Our Text – (Ezekiel Chapters 40-48)
Revelation 4:11, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”
The final chapters of the Book of Ezekiel look to the millennial reign of the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ. The beginning chapters of Ezekiel graphically exposed the sins of the nation Israel, however, these final chapters shows her restoration in similar detail. God will graciously restore all that she has lost through sin. Once again, she will worship as God has directed her. The land, originally promised to Abraham, will become her own. Best of all, her fellowship with God, will be rich and direct. In Ezekiel 40-48, the Lord promises to restore everything that Israel will need to serve Him fully. He will rebuild all that sin has devastated. Ezekiel’s vision took place in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity of Judah, approximately 573 BC, where he returned to Jerusalem in a vision, as he had in Chapters 8 through 11. Beginning with (Chapter 40:3), a man “whose appearance was like the appearance of brass” took Ezekiel through the temple that will be built for God’s restored people.
THE MILLENNIUM TEMPLE
The final chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, 40 through 48, climax with a remarkably detailed description of the Millennial Temple to be rebuilt. The temple Ezekiel saw was quite different from the one built by Solomon. The prophet’s recordings of this future temple are as follows:
In Chapter 40, we have a (1) General account of this vision of the temple and city (v. 1-4), and a particular account of it and a description given, (2) Of the outside wall (v. 5), (3) Of the east gate (v. 6–19), (4) Of the north gate (v. 20–23), (5) Of the south gate (v. 24–31) and the chambers and other appurtenances belonging to these gates, (6) Of the inner court, both towards the east and towards the south (v. 32–38), (7) Of the tables (v. 39–43), (8) Of the lodgings for the singers and the priests (v. 44–47); and, (9) Of the porch of the house (v. 48, 49).
In Chapter 41, an account was given of the porch of the house in the close of Chapter 40. This Chapter brings us to the temple itself, the description of which here given creates much difficulty to the critical expositors and occasions differences among them. Those must consult them who are nice in their enquiries into the meaning of the particulars of this delineation; it shall suffice us to observe,
(1) The dimensions of the house, the posts of it (v. 1), the door (v. 2), the wall and the side-chambers (v. 5, 6), the foundations and wall of the chambers, their doors (v. 8–11), and the house itself (v. 13).
(2) The dimensions of the oracle, or most holy place (v. 3, 4).
(3) An account of another building over against the separate place (v. 12–15).
(4) The manner of the building of the house (v. 7, 16, 17).
(5) The ornaments of the house (v. 18–20).
(6) The altar of incense and the table (v. 22).
(7) The doors between the temple and the oracle (v. 23–26).
There is so much difference both in the terms and in the rules of architecture between one age and another, one place and another, that it ought not to be any stumbling-block to us that there is so much in these descriptions dark and hard to be understood, about the meaning of which the learned are not agreed. To one not skilled in mathematics the mathematical description of a modern structure would be scarcely intelligible; and yet to a common carpenter or mason among the Jews at that time we may suppose that all this, in the literal sense of it, was easy enough.
In Chapter 42, continues and concludes the describing and measuring of this mystical temple, which it is very hard to understand the particular architecture of, and yet more hard to comprehend the mystical meaning of. Here is: (1) A description of the chambers that were about the courts, their situation and structure (v. 1–13), and the uses for which they were designed (v. 13, 14), and (2) A survey of the whole compass of ground, which was taken up with the house, and the courts belonging to it (v. 15–20).
In Chapter 43, the prophet, having given us a view of the mystical temple, the gospel-church, as he received it from the Lord, that it might appear not to be erected in vain, comes to describe, in this and the next chapter, the worship that should be performed in it, but under the type of the Old Testament services. In this chapter we have: (1) Possession taken of this temple, by the glory of God filling it (v. 1-6), (2) A promise given of the continuance of God’s presence with his people upon condition of their return to, and continuance in, the instituted way of worship, and their abandoning idols and idolatry (v. 7–12), (3) A description of the altar of burnt offerings (v. 13–17); and, (4) Directions given for the consecration of that altar (v. 18–27). Ezekiel seems here to stand between God and Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord did when the sanctuary was first set up.
