The Lord Jesus unequivocally addressed the subject of worship during a simple encounter with a Samaritan woman. After ministering to the masses in Judea, Jesus was on His way to Galilee when he met a certain woman at a well in Samaria. Despite the ongoing enmity between the Jews and Samaritans, Jesus blew her socks off when He extended the olive branch of friendship by asking the woman for a drink of water (John 4). She obviously knew of the feud because she asked him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Very quickly Jesus intentionally transitioned the discourse between them from ‘Water’ to ‘Worship’. The woman knew quite a bit about Judaism by the response she gave to Jesus. She was not only a sinner but she was caught up in the religious aspect and geographical location of worship.
However, Jesus gave her a rude awakening with a quick lesson on what true worship really is. The center of His response was John 4:23, 24 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Essentially Jesus was saying that the Father is not at all concerned about where you worship, but rather how you worship. The question then arise, is there a right and a wrong way to worship? The Bible is replete with a scripture that alludes to the fact that there is a right and a wrong way to worship.
To validate my point let me point you to an account that involved Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu. Leviticus chapter 10 reveals that while people were prostrate before the Lord, adoring His presence and glory, Nadab and Abihu rushed into the tabernacle to burn incense on the altar. However the incense they offered was unauthorized to be used in temple worship. They failed to pay attention to God’s requirement for burning incense unto Him. As a result they died immediately for offering strange fire to the Lord. In fact, Aaron and his other sons were even forbidden by God to mourn for Nadab and Abihu. This story reveals a perfect picture of wrong worship and how critical it is to worship right. Nadab and Abihu lost the fear of God and committed a sin that cost them their very lives.
Worship in the Old Testament centered on the offering of incense and various animal sacrifices. Everything they offered to God had to be of a certain quality in order to be offered to the Lord of Lords. The incense had to be of a certain mixture and fragrance. The meal offering was to be cooked using specific ingredients. And the animal sacrifices could not be sick, spotted, or disabled in any form. God had given Moses very clear instructions and extremely high standards for Israelite worship, and anything less was unacceptable and therefore rejected by Him. Hence it is critical for Christians to understand that we serve the very same God as they did. Though the way in which we worship is different, the requirement remains the same and must not be compromised.
Under the Old Covenant, worship required untainted and unblemished sacrifices; today God requires clean hands and pure hearts. The difference is in the point of emphasis. While Old Covenant worship centered on the state of the sacrifice itself, New Covenant worship is centered on the state of the worshipper himself. Furthermore, in Old Testament worship, there were no requirements for the one who brought his offering to God. In other words the state of his heart was not a factor; as long as the sacrifice itself was pure, God received it. Today the very opposite is true. God no longer cares about what we bring, but in the pureness of our hearts in worship. This is precisely what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Therefore it is clear that God is no longer concerned about what we offer, but rather He is concerned about how we offer ourselves to Him in worship; that has always been His original intent.
God will not compromise with the worship he receives. For worship to be right, our lives must be free of sin and the things that cause or worship to be contaminated. We must rid ourselves from any and everything that would compromise the authenticity of our worship. The apostle Paul said in 1 Tim. 2:8, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing” The point here is that our hands represents the lives we offer to God. Therefore we must examine our lives on a daily basis so as to ensure that what we offer to God is well received. The greatest problem I see with our worship in the post-modern church today is that our works does not properly match or words. Our profession does not line-up with our practice. Our doctrine is pretty far from our deeds, and who we say we are as Christians does not match what we do. In other words there is a great disparity between what Christians should be and with how the world sees us.
The problem with Nadab and Abihu is that they were not who they say they were and it eventually caught up with them. In conclusion, here is my encouragement. BE A TRUE WORSHIPPER. A true worshipper is authentic. They are the same in private as they are in public. Here is what God said in Isaiah 29:13, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”This verse is evidence to the fact that God is only interested in the heart of worship rather than what we bring to him. I will follow-up with an article next week titled “Right Worship Part II”, in which I will discuss how Saul offered unlawful sacrifices to God and was judged accordingly. In the meantime, PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR WORSHIP.