Season 2, Episode 18
For Friday, December 18, 2015
“True Worship Is That Which God Defines”
HOST: Wade Webster
When Jesus told the Samaritan woman that men must worship God in spirit and in truth, He was defining worship. In giving the aim – God, the attitude- in spirit, and the action – in truth, God was setting the boundaries of true worship. As we get ready to worship this week, let’s make sure we stay within the lines given by the Lord.
Not only does God desire, deserve, and demand worship, He defines it. According to Webster’s Dictionary, to define something is “to state the precise meaning of; to describe precisely; to mark the limits of; to outline clearly.” Notice that a part of defining something is to mark the limits of it. As you know, to facilitate driving and to promote safety we draw lines on our roads. These lines help men to stay in the prescribed lane while driving. In like manner, we use lines to mark the boundaries of the playing field in football, baseball, and soccer. In His word, God has outlined clearly the boundaries of worship. His word draws clear lines that men must follow if they want their worship to be acceptable.
In Old Testament and in New Testament times men had their worship rejected because they crossed over the lines that God had drawn. Consider the worship of Cain as a case in point: Although Cain worshipped God, His worship was not accepted because he got outside of the lines that God had drawn. Evidently, God specified what He wanted Cain and Abel to offer in worship. We arrive at this conclusion by combining what is in the Genesis account with what is in the Hebrews account.
Consider what we learn from each account:
In the Genesis account we are told that Abel offered a firstling of the flock (Gen. 4:4) and that Cain offered of the fruit of the ground (Gen. 4:3). We are further told that God had respect unto Abel and his offering but that He did not have respect unto Cain and his offering(Gen. 4:4-5). The word “respect“ means “to turn the eyes either to or from an object“ (Wilson‘s 352). God regarded Abel’s offering with favor and Cain’s offering with disfavor. In the Genesis account, we are not told the reason why Abel’s was accepted and Cain’s was rejected.
In the Hebrews account we are told why Abel’s was accepted and Cain’s was not. We read, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4). Notice that Abel’s offering was “by faith” (Heb. 11:4). Since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), we know that what Abel offered was what God commanded. Thus, God commanded a firstling of the flock. Abel gave God what He commanded and Cain did not. We understand as sacred history unfolds why a blood sacrifice was so important. The violent death of a snow-white, innocent lamb foreshadowed the violent death of the sinless Lamb of God that would take away our sins (John 1:29). A turnip or a tomato simply could not show the ultimate price that man’s sins would require. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew writer speaks of Abel’s offering as a “more excellent sacrifice” than Cain’s. If Abel’s was “more excellent,” then doesn’t it follow that Cain’s was “excellent?” If so, then what is wrong with an excellent sacrifice? In this case, the only thing that appears to have been wrong with Cain’s sacrifice was that it was fruit instead of a firstling. Evidently, Cain’s offering was excellent in quality and quantity. It was rejected because it was outside of the lines that God had drawn for acceptable worship.
This inspired example makes clear that God and not man sets the boundaries for true worship. As the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Redeemer of man, He has the right to draw the lines.
In defining true worship God has outlined three major things:
The aim – “God” – God and not man is to be the aim of true worship. Worship that is directed at someone other than God is unacceptable. It is outside of the bounds that God has established.
The attitude – “in spirit” – Man is to worship sincerely, gladly, humbly, gratefully, and reverently. Worship that is insincere, haughty, selfish, or irreverent is unacceptable because it is outside of the lines that God has drawn for acceptable worship.
The authority – “in truth” – In order to be acceptable to God, worship must be directed by truth. Man must engage in the actions that God has specified in the way that God has specified. To do otherwise is to be outside of God-given lines.
To please God in our worship, we must respect these lines that He has drawn. When worship in Biblical times was rejected, it was rejected because man violated one or more of these boundaries. At one time or another, the Israelites violated all three boundaries. Consider the following:
They violated the line that God had drawn concerning the AIM of worship. The Law of Moses commanded them to have no other gods and to worship no other gods than Jehovah. We read, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Ex. 20:3-5). Yet, time after time they worshipped the immoral and powerless gods of the pagans around them (Jer. 1:16; 16:10-13; 22:9). When they worshipped someone other than Him, God rejected their worship.
They violated the line that God had drawn concerning the ATTITUDE of worship. In Malachi’s day, as well as in Jesus’ day, they came before God with the wrong attitude. Worship was a “weariness” for those of Malachi’s day (Mal. 1:13). Those of Christ’s day praised God with their lips but their “heart” was far from him (Mt. 15:8). In Jesus’ own words, they were “hypocrites” (Mt. 15:7). When they worshipped with the wrong attitude, God rejected their worship.
They violated the line that God had drawn concerning the AUTHORITY of worship. Nadab & Abihu offered “strange fire which God “commanded them not” (Lev. 10:1). The word “strange” means “profane or unlawful” (Wilson’s 422). Special attention should be given to the penalty that God inflicted upon them. Not only was their worship rejected, they were killed. The inspired text says that “there went out fire from the Lord and devoured them” (Lev. 10:2). We must realize that when we cross over the lines that God has drawn, we place ourselves and others into great jeopardy. Like a car that crosses the center line into oncoming traffic, we set ourselves up for a violent head-on crash. Like Nadab & Abihu, those of Malachi’s day violated the authority of worship. They offered the lame, sick, and blind as sacrifices instead of the best unblemished lambs of their flocks (Mal. 1:11). In like manner, the Jews of Jesus’ day violated the authority of worship. Jesus said that they taught “for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9). When the Israelites worshipped God with the wrong authority, their worship was always rejected.
If God rejected the worship of His people in times past when they crossed over the lines that He had established concerning the aim, the attitude, and the authority of worship, we can be sure that He will do the same with us. Therefore, as we get ready to worship, we must make sure that we are within the boundaries that He has drawn. We must be careful not to be fooled by the new lines that have been drawn by men.
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