In Chapter 44, we have: (1) The appropriating of the east gate of the temple to the prince (v. 1-3), (2) A reproof sent to the house of Israel for their former profanations of God’s sanctuary, with a charge to them to be stricter for the future (v. 4-9), (3) The degrading of those Levites that had formerly been guilty of idolatry and the establishing of the priesthood in the family of Zadok, which had kept their integrity (v. 10–16); and, (4) Divers laws and ordinances concerning the priests (v. 17–31).
In Chapter 45, is further represented to the prophet, in vision: (1) The division of the holy land, so much for the temple, and the priests that attended the service of it (v. 1-4), so much for the Levites (v. 5), so much for the city (v. 6), so much for the prince, and the residue to the people ( v. 7, 8 ), (2) The ordinances of justice that were given both to prince and people (v. 9–12); and, (3) The oblations they were to offer, and the prince’s part in those oblations (v. 13–17). Particularly in the beginning of the year (v. 18–20) and in the Passover, and the feast of tabernacles (v. 21–25). In addition, all this seems to point at the new church-state that should be set up under the gospel, which, both for extent and for purity, should far exceed that of the Old Testament.
In Chapter 46, we have: (1) Some further rules given both to the priests and to the people, relating to their worship (v. 1–15), (2) A law concerning the prince’s disposal of his inheritance (v. 16–18); and, (3) A description of the places provided for the boiling of the sacrifices and the baking of the meat-offerings (v. 19–24).
In Chapter 47, we have: (1) The vision of the holy waters, their rise, extent, depth, and healing virtue, the plenty of fish in them, and an account of the trees growing on the banks of them (v. 1–12); and, (2) An appointment of the borders of the land of Canaan, which was to be divided by lot to the tribes of Israel and the strangers that sojourned among them (v. 13–23).
In Chapter 48, we have particular directions given for the distribution of the land, of which we had the metes and bounds assigned in the foregoing chapter. (1) The portions of the twelve tribes, seven to the north of the sanctuary (v. 1-7) and five to the south (v. 23–29), (2) The allotment of land for the sanctuary, and the priests (v. 8–11), for the Levites (v. 12–14), for the city (v. 15–20), and for the prince (v. 21, 22). Much of this we had before, in Chapter 45; and, (3) A plan of the city, its gates, and the new name given to it (v. 30–35), which seals up, and concludes, the vision and prophecy of this book.
One can get lost in the details of the Temple and endless arguments about it; however, God’s emphasis is always on people rather than buildings. As important as every detail of the Temple is, it is a means to an end: a way by which God can live with and relate to His people during the Millennium. The major focus of the Temple vision is holiness and worship.
HOLINESS IS WHAT GOD IS
Holiness also comprises His plan for His people”. While the Millennium Temple is a prophecy for the House of Israel, God’s desire for His character to be reflected in His people remains constant, “like the Holy One who calls you, be holy yourself also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am holy'” (I Peter 1:15-16). God “consistently requires and supplies the means, the Holy Spirit, by which to produce a holy people”. Worship is giving God the best that He has given to you and me, and we must be careful what we do with the best we have. Whenever we get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship and praise.
A. A PLACE TO WORSHIP
The presence of all the details of the temple should convince us that God would be concerned about proper worship in His future Kingdom, however, the Temple Ezekiel describes in these final chapters has never yet been fulfilled. The Millennium is yet future; nevertheless, God wants us to worship Him now, and as such, we will study some of the characteristics of worship. By worshiping appropriately now, we prepare ourselves for the day when we will actually stand in God’s presence. For our consideration of this study, we are going to explore, and study the area of Worship.
The surging power of the ocean; the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon; the unleashed fury of a violent storm, or the infinite vastness of a starlit sky. These inspire in us a sense of awe and wonder, and make us feel insignificant, weak, and limited by comparison. Surely, if creation can affect us this way, then contemplating the greatness of our Creator should cause us to explode with worship and praise! If you would survey the people you pass daily on the streets where you live or the surrounding towns, you might get some of the following opinions concerning the concept of what worship is:
(1) A waste of time. The atheist says that worship is unnecessary because there isn’t a God to accept our worship. If heaven is empty, there’s no point in having a heart full of gratitude for a God who isn’t there.
(2) A shot in the dark. The agnostic says, “I don’t know who to worship.” He finds it hard to worship someone he can’t see. Moreover, if he isn’t sure what he can believe about God, then he can’t be sure what kind of worship will please Him.
