2015 12 20pm LD 35 Ex.20:4-6 Worship, By the Book – Part 1

Have you hear of Messy-Church? It is a recent form of seeker-sensitive services designed to create an ‘alternative congregation.’ But is this idea in accord with what the Bible teaches about worship?

(Preliminary comments) Those of you present last week might remember that I said that to properly understand the Ten Commandments one must travel from Mt. Sinai in the OT to the Mount of Transfiguration in the NT. But the Mount of Transfiguration is really a necessary stop on our way to Mt. Calvary.
• On Mt. Sinai we see the LAW of God while on Mt. Calvary we see the SON of God.
• On Mt. Sinai we see the TWO TABLETS OF STONE telling us what kind of men God wants us to be, while on Mt. Calvary we see the only man who has obeyed the Commandments.
• On Mt. Sinai we see our SIN, while on Mt. Calvary we see our SAVIOUR.
So we need both these mountains to truly see the greatness and the glory and the grace of God.

So today we begin a two part journey from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Calvary in connection with worship and the 2nd Commandment. Today our focus will be on Exodus 20:4-6 and next time we will consider John 4:19-24. So let’s read Ex. 20:4-6.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Many of you will have heard of seeker-sensitive churches. The philosophy is that you design your gatherings around what it is that people want. So, for example, you might have your gatherings on Saturday or Tuesday mornings if that suits people better than Sundays. If people want a band and flashing lights and dancing, you give them a service with bands, flashing lights and dancing. Basically, you just find out what it is that people like and you design church around that.

Well, a relatively new version of this idea is MESSY-CHURCH. It began in England in 2004. Lucy Moore was the wife of a vicar and she was frustrated that they had a building and facility that was hardly used and that children were not being reached with God’s story. The Messy-church website says, “There was a lot of sympathy towards church in general but the church wasn’t offering anything that really gripped the imagination of local families.” And so, the ideas of Messy-church was born and it is now a trademarked ministry with a website and a Facebook page and you can buy lots of Messy-church resources.

And like every other church movement that began overseas, it is popping up in churches all over NZ.
Here is a quote from a recent article in a denominational magazine.
Making your church “messy” might not sound appealing but you should think twice, says the Rev Sue Fenton. “The concept doesn’t get its name from encouraging people to tip over the pews; Messy Church is about creating an alternative congregation to the Sunday service, one that has permission to be messy and not perfect.” The evening gathering, which includes a shared meal, has a structure and pattern but lets both adults and children express their creativity through craft. “We experience worship and we sing action songs to CDs. There are no sermons; instead we have teachings from the themes in the Messy Church books, stories from the Bible that we make relevant to today, and contemporary prayer.” It continues, “There are plenty of messy families in the Bible and we need to show that God works with that too. One way is to create a service that fits families, not the other way around.”

Now, just to be clear, our focus here is not on the idea that doing crafts with children or singing actions songs is somehow wrong, per se, but the idea that this be an “alternative congregation to the Sunday service.” And our focus is not even going to be on Messy-church, for Messy-church is just one example of a way of thinking about worship that you find right throughout the wider church. What we will do instead is to look at worship in the Bible from the perspective of the 2nd Commandment. You see the 2nd Commandment is about the right worship of God or how God is to be worshipped. One of the chief successes of the devil right throughout history has been to undermine the importance of worship and to change how people think about and do worship. So we need to be regularly reminded about God’s expectations in the area of worship so we can recognize error out there in the wider church world but also in our own denomination and congregation and in our own hearts. And that is what we seek to do today in the light of the 2nd Commandment.

And what we see in this commandment is that God FORBIDS a certain way of worshipping Him – “You shall not…” And as it is with all the commandments, the explicit “You shall not” has an implicit “you shall.” We are being taught not to do this and instead to do that. And we see this in v6 with the reference to God loving those who love Him and keep His commandments. So already then, as a fundamental principle, we see that the right worship of God has to do with keeping His commandments. And we want to see this from Scripture. It is common in any sermon for illustrations to be used to make a point. So we are going to look at several passages of Scripture that illustrate this Commandment. And we start right at the beginning with Genesis 4.

