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THE SETTING OF BIBLICAL WORSHIP
Intro: There is a hermeneutical principle known as The Principle Of First Mention. This principle teaches that the first mention of a word, or a doctrine, in the Bible, determines its meaning throughout the rest of Scripture.
For instance, Egypt is first mentioned in Gen. 12:10. In that verse, Abram leaves Canaan during a time of famine and goes to Egypt. While he is there, he suffers spiritual loss and damages his testimony. Thus, Egypt is presented in a negative light and, as a general rule, that is the way Egypt is perceived throughout the Bible.
The passage before us today gives us the first mention of the word “worship. People had worshiped before the events of this passage take place. Gen. 4 shows Cain and Abel engaged in sacrifice and worship. Gen. 4:26 says, “... then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” Gen. 5:22 tells us that “Enoch walked with God...” Gen. 6:9 tells us that Noah also “walked with God.”
People had been worshiping the Lord since the very beginning, but this is the first time the word “worship is used. This passage that describes the faith of Abraham teaches us some very powerful truths about worship.
The word translated “worship means to bow down; to prostrate oneself before a superior; to humble oneself before God. Abraham uses this word in the midst of the most difficult trial he ever faced. He was in the deepest valley of his life, yet he saw the experience as a time of worship.
I think Abraham’s experience has something to say to us about our own worship. In fact, the truths revealed here teach us about The Setting For Biblical Worship. These verses teach us about the character, the conditions and the challenges of biblical worship. Let’s examine these truths together as we think about The Setting For Biblical Worship.
I. v. 1-2 WORSHIP’S SOURCE
· Abraham’s worship in these verses was based on a clear word from the Lord. Verse 1 says, “God...said unto him. Verse 2 says, “And He said... Abraham found himself engaged in the worship of Almighty God because God told him exactly what He wanted. God told Abraham what to do, Take now thy son...and offer him for a burnt offering. God told him where to go, get thee into the land of Moriah...upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. Abrahams worship was based on a clear word from God.
· True worship is always guided by the Word of God. True worship is always a response to revelation. Thus, true worship is always a matter of faith, Rom. 10:17. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. We respond to that revelation by humbling ourselves to Him and bowing down before Him in reverence and adoration.
· Many will go to their churches and engage in responsive readings, dead liturgies and empty formalism, and call it worship. Others will dance around, lift their arms and shout. Some speak in tongues and faint dead away and call it worship. Still others will go to church, sit quietly in their pew, sing the songs, bow for prayer, listen to the preacher and call it worship. Does any of these methods of assembly and doing church really result in worship?
If we are going to worship the Lord, we must do it His way in the manner that he has prescribed. Following the traditions and customs of man is simply not worship. Genuine biblical worship is all that I am responding to all that God is, as He is revealed in the Bible.
· In other words, God says He loves me. God says He sent His Son to die for me. God says He will never leave me. God says that He will supply all my needs. God says He is my Father. The list could go on.
When I understand Who God is and what He has done for me, I worship Him when I respond to His revelation with humility, gratitude and reverence. So, yes, the person in the emotional church can worship. The person in the formal church can worship,. The person in the church like ours can worship. The key is the attitude of the heart.
· Genuine worship takes place when my spirit responds to God’s revelation of Himself in His word, and I bow myself before Him in reverence, love and adoration. So, like Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth, John 4:24.
II. v. 3 WORSHIP’S SUBMISSION
· As soon as Abraham hears the command of God, there is no hesitation. He responds in faith and submits himself to the will of the Lord. Notice how Abraham’s submissive faith manifested itself.
Ψ He “...rose up early in the morning.”
Ψ He “saddled his donkey.
Ψ He “took two of his young men with him...”
Ψ He took “Isaac his son.”
Ψ He “calve the wood for the burnt offering
Ψ He “rose up.
Ψ He “went his way unto the place of which God had told him.”
· Abraham’s worship manifested itself in humble submission to the will of God. Surely, Abraham could not understand the Lord’s command. Surely, his heart was heavy as he went about his tasks. Surely, he was troubled and confused. Still, he did what the Lord told him to do. Abraham heard the word of the Lord and he submitted himself to that word. Abraham humbly obeyed God, and that is the essence of worship!
· Not only does worship find its root in what the Word of God says; it is also rooted in obedience to what the Word of God says. There, anyone who does not obey the Word of God cannot be a true worshiper.