(3) Up to the individual. Some people say that it doesn’t matter who you worship or how you worship. What’s important is that you devote your life to serving some higher power. All religions are said to be different roads that lead to the same God.
(4) A matter of looking within. Those who accept this view say that God is in everything and that everything is a part of God. No distinction is made between the Creator and His creation. To get in touch with one’s inner thoughts and feelings through meditation is to commune with deity.
(5) Better on the golf course. This view says that you can be as close to God on the golf course or in a fishing boat as you can in a stained-glass sanctuary. Worship is seeing God in the beauty of the sparkling water, the strength of the towering trees, and the blue of a sunlit sky.
(6) More common than you think. Some people worship a religious leader, a special object, or an idea instead of the God of the Bible. It happens in cults when a leader receives the honor and obedience that only God deserves. It also happens when a house, a car, a job, a mate, a child, or a form of recreation is given the attention that should be given to God.
(7) All in the liturgy. According to this view, worship is following a set of repeated religious words or exercises. Emphasis is given to standing up, sitting down, bowing, or participating in some other ritual. Traditional clothing and religious phrases are also involved as key elements.
(8) Something that happens at church. Some people feel they can worship only when the time and the setting are right, such as on Sunday morning, stained glass windows, traditional hymns, soft organ music, and of course a choir. According to this view, worship occurs only in “the sanctuary.”
B. WHAT IS WORSHIP?
Does anybody really know what worship is all about? The word worship comes from an old English word that contains the ideas of honor and worth. When we worship God, we are honoring Him. When we worship God, we are recognizing His inexpressible, indescribable, and infinite value. Like the angels in heaven, all true worshipers say, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11). True worship not only recognizes the worthiness of God, it rejoices in it. The Old and New Testaments have a number of words that are translated “worship.” The Hebrew word used most often in reference to worship means “to bow down, to do homage” (Genesis 18:2). The most prominent Greek term for worship conveys the idea of “showing reverence” or “bowing down to God” (John 4:21-24). A second Greek word means “to serve, to minister” (Matthew 4:10). Worship, then, involves both our attitude and our action. Worship is the attitude of reverence and adoration, as well as the action of humble, loving service to the God who is worthy.
C. WHO DO WE WORSHIP?
The answer we give to this question reveals whether or not our worship contains the first and most essential ingredient to the kind of worship that God is looking for. Our worship is right only when we worship God as He is described in the Bible. False gods or inadequate views of the one true God can nullify even the most sincere efforts to worship. The cult member often has a twisted perception of God’s character. Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). God has the right to be the only object of our worship because He alone is worthy.
Psalm 99:5 says, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool–He is holy” … As Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the desert; his attention was drawn to a strange sight. A bush was burning, but it was not being consumed. As he looked more closely at this phenomenon, he heard a voice say to him, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Joshua had a similar experience as he led the Israelites into the Promised Land. When he approached “the Commander of the Lord’s army,” he was told to take off his sandals because he stood on holy ground (Joshua 5:13-15). The experiences of Moses and Joshua vividly teach us that a holy God demands our reverence and respect. True, we are encouraged to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), and we can enter the presence of God with confidence because Christ has opened the way for us through His sacrificial death on the cross. However, we are never to approach God with disrespect. Our heavenly Father is not “the man upstairs.” He is God, the One who is “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). As the one true God, He is worthy of our highest adoration and praise. God not only desires our devotion and respect, He deserves it. He is worthy of our heartfelt worship.
D. KNOWING GOD (HIS CHARACTER/ATTRIBUTES)
Jeremiah 9:24, “Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord”. It’s one thing to know about God, but it’s quite another to know Him personally. Let’s see how this distinction applies when considering some of God’s attributes.
(1) God is PERSONAL
He is not, as some describe Him, an impersonal force. He possesses all the qualities of personality—intelligence, emotions, and self-determining will—in their ultimate and infinitely wonderful forms (Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end”; John 3:16). Though immeasurably greater than we are, He can relate to us and we can relate to Him with our minds, hearts, and wills (Deuteronomy 6:5).
(2) God is ETERNAL
His infinite value is seen in the overwhelming fact that He is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God”). Unlike any other being, He never had a beginning and He will never have an end. He is, for every generation of worshipers, the Ever-living One.