1. GENESIS 4:3-7 – CAIN AND ABEL (P.3)
A. Let me give you a little bit of background: Genesis 1 – God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. And from the 4th Commandment, we know that this was a Creation pattern, established by God – work 6 days, rest on the seventh, just as He did. But the early chapters of Genesis also provide us with the first example of sacrifice. In Genesis 3 we read about the Fall and Adam and Eve’s attempt to cover their nakedness with leaves. But God provided animal skins for them. Blood was shed so that their sin could be covered. So a pattern for worship and sacrifice was established by God right at the dawn of time.
B. And the first example of worship in the Bible is that of CAIN AND ABEL. v3 begins, “In the course of time.” Literally though, the Hebrew says, “From the end of days…” And there is good reason, because of the Hebrew phraseology, to believe that what we are reading about here is not just something that happened one day but a SABBATH activity – at the end of a period of days – at the end of a week – on a Sabbath – following the pattern established by God – Cain and Abel brought offerings. This is a keeping of God’s command
C. But then we are told of their OFFERINGS – Cain-Fruit / Abel-lamb
i. Now Hebrews 11:4 offers us some commentary on their offerings. We read, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.”
ii. And because we know what happened as the story of Cain and Abel unfolded, we know that Cain had a faithless and wicked heart.
a. Proverbs 21:27 says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” So Cain’s heart attitude makes his offering an abomination.
iii. But remember also that God had established a pattern for sacrifice – the shedding of blood. And Cain brings an offering of fruit; Cain brings a self-styled offering.
a. Hebrews 9:22 Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
iv. Now, to be sure, later on in the Bible God would institute grain offerings and food offerings. But at this point in the Bible, the only pattern He has established is the shedding of blood.
v. So Cain’s heart attitude is wrong and He has chosen to invent a way of worshipping God that God has not commanded. And in this he is not keeping God’s command.

2. As we continue with Biblical illustrations of worship and the 2nd commandment, we turn next to EXODUS 39 (P.79).
A. EXODUS 25 – 34: God gives Moses instructions for constructing the tabernacle and its furnishings and furniture and utensils and recipes for oil and incense and the design of the priests’ clothing. Detail!
B. And almost bizarrely, in terms of this section of Scripture, in EXODUS 32 we have the record of THE GOLDEN CALF. Precisely as God is giving Moses detailed instructions on worship, the people of Israel imitate what they saw in Egypt and they make a carved image of a cow to represent God and they worship the golden calf. And you can’t get a clearer violation of the 2nd Commandment than that!
C. But from EXODUS 35, Moses repeats these instructions to the people and in EXODUS 36-40 the work is described.
i. And as you scan your eyes through ch. 39, note the repeated refrain:
a. vv1-2 “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
b. vv27-32 three times “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
c. vv42-43 two times “…as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
ii. In ch. 40:1ff – More instructions from the Lord
a. v16 “This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did.”
b. v19 / v22 / v24 / v27 / v29 / v32 “…as the Lord had commanded him/Moses.”
D. The Spirit of the Lord is HAMMERING THIS MESSAGE HOME. I am God, I am Creator, I am Above you – you are my people, you are creatures, you are below – I will tell you precisely how I am to be worshipped. 2nd commandment worship is worship according to God’s command.

3. And we see this same principle as we turn over now to LEVITICUS 9-10. (p.87)
A. Leviticus 9 – Everything to do with the tabernacle and the priests is done. God has given detailed instructions for al the offerings in Leviticus 1-7. All that remains now is for Aaron and the people to present their offerings to the Lord. Look at v9, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” So drop down now to v22. The animals have been slaughtered in the prescribed way and laid out before the Lord. “Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” The people obeyed God’s commands and He was pleased and He appeared to them as he had promised to do. Congregation, God delights in worship according to His command! These worshippers are the people the Lord delights to live with in close fellowship!
B. But after that beautiful example of obedient worship, we then come to Leviticus 10 and a serious violation of the 2nd Commandment. It is the story of NADAB AND ABIHU.
i. They were sons of Aaron the High Priest, which meant they were priests. But look at v1, “They offered unauthorized fire before the Lord.”
ii. And this is a very important illustration of the 2nd Commandment at work. Not a lot is said about Nadab and Abihu. But it seems that they were very sincere about what they were doing. They wanted to give the Lord an extra offering, over and above what He required. But the Lord had been crystal clear about how often He was to be worshipped in this way and who was to do it. So despite their sincerity, because their worship was contrary to what God commanded, look at v2, “fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.”
C. Congregation, God abhors worship that is in any way contrary to His command. Many of those who come up with new ideas for how we worship and when we worship and who leads worship and the content of worship may be very sincere about getting more people to hear the gospel, but sincerity does not make it acceptable; God abhors worship that is in any way contrary to His command

