God Seeks True Worshippers
A recitation of worship events in the Bible reveals that although God initiated worship requirements, true worship was a grateful response to God’s perceived blessings, commandments, and promises. The first record of an offering in the Bible is that of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:2-5). Although the Bible does not stipulate what offerings were required, it declares that Abel offered by faith (Hebrews 11:4). Since faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), then God would have given some word of instruction to Cain and Abel regarding their offerings. Having been saved from the flood, Noah “built an altar to the Lord . . . and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Genesis 8:20). This, incidentally, is the first mention of an altar and burnt offerings.
After God promised Abram that his descendents would
possess the land of Canaan, Abram “built an altar to the Lord” at Shechem
(Genesis 12:7). He later built an altar between
Years after Abraham’s death, God appeared to Isaac when
he went to
In all these instances, offerings and worship were responses to God’s blessings, promises and commandments. True worship is more than making sacrificial offerings. It is a demonstration of attitudes of gratitude, trust and obedience – gratitude toward God for his blessings, trust in God that he will fulfill his promises and obedience to God’s commandments.
When God, through Moses, delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and led them toward the land of Canaan, he caused them to pause for more than a year at Mt. Sinai where, through Moses, they were not only organized as a nation but were also instructed by God in worship practices and procedures. A tabernacle with its courts, rooms and furnishings was erected as a place for worship. A priesthood was designated, inaugurated, and clothed. Altars were built for burning sacrifices and incense. Types of offerings, their purposes and procedures were designated. The Sabbath, holy days and festivals were established. All this was done specifically as directed by God for worship to God.
Before the descendents of Israel entered the Promised
Land, Moses reminded them of God’s blessings and exhorted them to worship and
serve God (Deuteronomy 4-11). After the conquest, Joshua admonished
When people turn away from God, God turns away from them (2 Chronicles 15:2) and true worship toward God languishes. Sometimes people worship other gods (2 Kings 17:16). Some-times people try to retain worship toward God, but fashion their worship according to their own desires rather than God’s will (Colossians 2:20-23). They may distort God’s manner of worship, like Jeroboam, who erected golden calves at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28-29; 2 Kings 10:29), or they may synchronize worship to the true God with that of other gods, like those who came to live in the cities of Samaria (2 Kings 17:29-33).
True worship requires a spirit of obedience toward to God. Worship is not simply the performance of rituals. God wants neither animals nor costly goods. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). God desires “mercy and not sacrifice, and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). God requires that you “fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12). God wants you “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly” (Micah 6:6-8, see also Isaiah 1:13-17; Jeremiah 7:22-23). True worship requires reconciliation with others before worship toward God (Matthew 5:23-24). True worship prohibits substitution of human desires and standards for the commandments of God (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:13).
When Jesus talked with a woman in
If the Patriarchs worshipped God in gratitude for his gifts and promises to them, and if Moses and the prophets called upon Israel to worship God for the great deliverance he had given to them from Egyptian bondage and for his promises of prosperity in the Promised Land, how much more should not we who have received the gift of God’s grace of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ appreciate and be thankful to God? Recognition of God’s grace toward us through Christ Jesus should overflow in thanksgiving and in obedient faithful service to God in this life. Then, when this life is over, that sense of having been blessed will overflow in everlasting worship and eternal service to God for having been redeemed (Revelation 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 22:3).
Copyright ©, May, 2006, by Robert L. Waggoner. Permission is granted to copy and distribute this document for non-profit educational purposes if reproduced in full without additions or deletions. Why not distribute this document to others? For other essays about God and additional information regarding biblical theism, go to the website www.biblicaltheism.com