(3) God is SPIRIT
Jesus taught us that God couldn’t be contained or limited by physical places, forms, or buildings (John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”). As Spirit, He does not exist in a body that can be seen or touched. Therefore, He must not be reduced to a physical image of any kind.
(4) God is ALL-KNOWING
The thought that God knows everything is overwhelming. However, to have the confidence that no detail of our lives escapes His attention is to enjoy a peace that endures through every trial. He is unlimited in His knowledge (Psalm 147:4-5, “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite”); Matthew 10:29-30; Romans 11:33). He knows everything there is to know about our world, the universe, and us. Locked doors, darkness, or distant places do not hinder his knowledge.
(5) God is ALL-POWERFUL
The thought that the Lord is all-powerful makes us marvel at His greatness. However, to have Him actually work in, through, and for us encourages us to relax in His mighty arms. He can do anything that He chooses to do (Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son”); Psalm 115:3; Matthew 19:26). No good thing is beyond His ability to do. No army, government, or civilization can frustrate His purposes.
(6) God is Present EVERYWHERE
The thought that God is present everywhere is staggering. However, to be aware of His presence in times of need brings comfort and hope. There is no hiding or escaping—no way to avoid the all-powerful One. No locked room or secret meeting place can keep Him out. No matter where you go in the universe, God is there (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7-8; Jeremiah 23:23-24, “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD”); Acts 17:27-28).
(7) God is SOVEREIGN
Regardless of the apparent turmoil, confusion, or chaos in our world, the God we worship is one who does all things according to His own will and purpose (Isaiah 46:10-11; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11). He is, has been, and always will be in control of all of history. Nothing can escape His ever-present hand.
(8) God is UNCHANGING
The thought that God never changes is a reassuring truth. Nevertheless, to commit ourselves to the care of this never-changing One is to know the stability of His faithfulness. In His character, in His purpose, and in His ability, God never changes (James 1:17). He has never been nor ever will be less good, less loving, less true, or less powerful. The God that Abraham praised and relied on is the same God we worship.
(9) God is GOOD
(Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him”). Because of His goodness, He gives blessings and joy to His creatures (Psalm 145:9; James 1:17). His goodness to us should cause us to offer our praise to Him (Psalm 86:5; 100:5; 135:3; Jeremiah 33:11).
(10) God is RIGHTEOUS & JUST
God deals fairly with all His creatures (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 7:9-12; 18:24-26; 145:17, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works”). Because of His perfect knowledge, love, and holiness, He is perfectly just.
(11) God is TRUTHFUL
Not only is He the one true God (Jeremiah 10:8,10; John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”); 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:20-21), whatever He says is true (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 119:160; John 3:33). We can trust all of His promises and His principles.
(12) God is HOLY
He is completely free of any moral defect, compromise, or contamination (Exodus 15:11, “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders”); Isaiah 6:3). Because He is the standard of all excellence and honor, He deserves our unending praise (Psalm 96:9; Psalm 99:9, “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy”). We worship God because of who He is! He alone is worthy of praise and honor. He alone is worthy of our worship. We also worship Him because of what He has done.
The thought that God is love is wonderful to contemplate. However, to know Him as a loving Redeemer through personal faith in His Son, Jesus Christ brings the joy of sins forgiven. The writer of Psalm 96 knew God, and that relationship was reflected in his words. His heart poured out praise, and he longed for others to know the Lord and worship Him as well. Do you know God personally, and if so, does it show?
D. HIS WORKS
(1) He Is the CREATOR
Scripture introduces us to God in a way that should overwhelm us with awe. It says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In the very first verses of the Bible, we meet the God of our worship in all the wonder and awe of His creative power. Just imagine: He says the word, and nothingness becomes something. What mystery! He speaks, and all the elements of this earth—atmosphere, water, and land—find their appointed places. At the sound of His voice, oaks, octopuses, ostriches, and orangutans appear. He reaches into the dust, forms the perfect man, and breathes life into him. That’s amazing! God’s mighty work of creation should inspire reverential awe in all of us and cause us to worship Him (Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth”); Isaiah 44:24; Revelation 4:11). However, I must pose the following question to you:
Who’s Your Creator?