4. Turn with me now to 1 SAMUEL 15 where this is illustrated again (p.237). In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul is told to completely destroy the Amalekites (v3) because of their wickedness. But Saul chooses to spare the king and keep some of the animals alive (v15) “to sacrifice to the Lord your God,” he says to the prophet Samuel. And that sounds so noble, doesn’t it. Surely that would have pleased God, you would think? But the says to Saul, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” Saul had broken the 2nd commandment. Despite what appeared to be a very noble desire to worship the Lord, as we have seen, God abhors worship that is in any way contrary to His command.
A. Good motives then are not enough. We may not presume that we know better than God. There are a great many things we could do during our services, ranging from replacing the sermon with a Veggie-tales video to serving pizza or singing heavy-metal hymns that would bring more people to our services, guaranteed. (And let me say that we would lose others, it needs to be said also!) But what we need to keep foremost in view is that God abhors worship that is in any way contrary to His command.

5. Well, one last OT illustration of the 2nd Commandment. Please turn with me to JEREMIAH 18. (p.646)
A. Way back in DEUTERONOMY 12, God commanded the people of Israel to destroy all the idols and places of idolatrous worship that the Canaanites left behind after they were routed. He said, “You shall not worship the Lord your God that way.” And instead He commanded them to worship Him only at the tabernacle and only in the way He commanded. He said, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”
B. Well, you know the rest of the OT. What was an ongoing struggle for the Israelites? What Canaanite idols pop up again and again in the OT? Baal. Ashtoreth. Molech. High places. Asherah poles. And when the kingdom split in two, King Jeroboam put golden calves in Dan and Bethel so the people of the Northern Kingdom wouldn’t have to go to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
C. But this plague of idolatry became just as much a part of life in Judah down South as it was in Israel up North, such that the Lord sent prophet after prophet to remind the people of His commands and to warn them of the judgment that would come if they continued their disobedience.
D. And we see an example of that in vv11-12, “Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’ Self-willed worship; we will do it our way was one of Israel’s chief sins. Look at 19:4-6, “Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind– therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.”
E. 2nd Commandment failings were one of the chief reasons why God sent the people of Israel into exile. God delights in worship according to His command and God abhors worship that is in any way contrary to His command.

Well, this is THE PERFECT BRIDGE to our NT word on worship – John 4:19-24. (P.889) Please turn there. A moment ago I mentioned King Jeroboam who set up golden calves in Dan and Bethel so the people of the Northern Kingdom would not have to go South to Jerusalem and the temple. Well, in later years, a replica of the Jerusalem temple was built up north on Mt. Gerizim. It became the centre of the spiritual life for the part Jewish people known in the Bible as the Samaritans. And this is the Mount that the Samaritan woman of John 4 is referring to in v19. Her question is about whether Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim is the right place to worship. And there is much for us to learn from Jesus’ answer, which we hope to do next time.

But what should be immediately obvious from v21, where Jesus speaks of a time coming when I will no longer be necessary to worship God in Jerusalem, is that Jesus is revealing A MASSIVE CHANGE IN RELATION TO WORSHIP. Despite the fact that God had been very specific about being worshipped in one place alone, as we noted earlier from Deut. 12, the Lord Jesus says that is about to change.
And congregation, given the context of all we have seen about how the tiniest departure from God’s command could have deadly consequences, this is massive!
But you see, THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF JOHN’S GOSPEL, which he states in 20:31, is for his readers to believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that by believing in Him we may have life in His name. And part of the way John helps us to see that is by revealing to us that the Lord Jesus can make massive changes to OT commands about worship. In John 1:1, Jesus is called ‘the Word.’ And that means He is the Lord who gave the 2nd Commandment in Exodus; that was His Word also. So He is well qualified to say more about worship at this point in history.
And as the NT reveals, He not only speaks about worship, He becomes the centre of worship. Hebrews 10:19, for example, uses OT worship language to speak of NT worship when it says that we may have confidence to “enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.”

Brothers and sisters, young people and boys and girls, I hope you have seen in this survey of Scripture, as we said before we read our sermon text, that to truly see the greatness and the glory and the grace of God, you need to travel from MT. Sinai to Mt. Calvary. You need to see that the Lord Jesus is the very centre of 2nd Commandment worship.

And you know, this is the chief tragedy of what I said at the beginning of the sermon in relation to Messy-church. Its founder said, “…the church wasn’t offering anything that really gripped the imagination of local families.” Congregation, the only thing that the church has to offer that can savingly grip the imagination of individuals and families is Jesus. What sinners need is a Saviour. And we shall say more about this next time but the church exists to proclaim Him to sinners in the preaching of the Word in a sermon in a worship service that accords with His commands. That is how God would have us hear about the power and the glory and the majesty and the perfection and the beauty and the grace and the loveliness of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Amen.