direct sight of the Ark and the presence of the Lord
- Sprinkle the bull’s blood seven times
- Bring the goats to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting
- Cast lots to determine which goat will be the scapegoat
- Sacrifice the goat whose lot fell to the Lord
- Repeat steps 11 to 14 with the goat’s blood
- The priest will go to the Altar
- Sprinkle blood of both the bull and goat on the Horns of the altar seven times
- Bring the scapegoat out
- Lay both hands on the goat’s head, assigning all of the sin of the nation to the goat
- Another man will take the goat and shoo it away into the desert
- The priest will return to the Tent of Meeting
- Remove the linen garments
- The priest will bathe and dress in his regular clothes
- Sacrifice the burnt offering for himself
- Sacrifice the burnt offering for the people
- Burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar
- The man who released the goat will bathe and wash his close before returning to camp
- The remains of the bull and goat must be taken outside of the camp and burned
- The man who burns the remains must bathe and wash his clothes before returning to camp
The meticulous and precise nature of these worship instructions should cause us to pause and consider the way in which we will enter God’s presence this Sunday. Do we toddle in with no more thought than if we were buying a gallon of milk?
There is great privilege in being the children of God, but also great responsibility.
Grace and peace to you.
Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 108:1-4)
In a short cry for physical aid, the psalmist calls us centuries later to consider the urgency of our spiritual motivation. Are we driven to rise in the darkness, to awaken the dawn in fervent worship? Do we linger in the comfort of our bed, seeking additional moments of slumber, delaying our appointment with God until a more convenient moment? Many are the nights in which the Lord beckons us awake, seeking our company and wanting to share a moment of communion with us. How will we respond?
Grace and peace in the Spirit of the Lord to you.
Among those who approach me I will show myself holy;
in the sight of all the people I will be honored. (Lev 10:3)
Worshippers read this passage and cannot help but wonder why God would refuse to be worshipped. The young priests added incense to their censers, lit them and swung them back and forth, spreading the pleasing aroma heavenward.
Only to have it received by Yahweh as the stench of death.
So offensive was the smell to God that he sent fire down the same path that the smoke travelled, instantly killing the priests as one might remove an annoying gnat. So rapid was the response to the impropriety of worship that Aaron, the mouthpiece of Moses, is struck silent.
In our modern worship mindset we ask, why would God be offended at their worship? Why would God be offended at any worship? The passage is silent about God’s reasons, nor are we in a position to demand explanation. God alone sets the standards for worship. We can speculate as to the details of the breach. Perhaps they entered the sanctuary unprepared to worship or came at an inappropriate hour. The fire that lit the censers may have been improperly sourced or unholy. The incense might have been similarly profane.
We don’t know the reasons for God’s offense in the case of the priests, but the encounter must cause us to reflect upon our own worship. Are we equally impious?
The words of Moses are a warning to communities stretching into our own day. We must learn to worship properly so that we may worship properly.
Grace and peace to you.
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts. (Psalm 105:1-2)
The awe of the sovereign God of the universe is sufficient inspiration to invite the totality of our worship. He is the God of all creation, the giver of life and the sustainer of souls. Worship-worth/ship-should be the natural relationship between created and Creator.
Then the mind gets in the way…
The brain tells the heart to justify the worship. Give me a reason, it says. The psalmist knows this tendency well. To call Israel to worship he rehearses the glory of Yahweh’s interactions with His people.. Glory in his holy name…Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.
He remembers his covenant forever..He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree
They wandered from nation to nation…He allowed no one to oppress them
Have you spent the time allowing God to remind you of your history together? The wonders that He has worked in your life, the trials he has sustained you through, the love He blankets you with. The act of rehearsing your history may be a personal motivation that deepens your worship to depths you have yet to experience.
Praise the Lord. (v45)
The verses of this psalm strike a note of familiarity with the reader and the reason for this is twofold. The themes of praise for God, membership in His flock and the ultimate truth of His enduring love are all present. Because the truths present are all encompassing, the words of the psalm have made their way into countless hymns, choruses and prayers.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
Placed in the cultural context of Israel, there are also theological lessons that take root in the subconscious. The Lord is God, not one among many, not capricious and prone to tantrum as the imaginary gods of those surrounding Israel. Knowing this truth and the truths about God make worship and the joy inherent second nature. Unlike the way in which one might approach an idol—hoping but never knowing—approaching the gates of the Shepherd comes with assurance.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.
Assurance despite any temporary travail or circumstance comes through knowing God. The psalmist doesn’t speak from book knowledge here, he writes from the heart of one who has searched both his personal history and that of the people of Israel, knowing the peaks and valleys. Knowledge brings level to these ups and downs. Knowledge reminds us that time belongs to God and that the contours may only soften over time. Knowledge reminds us that we can still be joyful in this truth.
Grace and peace to you.
O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (vv 1-2)
When we reach the 65th psalm, the psalter takes a sudden turn to effusive praise and leaves behind the psalms of lament temporarily. God has been praised by the psalmist over and over without hesitation thus far, despite the threatening clouds that seemed to shadow each entry in the book. Here there is no lament; it is either cured or forgotten in favor of pure praise for the goodness of God toward those who love him.
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! (vv 3-4)
Though we should worship God simply because He is who He is, we most often associate our relationship to Him via his remarkable grace toward us sinners. We who were separated from Him by the chasm of our unholiness are given the opportunity to rejoin the community of belief through His grace. Washing us clean, God provides the way for us to move closer and kneel in the courts of praise.
Our response to the grace we are extended is praise for His righteous acts:
You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.
Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (vv 5-8)
Our Father is not content to merely forgive us for our transgressions, he installs us in paradise in a lesser, but still overwhelming, expression of His love for us:
You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. (v 9)
Look around you, find a reason and praise Him today.
Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue:
He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God. (vv 22-23)
We read this psalm as a bracing splash of cold water in the midst of our self-centered religious practice. The modern Church gives us countless opportunities to think that it exists for us and by us. As God speaks directly to the assembled worshippers, He not so gently reminds us that this is not the case. It is all about Him and in these verses He calls His people to account.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God your God.
I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. (vv 7-15)
God needs nothing from us. We need everything from Him. Give Him alone the glory.
Image by Lawrence OP