Does the design of the universe point to an intelligent Designer? Even though many scientists resist that idea and propose naturalistic explanations for the origin of the cosmos, they sometimes use words that point to a Creator. Fred Heeren talks about this in his book Show Me God. He quotes English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking as using the words “finely adjusted” in explaining the development of life. Hawking also uses the phrase “very carefully chosen” in relation to the initial configuration of the universe. In addition, Heeren shows that the late Carl Sagan often referred to “some kind of force or power” by which the universe created itself. Sagan declared that the cosmos is all that exists, but he also said, “Our ancestors worshiped the sun, and they were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and the stars because we are their children.” He was repeating the mistake of those who worship “the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
In contrast, the Bible points us to the infinite, intelligent, and personal Creator who has made us and revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ (Psalm 96:5; Colossians 1:15-19). Let’s make worshiping the Lord God and serving Him our greatest delight. The design in creation points to the master Designer.
(2) He Is the SUSTAINER
The God who deserves all honor and praise not only created all things but also holds it all together. No other truth about God should humble us any more than this one. We couldn’t live another moment without His help. Everything God has made is dependent on Him. He cares for all things according to His own purpose and plan (Psalm 104:27-28; Matthew 6:25-34). Apart from His supporting and sustaining hand, everything would explode, unravel, and decay into disorder and chaos (Hebrews 1:3, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”).
(3) He Is the SAVIOR
This should evoke the loudest and longest praise of all! He rescues from a lake of eternal fire, destruction, and dishonor all that will believe in His Son. He “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). By an inexplicable strategy of love, He declares repentant sinners righteous and gives eternal life to dying souls (Romans 3:19-28). Could we ever give enough thanks to the One who has loved us like this? Could we ever give Him enough praise, honor, and love?
Lucky Lawrence thought he had it all. Like so many who seek fulfillment in fame, money, and success, he struggled to find real joy despite having all those things. His real name was Larry Wright, and he was the number one rock-and-roll radio personality in Phoenix in the 1960s. However, his family life was a mess, and he was fast becoming an alcoholic. As Mike Yorkey tells it in his book Touched by the Savior, the solution came to Lucky Lawrence when his wife Sue trusted Jesus as her Savior. Larry noticed the peace and joy in her life and the obvious change in her attitude toward him. Soon he too asked Jesus to forgive him and be his Savior. Gone was the frustrating search for peace. In its place was the joy and peace of God. Larry and Sue have now served the Lord for more than 30 years. In Romans, we see the contrast between the two kinds of existence possible in this life. In Romans 1:18-32, we read about the sad, frightening life of those who refuse to live for God. It’s a life full of trouble and turmoil. However, in Romans 5:1-11, we see what happens when a person trusts Christ as Savior. “We have peace,” it says. “We rejoice,” we’re told. In addition, we have hope, love, and salvation. What a contrast! Which of these two worlds are you living in?
(4) He Is the JUDGE
The truth of our accountability to God should cause us to fear Him. For some, unfortunately, fear drives them away from God. However, for others, fear causes them to repent of their sins and seek His forgiveness. God’s acts in history prove that He is the judge of all men. He judged men in sending the flood (Genesis 6–9). He judged men by confusing their language (Genesis 11). He judged men by destroying wicked cities (Genesis 19). One day He will judge His enemies by casting them away from His presence forever (Revelation 20:11-15). No thought, no decision, no action will escape His ever-present, all-knowing eye! Yes, the wonderful works and matchless characteristics of God make Him the only one worthy of our worship and praise. Knowing whom we are worshiping, then, is very important. However, it is also important to know why.
F. WHY DO WE WORSHIP?
We partially answered this when we answered the question, “Who do we worship?” We worship God because of who He is and what He has done. There is no better reason! There are additional reasons, however, for letting our minds, hearts and bodies respond to the goodness and wonder of God. For our worship to be right and acceptable, it must also be expressed because:
(1) We Were Created To Worship
Man was made to be a responder. We were made to find our fulfillment by responding with thankfulness to the greatness and goodness of God. Had that continued from the beginning, we would not only have avoided every social problem and disease known to man, but we also would have had uninterrupted enjoyment of God. Nevertheless, we fell from such original worship. Romans 1 tell us that our ancestors stopped worshiping the God who was clearly seen in His creation. They stopped glorifying Him as God. They stopped being thankful. They stopped responding to the truth that God made all things (vv.20-21). The result is that man suffers inexpressible pain as his thoughts and heart are captured by a twisted and contaminated world. We still respond by worshiping what we love and value. However, all too often our response turns into bitterness, disappointment, and regret as our “lesser gods” topple one by one.
