A brief look around will reveal that we have a multitude of churches and many of them look very unlike each other!
There are awe-inspiring cathedrals with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, while offering worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation..
Some churches are much simpler, far less ornate; some are centuries old and others are of newer vintage. Building style is irrelevant. These, too, offer worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation. In short, the question is whether the focus is on God as the one being worshiped or on the worshiper as a consumer or customer.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.“
Sometimes things go on in church that are inconsistent with God’s instructions for worship. When the priests were selling animals in the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus was angry and overturned their tables and scattered the animals, saying:
“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Jesus was quoting from the prophet Isaiah who wrote these words centuries earlier:
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant–these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Do rules matter? Yes, God’s rules matter. An example of this is found in 1 Chronicles when David, with incredibly good intentions, sent to have the ark returned to Jerusalem. When he did not follow the rules, disaster struck.
“Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.”
Here we read that the priests were to be from the tribe of Levi, and the priests were the ones who were to carry the ark of the Lord. Certain priests were to carry the ark on poles so that no one would ever touch the ark. (Exodus 25:10 et seq.) It was holy because God was there, and God had established the way for it to be transported safely.
“And four wagons and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.
But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because they were charged with the service of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulder.”
The sons of Merari received wagons and oxen for use in their service as priests in the tabernacle of God, and Uzzah was one of Merari’s sons. He, therefore, had the cart and oxen ready for use in temple service. But reading the very next verse in Numbers 7 reveals that the sons of Kohath did not get a cart or oxen because they were to care for the things of God that had to be carried on their shoulders, like the ark of the covenant.
“So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. “And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets. And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.”
1 Chronicles 13:5-10
Uzzah tried to do something good in that he was steadying the ark so it would not fall when the oxen stumbled, but the ark of God was to be carried on the priests shoulders by using the poles permanently affixed to the ark. It was not to be put on a cart pulled by oxen. Uzzah disobeyed God’s rule and he died, immediately, on the spot, without any appeal or delay.
God’s rules matter. God’s justice mandates that His rules be followed, if for no other reason than He is God and He said so! Even human parents look at their children and say “Because I said so!” That’s all the reason the young child needs to have to obey what his/her parent directed. And it is all that we need when we consider whether we should follow God’s rules … choosing not to do so is SIN and that carries serious consequences.
David learned the lesson. After leaving the ark for three months at the home of Obed-Edom, David summoned the priests and ordered them to bring the ark to Jerusalem.. However, this time he used Levites who were commissioned to carry the ark on poles … he did it in accordance with God’s rules.
“Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule. So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel.”
1 Chronicles 15:11-14
The ark was successfully carried by the priests and came to rest at the place David had prepared for it. God’s rules are to be followed.
Worship is, by definition, not about you or me! Rather, it is about God. In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses wrote:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
This was reiterated by Jesus when He called it the great and first commandment:
“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
How do you see worship? Is it a time for you to boast in your pride of position of power, or in your ability to financially support the church? While you are in the service are you thinking about all the things you could be during the hour you sat in worship? Is it a time when you walk out of the service thinking that you didn’t get anything out of being there that day?
Or is it a time when you worship God with your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength? Is your focus on God and your relationship with Him? Is your desire to praise Him for who He is, for His attributes and character?
Rules matter. I pray that we will return to worship God in the way that He has directed. God’s commandments are not suggestions nor are they optional. Follow them and live. Worship Him in spirit and in truth, and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Father, forgive me when I have failed to worship You as You desire. Help me to focus on You and Your Word throughout my day as I worship You in my life.