The Heart of Worship
I have been continuing my reading through Leviticus, and wanted to share with you some powerful truths God has for us in these chapters. In chapter 9 of Leviticus, Aaron is instructed to bring offerings to the Lord. Aaron and his sons had been consecrated to the Lord in chapter eight, through an extensive process of cleansing. The sacrifice is prepared and presented to the Lord. Aaron and Moses come out of the tent of meeting to bless the people, and, in verse 23-24, we read the glory of the Lord appeared to the people; then, fire came down and consumed the entire sacrifice. When the people saw this, "they shouted and fell on their faces". I find it wonderful to note that God could have rightfully consumed the people also. After all, the sacrifices were there because of the people's sin! Rather, God only consumed the sacrifice. Why? Certainly because of His great mercy and love for his people. We see this paralleled in Christ- for he became a sacrifice for us by bearing the weight of our sin in his body- and, in that sacrifice, God has granted to us mercy and grace in only requiring Christ to die for our sins. Thus, because we have accepted Christ as our Savior and perfect sacrifice, we must then admit that we can do nothing pleasing or acceptable in his sight, except that his grace and mercy have allowed it. "Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, and thus, let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire!" (Matthew Henry)
With the awe of God's power and glory in mind here, we then read in chapter 10 that Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, offer "unauthorized" or "strange" fire before the Lord. God immediately consumes them both with fire. Wow. Moses tells Aaron, "This is what the Lord has said, 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people, I will be glorified.'" The obvious thing to note here is that God takes sacrifice and worship to him seriously! But, I became slightly confused as I continued reading this chapter, for at the end of the chapter we read that Aaron's other two sons were instructed to help their father bring the sin offerings and had given them further instructions on how to perform the sacrifices, where and what to eat of the sacrifices, and to abstain from drinking any wine or strong drink. Moses (through the Lord's instructions) reminds them that they have the responsibility to distinguish between what is holy and what is common, what is clean and what is unclean. At the end of the chapter, Moses come to inquire about the goat of the sin offering, which was supposed to be eaten by the priests in recognition of taking on the sin of the people. However, we read that the goat had been completely burned up. Moses is angry with the remaining two sons of Aaron. He asks them why they let the sacrifice be burned up! Aaron comes to Moses on behalf of his sons, and explains, "Behold, today they have offered the sin offering and the burnt offering before the Lord, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the Lord have approved?" The Bible tells us Moses approved of Aaron's words. I was confused. What just happened? So, I did a little digging and discovered that the issue here was that (if you read through chapter 8), the priests were offering all the different sacrifices: burnt, sin, grain, and peace. The burnt offering was the one at the end of chapter 9 which God consumed with fire. Then, at the beginning of chapter 10, we read of the unauthorized fire Aaron's first sons brought before God- the Bible does not tell us exactly what happened, but many commentators suggest Nadab and Abihu, in bringing strange fire, revealed the intents of their hearts were not to glorify God (thus, God says, "before all the people I will be glorified"). Whatever these sons' intent, whether by carelessness, recklessness, or indifference, God saw the intents of their hearts and judged them for it. How careful should we be when coming to worship before our God! But, then, what about the other two sons? They obviously did not follow the complete instructions Moses had given them; why were they not consumed also?
Here we see God's true desire for us in coming to him in worship and confession. The hearts of these two sons were devoted to God. In their desire to perform the sacrifices in a way that pleased God, they let the sin offering be burned up. Even from the very beginning, man's attempts to be pure and holy before God were flawed. But, God had mercy on them. Why? Because their hearts' intention was to please and honor God. And, here is the crux of the matter for us: what is your heart's condition before God when you come to worship Him?
Are you so concerned about getting through the traditional rituals or songs or service that your heart and mind are not even focused on the glory of the God to whom you claim to have devoted your life?
What is your heart's condition before the Lord when you come to worship Him?
Remember at the end of chapter 9 God consumed the offering with fire and the people shouted and fell on their faces. Awe. Fear. Reverence. Regard for God's holiness and justice.
But, then, we see apathy, disregard, carelessness, indifference, pride on the part of Nadab and Abihu. And, God rightfully judges them for their sin.
How about us, then? We see the glory of God in providing us with a merciful and faithful High Priest (Jesus), but then we come to worship Him, and we forget all about the mercy of God in not consuming us, but instead, consuming his very Son. Instead, we have allowed pride at our own abilities, goodness, favor before God, the way we worship to be our primary focus.
Oh, God- forgive our reckless indifference to worship! How I have seen this recklessness in my own life!
We are so quick to judge someone because they worship differently than we do, or they listen to this type of music, or they come to church dressed a certain way, or they go to this church instead- how foolish and prideful we are! We come to church, do our worship "stuff", and then go home.... oh, but our worship and reverence of God should be a daily thing! We should continually be in awe of him, of his love and mercy, of his justice, of his grace. How do you approach your God? With indifference and reckless pride? Or with abject humility that he would so deem it a privilege to redeem you from your sin? That he would call you his own? Oh, dear ones- look not with eyes of foolish judgement to the outward appearances, but look with love to the ones for whom Christ has died!
Remember, you have been REDEEMED by the perfect sacrifice, Jesus- you are called to a royal priesthood- may your heart reflect this in your devotion to him and in your confession of sin. And, may you come to him in worship, looking not at the outward appearances of others or yourself, but in humble recognition that is only by God's grace that you can even offer anything acceptable before him.
Spend some time this weekend reflecting on the marvelous love of our Savior, that he would choose us! Die for us! Accept us! Examine your heart for pride, carelessness, apathy before him. Confess your sin before him.
Then, worship him- in humility, awe, and reverence. How great is our God! How faithful! How merciful! And, so much, much more!