(2) We Are Commanded To Worship
A teacher of religion asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” The Lord replied, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:28-30). However, is love the same thing as worship? This kind of love is, because it is the worshipful adoration of God, who deserves our love. When we love those who are undeserving, it is an act of mercy. However, loving God is an act of worship. We love Him not because we are good and loving. We love Him because He deserves every ounce of affection, adoration, and allegiance possible.
(3) He Uses Our Worship to Accomplish His Purpose
In one sense, God doesn’t need our worship. He doesn’t need our praise, affirmation, or congratulations. He doesn’t need our worship any more than He needs our food, our money, or our service. He is totally complete without us! However, as far as His saving purpose for our lives is concerned, He has chosen to ask for our worship. Worship is an essential part of His plan. As we give Him honor, He puts us in a position that enables us to know and enjoy His goodness. What love! God asks to be given something that benefits us! His “need” is nothing more than His means of bringing us to Himself.
(4) Our Worship Pleases Him
Because true worship brings us to God, worship pleases Him. He takes pleasure in any attitude of heart that bows us low or lifts us up in appreciation of His matchless wonder. The psalmist said, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:11).
(5) Our Worship Proclaims Him to Others
When a spectacular event occurs in the world, news organizations quickly transmit the details to as many people as possible. For example, the first landing of men on the moon was proclaimed the world over. As one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments, it deserved to be known by everyone. However, God is the most newsworthy of all. His marvelous person and works deserve to be acknowledged loudly and continuously so that all people will come to know and worship Him. When we worship God, we will find Him far too wonderful to keep to ourselves. The psalmist declared, “One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). Yes, God is to be worshiped and to be praised.
G. WHERE DO WE WORSHIP?
(1) Worship by Our self
Jesus said to the woman, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (v.24). He spoke these words to help the Samaritan woman understand that the worship of God is not to be restricted to a particular location. For us, this means that the mother in the kitchen can worship. The worker in the factory can worship. The student in the classroom can worship. The sick person on a hospital bed can worship. The businessperson in the office can worship. We can worship Him anywhere, anytime the truth of His goodness touches our awareness.
(2) Worship with Others
Many see the personal side of worship without recognizing the importance of group worship. To think this way, though, is to ignore the history of Israel, the example of the early church, and the direct commands of Scripture (Matthew 4:10; Acts 2:46-47, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”). The early church worshiped together regularly. Their gatherings were a time of singing, praying, teaching, and giving. On these occasions, all types of people (men and women, adults and children, rich and poor, master and slave, Jew and Gentile) could meet and share a common purpose. They met on temple grounds or in private homes. Now all who believed were together, had all things in common, sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47).
(3) Corporate worship
In the early church had to deal with the threat of religious persecution. Many believers wavered in their faith and tended to back away from public worship. Because of the tense situation, the New Testament letter of Hebrews was written to strengthen them in their commitment to Christ. In addition, it is from this letter that we get the timeless exhortation to keep on meeting with other believers. It is a reminder of our responsibility to give ourselves faithfully to corporate worship. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
The importance of worshiping with other Christians is illustrated with the following story. A pastor went to see a man who didn’t attend church very faithfully. The man was sitting before a fire, watching the warm glow of the coals. It was a cold winter day, but the coals were red hot, and the fire was warm. The pastor pleaded with the man to be more faithful in meeting with the people of God, but the man didn’t seem to be getting the message. He said, “I think I can worship as well alone as at church.” After reflecting a moment, the pastor took the tongs beside the fireplace, lifted a live coal from the fire, and set it down at the side of the grate. As they watched, its color turned to gray and the heat slowly died. The church member got the point. After a long pause, he said, “I’ll be in church Sunday.”
H. SOME AIDS TO WORSHIP
As we strive to give God our worship, we should use whatever means are appropriate to help us in that worship. The following suggestions are some of the things that can aid us in worshipping our Creator.
