Monday, September 20, 2010

The Right Way to Worship



Part 8 of a series on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes

Text: 5:1-7


WHAT IS WORSHIP?

"Worship" = to ascribe worth to someone or something.

The First Commandment says, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). Our God is a jealous God. He desires our worship (but He doesn’t need it). Sadly, we often ascribe more worth to other people and others things than to God. God alone is worthy of our worship. Because of Him, life is not "vanity" (meaningless).

Martin Luther once said, "The most acceptable service we can do and show unto God, and which alone He desires of us, is, that He be praised of us."

There are three kinds of worship:
  • Worship by speaking. Many people equate music with worship. We can worship through music, but music is just one form of worship.
  • Worship by listening. We can worship by listening to a sermon. (Of course, we need to be careful that we don’t daydream!)
  • Worship by doing. "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). Every aspect of our lives has the potential to honor God.
Worship involves the heart, the mind, and the body. "I appeal to you therefore by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).


REVERENT WORSHIP

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity, but God is the one you must fear (v. 7).

"Fear" (yare) = to revere, stand in awe of.

How can we make sure that we worship God with reverence?

Three instructions for worshiping God with reverence:

1. Watch your step.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil (v. 1).

"The [Samaritan] woman said to [Jesus], 'Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.' Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth'" (John 4:19-24).

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman reveals two truths about worship. First, we can worship God anywhere. "God is Spirit." He is everywhere, not just in the temple ("house of God"). "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom y0u have from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19). Does this mean that gathering together as Christians for worship is unnecessary? No. "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:24-25). (The most common word for "church" in the NT is ekklesia, which means a "gathering.") We are to worship corporately and individually. Both gathering for action ("not neglecting to meet together") and scattering for action ("love and good works") are expressions of worship.

Second, we must worship God sincerely, not hypocritically. We must worship "in spirit and truth." This means that worship is not simply external (ritual), but also internal. Many times in the OT God said through the prophets that He hated Israel’s worship. Why? They worshiped with sinful hearts. "This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me" (Isaiah 29:13). This is probably the reason why God was not pleased with Cain's offering (Genesis 4:3-5; cf. 1 John 3:12). The worship of hypocrites is "the sacrifice of fools." You can’t fool God. Nothing is hidden from Him. He hears every word. He knows every thought. He sees every action. We, as Christians, believe this, but we often live as if we don’t. Why are we more afraid of what humans think than what God thinks?

When we worship God, we are entering His presence. The presence of God is a holy place. God said to Moses, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). We must "guard [our] steps"—not only when we worship, but also before we worship. What is your life like outside this building? "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen that the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22; cf. Micah 6:6-8).

2. Close your mouth.

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words (vv. 2-3).

There is a time to speak, and there is a time to listen. Sometimes we need to simply "be still, and know that [God is] God" (Psalm 46:10). When we stop and listen to what the Bible says about God we should be speechless, amazed, humbled.

"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Psalm 90:2).

"I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, and I will accomplish my purpose" (Isaiah 46:9-10).

"Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:24).

"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:35).

"God is in heaven and you are on earth." God is not our "buddy," yet He is our "Father." We are nothing compared to God, yet He loves us.

3. Keep your word.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow that that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? (vv. 4-6).

Hannah’s vow: "And she vowed a vow and said, 'O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life'" (1 Samuel 1:11).

Ananias and Sapphira’s vow: "But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the disciples' feet" (Acts 5:1-2).

Vows are not sinful, but we should be careful not to make a vow that we won't keep. Remember, it’s easier to make a promise than to keep it.

Is there a vow you made to God that you haven’t kept?