...and so should we
This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney.
In Revelation chapter four we find another characteristic of angelic worship. Revelation 4:8 says, "they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." Here we see that the angels round about God’s throne never stop. Their worship is with a sense of awe and of wonder and it is also unceasing. They never stop worshipping God day and night before His throne, chanting holy, holy, holy.
Worship is something that ought to characterize our whole lives, not just on Sunday morning, not just when we get together, but the sense of humility before our Creator ought to follow us around everywhere we go. It says in the gospels that it was the custom of our Lord on the Sabbath day to worship God. (Lk. 4:16) He made it His habit. He made it His custom. What we are seeing today is a change in the way worship is taking place.
We see in I Kings 12:28, a time when the nation was divided into northern and southern potions of the kingdom. There we read, "Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Notice what the king is doing here. The nation was divided, so he told his people in the north, Oh, it is so far to go to Jerusalem. It will be so inconvenient for you to go way down there to worship God in the Temple. Why do we not worship right up here?There were three annual feasts in Israel in which every single male of a certain age group was to go to Jerusalem and worship. Rest assured that was very inconvenient for all those families. They did not just hop into an air-conditioned bus. They had to go by foot or on a donkey. They had a long way to go and some of them lived on the fringes of the land of Israel. Three times a year God had commanded them to interrupt whatever they were doing and come down and worship God. Looking at I Kings 12:27, why did this king want to make worship more convenient for his people? The king said, "If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, evenunto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah." Do you see what this apostate king of Israel was thinking? He was afraid that if these people went way down to Jerusalem, (that long inconvenient journey to worship the Lord), then maybe they would turn back to God’s appointed king. Maybe they would turn back to the old system of worship and he would be out. Maybe it would stir up a real love for God in their hearts. If the people turned back to worship the Lord that would mean disaster for the north. So, he devised a system of worship in the north that would be easier. It would be much more convenient. It would not interfere with their busy schedules and their lives. We see the very same spirit in our churches across the country today, exemplified in changing the worship service from Sunday to Thursday, (why interrupt our weekend?), canceling evening services, doing away with prayer meeting, casual kinds of services, dressing down, changing the times of services so that they will not conflict with all our pleasure and all of our fun, and bringing in the easy listening music. The trend is to make worship more comfortable, casual, easy and convenient. It is a new kind of worship geared to please those that are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. It has caught on as wild fire.
I would like to suggest that worship that is based on the convenience of the worshipper is missing the most essential ingredient in worship – and that is sacrifice. Open up your Bible. The very first time worship is ever mentioned in the Bible is when Abraham offered up his son as a sacrifice to God. That is worship. The first occurrence is sort of a foundation for the theme throughout the rest of the Bible. Worship, if it is anything at all, is offering something to God. It is giving up for God. It is sacrificing for Him.
In II Samuel 24, a plague had struck the nation Israel because of David’s sin. He desperately wanted to stop that plague. Therefore, David decided to offer a sacrifice. One of the farmers said, King David, I will give you my land, my animals, and all you need to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. David said, No way. I will not offer to God anything that does not cost me something. David understood rightly that worship, if it is worship as all, has to involve sacrifice. (II Sam. 24:21-25)
In Malachi 1:13, God is rebuking the priests and the way the system of worship had degenerated in Israel. He said, "Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD." Notice here that not all worship is accepted by God. God is telling the priests, that although they are sincere, and although they are working hard, and although they are worshipping God, and although they are worshipping the true and living God, He would not accept their worship. It was because of the attitude of heart of the worshippers. Notice, in verse 13, how He describes the attitude of the people in their worship: "a weariness is it!" All of these sacrifices, all on these animals, all of this blood shed, all of these trips we have to take to Jerusalem, it is such a burden, so wearisome! In Malachi 1:7 God rebukes them, "Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible." They were offering sacrifices that were polluted. They were offering in Malachi 1:8 "the blind… and… the lame and sick" animals instead of the animals without blemish. And God said they had removed the essence of true worship, namely, sacrifice. God was not going to accept their worship. Ultimately they came to the place (Mal. 1:13) where they said it is too much. It is so inconvenient. It interrupts my schedule too much. It is cramping my lifestyle.
I wonder, is worship wearisome to us? Is it a burden? It is a nuisance to have to get out of bed on a Sunday morning? Is it a nuisance to have to come to prayer meeting and pray? Is it burdensome to us to have to worship before God and to have to put God first? If it is, the problem is our hearts. Our attitude in worship is really a reflection of our attitude toward God. To lovers of pleasure, worship is weariness. To lovers of pleasure, worship is a burden; it is an interruption. But to lovers of God, it is delight! The angels loved worshipping God. Godly men and women in the Bible loved to worship the Lord. They came into His presence with singing and joy in their hearts. There was no thought of it as being burdensome. In Israel, families had to rearrange their whole schedule to get their family all the way down to Jerusalem. They had to rearrange everything and put all their plans and activities on hold in order to get to Jerusalem for the feast days. And they were willing to do so. We read the accounts in the secular writings of the Jews, and in the Psalms, that they came singing. It was a festive occasion. They came singing and praising God all the way there. They were willing to sacrifice to worship God.
In our country today there is a big push to make worship casual, convenient, easy, user friendly, and sacrifice free! (And pleasing to or ears) The very heart of worship has been surgically removed today. Worship has become little more than a religious entertainment center. This is part of the spiritual battle we are involved in today. These trends are all around us in Christendom. It is sapping the life out of real worship. The enthusiasm and excitement that we see in worship today is more closely related to fun and entertainment than it is to God. Instead of being amazed at the Savior, they are being amused by the latest gimmick. By God’s grace we must stand opposed to that. We must be willing to be different from the world and even different from other churches who seem to be following the world. We are going to encourage folks to come out to worship God, not to hear a famous singer… not to hear a famous basketball player or see a light show or some other thing, but to open up the Bible and to bow our hearts before the true and living God, and stand in awe of His person – because He is here. We need to adjust our lives and schedules to revolve around Him, not to adjust the worship of God to fit into our busy schedules.
Maybe some find morning worship, evening worship, prayer meeting, our quiet times to be burdensome. But if we love God it is a delight. I have found it to be so. We have had some young people in this church that have known nothing other than Wednesday night as a time for prayer meeting. They have grown up that way. Some of them as toddlers have come into prayer meeting and they slept through the whole thing. They did not get anything out of the prayer meeting but this: they grew up knowing that prayer is important to mom and dad. Worshipping God is important to mom and dad. It says in Revelation 4, that the angels worshipped God day and night chanting holy, holy, holy. They were not looking for a more convenient method. They did not grow weary in their worship. It was not a burden. It was their eternal delight to stand before the God they love and bow before Him in worship and adoration!