Mark Matousek is an American memoirist, teacher, essayist, and journalist. He was raised in poverty. He was a child prodigy on a fast literary track. He seemed to have the world at his feet, and his feet were moving everywhere. Mark continued on this path and bought into the typical American linear track: He said of himself: “Like most stout-hearted American men, I was raised to play God, to pretend that I was omnipotent, to mastermind the world. Power was supposed to be my idea of Heaven; Triumph, the Lord I secretly worshiped.”
The only problem with this philosophy of life is that it works as long as you're winning. But nobody wins forever. And there came a time in Mark's life when disaster struck, death intruded, and the whole house of cards came tumbling down. He found himself asking religious questions. Jim Wallis the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine notes, “We have forgotten we are God's people, and we have fallen into the worship of American gods. Now God's word to us is to return. Church historians may someday describe our period as the American captivity of the church. It is no less real than the Babylonian Captivity in the history of
Interestingly this call to return to God and the heart of worship has been going on for thousands of years. God has been calling his people to return to worship him alone not any and everything. Over the centuries many have tried and many are still trying today to restore worship to its rightful place in order to bring back true worship in the Church.
Two weeks ago we started a series of teaching called “Church Restoration.” We looked at a Model for Church restoration from 2 Chronicles 29-31. Last time we saw how King Hezekiah started a restoration process soon after assuming the throne. He first restored the
As someone who tends to resist the popular culturalization of life, I was drawn to [Marva Dawn's book “Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture]. Dawn points out the error of approaching church planning by how can we fill the pews the fastest. She reminds us that pop culture and its associated cults of celebrity, wealth and popularity are counter to the otherness of Christianity. She couches her arguments in the larger terms of the changes that have taken place in American culture -- changes she sees as distressing -- that ordinary people don't sing or play instruments any more, that there is increased consumerism, that people are increasingly taking part in amusements that are passive and that separate them from other humans. But Dawn also challenges traditionalists not to fossilize in their worship styles and points out that some change may be necessary.
What changes are we to make in the way we understand and do worship in our Church? Today, I will be looking at the preparations that King Hezekiah undertook in the process of restoring temple worship. I will also share about, what worship is, and who is the center of worship? Let’s begin by asking “What is worship?
I. WHAT IS WORSHIP?
This question can be answered in many ways. For some worship means singing songs of praise for half hour in the church during a Sunday service, or playing music instruments, lifting up, clapping, hands, kneeling down, falling prostrate, fasting, and dancing and so on.
Is that all or is there more to worship? The word worship comes from two Old English words meaning, “honor, worthiness and to create. Though we can not create God’s honor we devise ways to honor God and speak of his worthiness. Let’s see how the Jewish people understood worship in the OT. There were two verbs used to explain worship, one was frequented more than the other one. Let’s consider these verbs. Firstly, shachah means: to prostrate oneself, to bow oneself down, to fall down, to humbly beseech. It was used 170 times in the OT more specifically to bow down, to prostrate oneself as an act of respect before a superior being. We read in Exodus 20: 3-4, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them.”
What did God mean by this commandment? He did not want his children to bow before any object or false god or to make any one as superior or supreme. That place of supremacy in our lives and in the world only belongs to God. Worship is our heart attitude towards God. The second verb was “abad” occurs 290 times in the OT which means, to work, to labor, to serve, to work as a slave. We see this verb used in Gen 2:15, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” It was used again by God when He told Moses to tell Pharoah, “Let my people Go so that they might serve me in the wilderness” Exodus 7:16. This verse states that God wants his people to serve him only and not anyone else
From these two verbs we gather that worship has two components one is an inward attitude and the other an outward action. Worship is when we respond to God’s call and show respect by bowing before him in our hearts but it doesn’t stop there it compels us to service like a bond slave. However, service to God is an exhilarating experience which does not seem like bondage at all instead it is a privilege and a delight to be able to serve the God of the universe.
I like the way Marva Dawn expressed her views on worship, “True worship arises because God calls us. As an echo, our worship directed to God is a gift in response to his gifts. As C. Welton Gaddy details, “Worship is a gift between lovers who keep on giving to each other.” We worship God not to get something from Him but to give back to God realizing that everything we ever have including our very lives come from Him in the first place. In our text we read, King Hezekiah after restoring God’s temple restored the order of worship in the temple. How did he do that? The text explains in detail the preparation that went into restoring worship.
II. PREPERATION FOR WORSHIP. (2 Chron 29: 20-25)
In the story we read that King Hezekiah rose early and assembled the princes (elders) of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. There he ordered the Levites and priests to sacrifice animals on the altar of God for the sins of the whole
When we come to worship God on a Sunday service we too must prepare our hearts, make sure that we have repented of our known and unknown sins. Today we are not required to offer animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of our sins, however we are required to confess our sins and when we do that the blood of Christ the perfect sacrifice can wash away all our sins. Once our sins are forgiven and our hearts are made right then we can boldly enter God’s presence and offer our Worship to Him. Without such preparation of heart, our worship falls flat and becomes a bunch of empty words and actions.
In the New Testament Jesus reemphasized the same when he said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matt 5:23). This shows us the urgency and importance of reconciliation.
What does this all mean for us today? It means a number of things. Firstly, these scriptures show us what God values most namely a reverent heart attitude. Secondly God hates hypocrisy and pharisaical attitude. Jesus sternly rebuked Pharisees and Sadducees for their hypocrisy. They said the right words and did the right things while having a hostile and rotten attitude towards people. Thirdly, God cares for right relationships that we are in right relationship with Him and with one another. Fourthly, If we have un reconciled relationships, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are reconciled with our fellow brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We may come, lift up our hands, sing songs of praise, shout Halleluiah, and praise the Lord but when we are living in sin; with unrepentant heart our worship becomes shallow and displeasing to God. How can we say we love God on one hand and hate our brothers and sisters on the other hand? Let’s look at who is in the center of Worship.
II. WHO IS THE
We are living in a highly individualized, self centered society. To our astonishment we see certain people carrying an attitude as if they are the center of the universe. Is the Church exempt from such attitudes? I hope to think it is exempted but the reality is the opposite. If we are not careful similar attitude may be present in our Church and in our Worship Let me illustrate it by a video clip (Me Church).This clearly illustrates how we view Church and Worship. We think it is all about us? But is it so? We place ourselves in the center of attention while all along true worship belongs to God. In reply to the question, For whom is worship? Gaddy insists, “Worship is for God. Only! The chief aim of worship is to please God whether by adoration and praise, prayer and proclamation, confessions and offerings, thanksgivings and commitment, or by all of these actions combined.” The Point of worship is to recognize that “God alone matters.”
In our text we see King Hezekiah, the singers, the Levites, priests and the whole assembly kept singing and blowing trumpets until the whole burnt offering was finished. At the end of it they all bowed down and worshipped God with songs of praises and of Joy. For them what mattered the most was God, they didn’t care about their positions, power or how long it took they wanted to honor God with their worship. It is a great model of worship we can follow.
How is our worship today? Who matters most in our worship? Are you coming to worship with an expectation of only receiving from God or with an attitude of offering to God? Is your worship self-centered or God centered? Are you a spectator during worship or an active participant, who worships God in Spirit and Truth? In closing, my prayer is that may we glorify God with our whole life and may our Sunday morning worship be a culmination of praise, thanksgiving and adoration. Amen.