Saturday, October 01, 2011

What kind of worship pleases God -- or displeases him?

Worshiping God is a natural thing; cultures all over the world, and across all times in history, have developed ways to worship. But does God appreciate all the things that we think of as worship?

Here are some worship practices that the Bible speaks against:

(Against) Assuming that God calls for sacrifice out of his own need
If I were hungry, I would not tell you. For the whole world is mine, and all the fullness thereof. (Psalm 50:12)

(Against) Claiming protection under his covenant while despising his instruction
Who are you to recite my laws and mouth the terms of my covenant, seeing that you spurn my discipline and brush my words aside? (Psalm 50:16, JPS)

(Against) Doing good things in order to get favorable publicity
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, to be honored by men. ... But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (from Matthew 6:2-4)

Note - but still for doing the good things.

(Against) Worship done for appearance or human praise
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have already received their reward. (Matthew 6:5)

(Against) Thinking words alone are useful worship, or traditions of men are useful worship
This people draws near me with their mouth and honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:8-9)

And again, things that the Bible commands or encourages:

(For) Remembering the good that God has done
And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out o there through a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15)

(For) Justice and compassion
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own relatives? (Isaiah 58:5-7)

(For) Repentance
I say to you that there shall be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who had no need of repentance. (Luke 15:7)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

(For) Prayer that trusts in God's love
When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. ... Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father ...
(Matthew 6:6,8-9)

(For) Worship in spirit and in truth
The hour is coming, and has now come, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. (John 4:23)

(For) Turning to God for help, and honoring him for the good he has done
Call upon me in time of trouble and I will rescue you, and you shall honor me. (Psalm 50:15)

A prophet's summary of what God requires
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, translation mostly following JPS)

What about our usual ways of worship? What about prayer and praise? What about songs and sermons? What about Bible studies?

The Bible says good things about prayer and praise as we've seen above. It contains an entire book of songs -- along with urging for us to sing new songs, which is warrant enough for us to sing and keep singing. And the Bible commands us to learn and to teach what God has said.

Worship, as we think of it, is a good thing. The problem discussed before was when people accuse that God *needs* it to assure his insecurity -- that he wants it in the way that a vain or needy woman wants flattery -- as if the immortal one would seek the praise of mortals, or the holy one would seek the praise of sinners. The problem discussed in the next post is when we limit our religious life to this type of worship that we generally think of, in songs and Bible studies and the like.


Martin LaBar said...

Well done!

Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you for the encouragement.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF