Worship is a hot topic nowadays. “It does nothing for me” is an oft quoted refrain. So there’s a mad rush to try and figure out some ways to transform worship from dull to delightful, from rote to raucous. Current thinking is that worship needs to be exciting and entertaining. The “what’s-in-it-for-me factor” is the trump. Many churches have started polling their members to ascertain what to do in worship.
A significant part of worship, as I understand it, is seeking to know the will of God. We ought to think about the possibility that just because something makes us feel really, really spiritual, makes us feel like we’re really praising and honoring God, doesn’t necessarily mean God is pleased at all. Jesus said in John 4.24, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” According to Jesus, worship is not about what “I” want or how it makes “me” feel, but rather something “I” must observe – to worship Him in spirit and truth.
“What can be wrong with something when it makes us feel so right?” I know – the question boils down to “is God that picky?” Many of the issues involved in the current worship debate seem trivial. As big as God is, surely He can’t be concerned with such small stuff. Ah, but what do you do with Leviticus 10? Yeah, but that’s Old Testament stuff, and we’re New Testament people. Right, we are New Testament people and Paul wrote in the New Testament concerning the Old Testament, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15.4). So Leviticus 10 is there for a reason – it contains some instruction for us.
Nadab and Abihu were Israelite priests charged with the responsibility of offering incense in the tabernacle. Here’s what happened: “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10.1-2).
I don’t know about you, but that seems picky to me! Honestly, I’m kind of alarmed at how trivial the incident seems, how harsh God seems to be. Isn’t God supposed to be kind, merciful, gracious and loving? Well, He sure didn’t cut Nadab and Abihu any slack! The hard fact of the story is this: those two men knew better. They knew what God prescribed, how He wanted it done and for whatever reason, they chose to ignore His way and do it their way. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction” – there’s a lesson here for us.
- It’s important to pay careful attention to God’s instructions and follow them as closely as we can.
- What may seem trivial and of little importance to us may have a much weightier value with God.
- God is just as concerned with our obedience in the “small” things as He is with the “big” things.
- It’s not how worship makes us feel that’s important, rather it’s seeking to know and to do the will of God – there is where the blessings of worship are bestowed.
- God is kind and merciful and gracious and loving – He is also a God of wrath, jealous and swift to punish those who disobey Him. “God is love” (1 John 4.8) and He also “is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12.29).
The inherent desire to worship is a gift placed within each of us by a tender-hearted Creator providing us with a way to come into His presence and be filled with His holiness. But worship, like all of His creation, has order and purpose. For our worship to be acceptable to Him and beneficial for us it must be according to His will, offered in spirit and truth.