This week I’ve posted three foundational points that are basic to my understanding of worship. They were:
1. Worship is based on our redemption in Christ. (Exodus 20:1-2)
2. God identifies himself as the exclusive object of our worship. (Exodus 20:3)
3. We must guard our hearts against idolatry. (Exodus 20:4-6)
The fourth basic concerning worship found in Exodus 20 is God is to be reverenced and worshipped for who He is. Exodus 20:7 states, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” Or as the KJV reads, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” I grew up in a Christian home, and the cardinal sin was “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” Nothing would cause my mother to flare with anger more quickly than that! I was not permitted to use common euphemisms such as “Oh my gosh,” or “golly” or “geez.” While the third commandment certainly would cover profanity, I don’t think that’s the main issue it seeks to address. The command is directed toward those who misuse God’s name to create a personal advantage or who take the name of God lightly. Irreverence is the issue. Profanity can be a part of that irreverence, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The next commandment reminds the reader that, in the words of Robert Webber, worship is a verb. “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT). Sabbath was given by God for rest, reflection, and renewal. The ability to stop all activity was and is a sign of trust in God for our provision. Sabbath was also to remind us that we must be intentional about worship, and regular at that.
As a part of my preparation for this series I’ve been reading Christ Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell. Reading his survey of the history of Christian worship reminded me of the gifts of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation emphasized the participation of the congregation. The liturgy and the Scriptures were produced in the vernacular of the people. Congregational singing was instituted as well. God is to be revered in worship. It begins with Him and must be about Him.
The final six commandments deal with our social responsibility to love our neighbors as ourselves. Worship, therefore, is in the context of community. We worship as the people of God, not the persons of God. Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Why is corporate worship important? First, because we encourage one another. Is it possible to worship alone? Sure. But if I neglect the opportunity to worship with others I might begin to think that I’m the only one with a problem. When we gather, we gather with others who face challenges and difficulties. Our mutuality inspires us to move forward by faith and to encourage others to do the same. The other reason for corporate worship given by the writer of Hebrews is that there is an urgency to our mission. “The day of his return is drawing near” challenges us to remain engaged in the mission of the Church and the message of the Kingdom.
Thanks for checking in this week. I trust that these thoughts on worship from Exodus 20 will challenge you and bless you as you think about our ultimate priority!