Dwight Fletcher | A kingdom of priests - The true meaning of worship
Today, we are going to explore the true meaning of worship. Derived from the Old English word 'worth-ship', it speaks to the worthiness of the one receiving special honour. Other definitions include: "... reverent devotion and allegiance pledged to God; the "... act of paying honour to a deity; religious reverence and homage."
Worship is the very essence of our relationship with God and involves our entire life. True worship can only come from a heart that is turned towards God - a heart that is obedient, reverent, and humble and desires that He be exalted.
Our text today regarding worship is very instructive as it:
- Shows what the heart's posture should be for those who strive to live a life of worship;
- Gives us a good glimpse of what it should not be;
- Provides an example of how God responds to persons who truly worship him and those who refuse to.
The book of Exodus highlights a very important time in the lives of the Israelites. They had been freed from slavery in Egypt and were camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses was on the mountain receiving the commands of God and the Israelites decided to make a golden calf to worship. They were doing what God had prohibited only days before. In Exodus 19:5-6 NIV God said: " Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
God said that they were to be set apart - a nation of people from whom true worship would happen and they would have special access to God. However because of their disobedience, God became angry with them and said: "Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them ..." Exodus 32:10 NIV.
God was about to wipe them out, but Moses intervened. He had the opportunity to be great, but instead, the desire of his heart was for God to be glorified. Because of his relationship with God, Moses interceded for the people and God changed His mind.
IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
The Lord agreed to fulfil His promise of the Promised Land to the people of Israel but refused to go with them. And, again, Moses pleaded with the Lord (and while He spoke to the Lord the people worshipped at the entrance of their tents).
God promised to send an angel before them and though this seemed acceptable. it was not enough for Moses, who wanted the presence of the Lord. He responds to God, saying, "If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here." Exodus 33:15 NIV. He is in effect saying that a substitute for God is not good enough. the journey to, and even life in the promised land was only a means for relationship building with God.
Though Moses had this 'influential' relationship with God, He was not complacent or content. he stated his desires to know God better.
a. His Ways & His Person - Exodus 33:13 - "... teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you ... ." Moses wanted to better understand the person of God so that he might enjoy a deeper fellowship with Him.
b. His Presence - Exodus 33:15 - Moses wanted a clearer manifestation of God's presence so that he might follow God better.
c. His Glory - Exodus 33:18 It ultimately is all about worship - Moses wants to see the glory of God so that he will be moved to a deeper relationship in his worship life.
God responds to Moses, saying, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence." Exodus 33:19 NIV.
No one can be in the presence of God and remain the same. there will always be some sign that you have been with God. There were some changes in Moses's life as well. The experience did the following in Him:
a. Produced worship - when Moses saw the Lord as He really was, it caused Moses to fall before Him and honour the Lord.
b. Produced humility - when we see the Lord as He is, we cannot help but see ourselves as we are! A good glimpse of God will produce genuine humility in our lives.
c. Produced An Outward Change - The evidence of spending time with the Lord was all over Moses! This was a testimony to the rest of the nation of Israel that getting with God makes a difference. Moses was a living, visible witness to the power of walking in the presence of God. The same will prove true in our lives!
d. Produced revelation - Moses got a fresh revelation of who God is. He said: "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation," Exodus 34:7 NIV.
Like Moses, we have the opportunity today to experience a relationship with God that produces a life of worship. Throwing off everything else, let us then walk into what God has called us to.