Taking time to quiet ourselves and to think of God and His goodness will help us to prepare our hearts for worship (Psalm 63:3-4; 89:1-11; 119:15; Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things).
The person who truly understands the glory of God will realize his need for confession and cleansing (Isaiah 6:6-7). God wants worship that comes from a clean heart (1 John 1:7-10).
The use of hymns and musical instruments can add much to our worship (Psalm 150; Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”); Colossians 3:16).
Our worship of God should not be haphazard or disorganized. It should be done in an orderly fashion (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Talking to God helps us to focus our minds on the things of God and makes us conscious of His presence (1 Timothy 2:1-8; Hebrews 4:16).
By our gifts and offerings, we express gratitude to God in a tangible way. We acknowledge His ownership of all that we possess, and we show that we trust Him to provide for our needs (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).
(7) Bible Study
Whether it is from the pulpit, in a Sunday school class, or in a home Bible study, the instruction of God’s Word helps to equip us to be better worshipers of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”); 4:1-2).
I. SOME BENEFITS OF WORSHIP
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God—that’s worship! To enjoy Him forever—that’s the all-encompassing reward that includes these specific benefits:
(1) Forgiveness and Guidance
True worshipers recognize God’s holiness and accept His forgiveness (Romans 5:1; 1 John 1:9). Through worship, they are purified. Guidance. Those who honor the Lord will be given wisdom and will receive His guidance day by day (Psalm 25:4-12; Proverbs 1:7; 3:5-6).
Jesus said that God would meet our material needs if we give Him first place in our lives (Matthew 6:33; see also Psalm 23; 37:3-6).
The love of God is experienced in the hearts of all those who are true worshipers (Psalm 63:3; John 14:21, 23; Romans 5:5).
To all who give God the glory He deserves, He gives the enablement to do the things He requires of them (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Ephesians 3:14-21; Philippians 4:13).
He faithfully watches over all who acknowledge Him, and He keeps them in all of life’s changing circumstances (Psalm 5:11-12; 1 Peter 1:5)
All true worshipers will one day be glorified. They will inherit a new heaven and a new earth and join a company of believers and angels in perfect, uninterrupted worship (2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 19:1-10).
J. SOME HINDRANCES TO WORSHIP
Our worship can be hindered by several factors. It’s important to recognize these obstacles and do what is necessary to overcome them. Here are some of the common hindrances to the right kind of worship.
Many people worship gods but not the true God (Acts 17:23). They are “religious” but lack a vital relationship with their Creator. They are sincere but wrong (John 4:22). They need the truth.
When we come to God, we must approach Him with believing hearts. If we don’t, we cannot expect Him to be pleased with us or to reward our efforts (Hebrews 11:4-6).
(3) Unconfessed Sin
When we as Christians sin, we should confess it immediately to God (1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”). If we don’t, it destroys our fellowship with Him and we become cold and insensitive to Him.
(4) Wrong Attitudes
If we hold a grudge against someone, God will refuse our worship until we make things right with the other person (Matthew 5:23-24; 6:14; Ephesians 4:31-32).
(5) Misplaced Priorities
When we allow other things to become more important to us than God, we take away from the honor He deserves (Matthew 6:33). Right worship recognizes His worthiness to be first.
(6) Enemy Opposition
The world system of evil, the indwelling sin nature, and the devil are constantly opposing our worship (Romans 7:23; 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”); 1 John 2:15). But as we daily depend on the power of the Spirit of God, He will enable us to overcome our enemies (Galatians 5:16; James 4:7, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”); 1 John 5:4).
K. WE MUST WORSHIP GOD WITH OUR MIND & OUR SERVICE
When Paul called upon the Roman believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, he called it their “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). The word Paul used for service refers to the work of serving in the temple. It is a “working” worship. The work requires presentation of us to God. We are worshiping God when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice. The verses which follow Romans 12:1 explain exactly what a living sacrifice is. As we look at being a living sacrifice, I think you will agree that it is a lot of hard work. A famous preacher once observed that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep trying to crawl off the altar. The first aspect of a living sacrifice is retraining our minds. Our minds were ruined because of sin (Romans 1:28). In Romans 12:2, Paul called believers to renew their minds. In this context, the word translated as “mind” refers to the thinking process. As a believer submits to truth, he washes his mind and trains it to think the right way.
