A History of Worship – Pt 8

(This study is an expansion of the worship section in my book, “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality,” Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007)

Israel’s greatest lessons about worshiping their God were yet to come. They were just learning how important they were to God’s Plan for the world.

“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Exodus19:3-6

If Israel obeys the Voice of God and keeps His Holy Covenant, they will be a “special treasure” to God above all people; for all the earth is His. They will be to God a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Think about that for a moment. All the earth belongs to God and He promised it to Israel! That is truly amazing.

Moses and the people of Israel departed from Rephidim and came to the Wilderness of Sinai. They camped in the wilderness before the mountain. It’s difficult for us to imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites to leave the only home they had ever known and take off for an unknown future in a distant and hostile land.  For a moment, put yourself in the place of an Israelite man or woman, boy or girl, camping in the wilderness waiting to hear from Moses what was going to happen next. Then you see Moses and he has a very serious look on his face. He looks right at you and says that he’s going to sanctify you; then tells you to wash, clean your clothes and be ready for the “third day.” Third day? What’s that all about? Wait until you hear this! God is going to come down from Heaven to the top the mountain on the third day in the sight of all the people – including you! Here’s how God told Moses it would happen.

“You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.” Exodus 19:12-13

This is serious business – holy business! You could die if you don’t pay attention and do exactly as Moses tells you.

The third day comes and it’s time to see the Lord God of Israel – but there’s still more to learn about what it means to worship the Great God of Israel.

“Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.’ But Moses said to the LORD, ‘The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.’ Then the LORD said to him, ‘Away! Get down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them.’ So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.” Exodus 19:16-25

Imagine the scene before you – thunder, lightning, a thick cloud on the mountain, the sound of a loud trumpet, Mount Sinai covered in smoke like that of a furnace because God descended upon it in fire, the whole mountain quaked greatly – the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder – Moses spoke and God answered him by Voice. Then, the LORD God came down upon Mount Sinai, and sat on the top of the great mountain. Would your heart beat faster? Would your breathing be more shallow and rapid? Would you become weak in your knees? Would you tremble with fear? I would think we would all have that reaction to what Israel experienced on the third day.

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for – to see this Almighty God you worshiped in Egypt, along the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and now before the great mountain Sinai. What would He say to you? What does He want from you?

“And God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:1-17

The people were frightened by what they saw and heard. They trembled and stood a distance from the mountain. “Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:18-21)

Interesting situation, wouldn’t you say? Moses told the people of Israel not to fear, yet they should have fear. That’s exactly the way our relationship should be to God in worship and ministry. God is our Heavenly Father, so we don’t need to be “afraid” of Him. God is our Heavenly Father, so His fear should be before us so we don’t sin against Him. Think about an earthly father for a moment. Children don’t need to be afraid of him because he’s their daddy. He loves them. However, children should fear their father’s discipline and be careful to obey everything he tells them to do. Love and fear do go together in a parent-child relationship. It’s interesting that while God told Israel to love their neighbor as themselves (Leviticus 19:18), He told Israel to honor their father and mother. The Hebrew word for honor is kabed and carries the idea of a heavy duty placed on children to demonstrate great honor and fear for their parents, for they are worthy of it. The word revere in Leviticus 19:3 (“Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.”) is the Hebrew word yare, which means “to fear from an apprehension of danger and a sense of our own weakness, joined with trembling.” We are to honor and fear our parents; how much more should we honor and fear God in our service to Him and worship of Him. (It’s also interesting to note that God placed honoring father and mother alongside keeping His Sabbath.)

Children today have the wrong concept of their parents. They often see their mother and father as their “buddies,” their “pals,” someone who will buy them stuff, play with them, and let them do whatever pleases them. That is wrong and leads down a dangerous path for parent and child. In the same way, God is not our “buddy” and “pal.” He’s our Creator and Sustainer, our Heavenly Father, our Savior and Lord. We should be afraid of disobeying God, because there are consequences for sin. We should honor Him highly and fear Him deeply.

Notice the next thing God says to Moses – and look for the key to Israel’s future relationship of worshiping God. The LORD is the Lawgiver and the people of the Law must obey their God. The LORD God of Israel is not asking the people do Him a favor; He’s not pleading with them to behave; He’s not begging for their obedience. God is telling them what to do. He is giving them the Royal Law from Heaven. And the first and most important Law of all is this:

“You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.” Exodus 20:23

God makes it abundantly clear to Moses and Israel that He will not tolerate His people placing anything on the same spiritual level as Him to worship (“anything to be with Me”). Just moments earlier, God had told Israel, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” This theme is repeated throughout Israel’s relationship with God, and for good reason, because the people of Israel continually wandered from their worship of God to the worship of false gods. God would not tolerate it – and He didn’t.

God gave Israel more than 600 individual laws (613 mitzvot) to obey, so the order He gave them would certainly have importance to the people receiving God’s Law. Here are the first Commandments God gave to Israel on “the third day.” He opened His communication with Israel by reminding them Who He Is: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Then, He proceeded to tell them what they must do as His Covenant people.

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
  2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
  3. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
  6. “You shall not murder.”
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.”
  8. “You shall not steal.”
  9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Yes, these are the famous 10 Commandments that God gave to Israel. He began with these 10, then added more than 600 other commandments for Israel to obey. Notice that the first 4 Commandments are about Israel’s worship relationship to God. The other 6 Commandments are about Israel’s ministry relationship to each other. Worship must begin with the proper attitude toward God. It continues with the proper attitude toward serving those God created.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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2 thoughts on “A History of Worship – Pt 8

  1. Pingback: A History of Worship – Review of Parts 1 – 8 « GraceLife Blog

  2. Pingback: A History of Worship – Pt 9 « GraceLife Blog

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