The next act of worship may be the most difficult. Paul directed believers to stop conforming to worldly thinking. In verse 3, he elaborated. We must eliminate the thought pattern that proclaims we are the greatest. Instead, we are to think soberly. Sober thinkers realize that all of us came to the Body of Christ the same way, through the door of faith. Since that’s the case, we are all on an equal footing. What should such people do with their lives? They should use their spiritual gifts to build up others. This may require a restructuring of our ideas on the nature of worship. If you come to church ready only to sit and be served, take warning from this passage. As members of the Body of Christ, we must not expect others to serve us. Our worship requires us to serve others by using our gifts.
Since worship is showing the worth of God, service to others is fitting. God has saved us and given us a role in the Body of Christ. When we begin to worship God by serving Him in the body, we are saying, “Lord, You are worthy. I will show that by serving you as you have designed me to serve you.”
L. WE WORSHIP GOD OUT OF OUR POCKETS.
The congregation had listened to their pastor explain the plans to build the new auditorium. It would meet the needs of their church and give them several opportunities for creative ministry. Someone in the back asked, “Pastor, what about the cost?” With a smile, the pastor replied, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that I’ve already found all the money we need for this building project.” He paused for a moment, and then added, “The bad news is, it’s in your pockets.”
God intends to provide for the needs of His church through His people. This is one way that worship involves sacrifice. We have already seen “sacrifice” joined to “worship” in Romans 12:1. When we lived apart from Christ, we lived as we chose. As believers, now given new life, we use our bodies as living sacrifices for His goals. The concept of sacrifice has always been central to worship. Leviticus 1-7 lists a series of animal and grain sacrifices that Old Testament believers might use to worship God. The early church did the same thin, that is, they sacrificed their possessions as a part of their worship. They gathered to enjoy times of singing and to hear the apostles’ doctrine; they also served each other through sacrifice. As persecution created financial needs, church members even sold their personal goods to meet the needs of others.
The Philippians sacrificed to support a missionary. They sent funds to the apostle Paul as he waited under house arrest in Rome. In thanks to them, Paul wrote, “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18 ). The Philippians showed their devotion to God by supporting the needs of God’s program. They said, in effect, “Lord, You are worthy. I will send for the gospel by sacrificing my funds.” True worship is also out of our pockets. The sacrifice that the Philippians made for Paul, accompanied by the sacrifice of their lives in service to God, is a well-rounded example of worship.
How can we do all of these worship activities at once? Sunday morning just isn’t long enough! That’s true. Worship is an activity we engage in all week. We worship God with others, and we show our worship of God by our actions for others. We were not meant to juggle all these activities in one hour on Sunday morning. Instead, we plan our week to worship God all the way though. Worship doesn’t happen because the church appoints a song leader to guide the church music program. It is a reflection of an appreciative heart. Every part of our life speaks, “Lord, You are worthy.” We have barely scratched the surface of the Bible’s teaching on worship. However, we have studied enough to see why Ezekiel placed so much emphasis on the millennial temple. True worship is at the core of what it means to be a true believer. Those who know God believe He is supremely worthy.
Colossians 1:18 states, “He is the head of the body, the church … that in all things He may have the preeminence”. I will conclude this study with the following illustration entitled, “Eyes on the King”:
John Henry Jowett, the great English preacher, liked to tell about the time he attended the coronation of Edward VII. Westminster Abbey was filled with royalty. Jowett said, “Much bowing and respect was shown as nobility of high rank entered the cathedral.” When the king arrived, however, a hush came over the audience. Every eye was on him, and no longer did the dignitaries of lower status receive the gaze and interest of the people. All the subjects fixed their attention on their royal leader. This is the way it should be in the life of a born again believer. Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and He deserves the place of highest prominence. Naturally, we love and respect our families, friends, associates, and those who serve the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus must have the preeminence! Our devotion is always to be centered on Him. With all the activities that compete for our time–even the work and program of the church–it’s so easy to take our eyes off the Savior.
My brethren, may we never lose sight of King Jesus who deserves our praise, honor, and worship? Let us join the heavenly voices and say, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor” (Revelation 4:11). Yes, Christ Jesus is the preeminent One!
“Focusing on Christ puts everything else in perspective”