It is one thing to know what God says, but it is another thing altogether to obey God, even when His commands and demands make no sense. What the Lord called Abraham to do was unprecedented. No one had ever been asked to do that before. Yet, Abraham obeyed God because Abraham trusted God to do the right thing. He trusted the Lord to know best. He humbled himself by faith and left the consequences with God.
· That kind of faith is an essential component of true biblical worship. Thus, even the smallest act of obedience to the Word of God is a form of worship! Praying, reading the Bible, tithing, witnessing, faithfulness to the house of God, all the things we ought to be doing anyway, are all acts of worship, when they are done out of a heart of love and humble submission to God.
III. v. 2, 5 WORSHIP’S SACRIFICE
· Abraham’s worship wasn’t cheap. Abraham’s worship would cost him his precious son. Notice how God approaches Abraham in verse 2. “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest...
Isaac was the light of Abraham’s life. Isaac was the most precious person in the world to Abraham. Isaac was his dearest possession. Isaac represented all of Abraham’s hopes for the future. To Abraham, Isaac was life itself.
God commands Abraham to take that which is most precious to him and sacrifice him to God. Abraham’s worship was costly.
In verse 5, he told his servants, “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. When Abraham spoke of worship, he knew that true worship involved him making the greatest sacrifice possible. Abrahams heart was wrapped up in his son, yet he willing gave God the treasure of his heart because of his love for the Lord.
· Real worship is always costly! David knew this, for he said, “...neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing, 2 Sam. 24:24. Mary of Bethany knew this, John 12:1-8. She sacrificed her pride, her glory and her treasure for the opportunity to worship the Lord Jesus. The wise men knew this, Matt. 2:1-12. These rich, wise, powerful men humbled themselves before a child and worshiped Him. They sacrificed their pride, their glory and their treasure to honor the Lord. Through the ages many millions have given the all, even their lives, as sacrifices of worship for His glory.
· We need to keep in mind that worship is a sacrifice, Heb. 13:15. It always costs something to worship the Lord! It costs time in spiritual preparation, for no one just walks in a goes right to worship. It costs time in Bible study, for the truth must be encountered before God can be worshiped. It can cost the loss of prestige and acceptance with friends, family, society and even the church, but God’s worship is worth more than the praises of me. It costs treasure, because often God will ask us to worship Him through giving to others.
· Real worship is a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice making. This is true because through true worship God is honored and the saint who worships is blessed.
IV. v. 5 WORSHIP’S SEPARATION
· When this small band of pilgrims arrived at the place God revealed to Abraham, a separation took place. He said, “... unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. Those two young men were not a part of the worship experience. They would have hindered Abraham from doing what the Lord had called him to do. Therefore, they had to be left behind. The only two elements allowed in the place of worship was Abraham and the treasure of his heart.
· There is a lesson here for the person who would worship God today. There are many things in life that would hinder our worship. Like those two young men, things would intrude themselves into our worship that have no business being there. We must say to those things, “Abide ye here, while I go yonder and worship.”
We are all aware of the things that compete for our attention when we seek to worship the Lord. Meals have been prepared in services set aside for worship. Problems have been thought through, relationships pondered, and deals struck in services set aside for worship. All the things that would hinder us: the problems of the flesh, the mind, the world, etc., must be banished when we go to seek the Lord in worship. Anything that distracts the mind from Him is a hindrance to genuine, biblical worship.
· Heb. 10:21-22 says, “And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith... We have a High Priest, that is the privilege of Gods grace. Since we have been given that privilege, we have a responsibility. We are to draw near with a true heart.” This is a call to approach the Lord with a heart that is focused wholly on Him. Anything that would distract the mind must be cast out and left behind so that we, like Abraham, can go from “here to yonder.
For Abraham, the place of worship was not “here in the valley with the young men, it was yonder on the mountain with the Lord. If I am going to worship, the I too must move from here to yonder. The only way I can do that is separate my mind from any that would hinder it from being totally given over to Him. (Ill. Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 10:5)
· What occupies your mind when you come to worship? What has had your attention in this service?
V. v. 5 WORSHIP’S SELF-DENIAL
· When Abraham told to young men that he was going up to “worship, he knew that it meant the sacrifice of his son. This was nothing less than absolute self-denial on Abrahams part. He yielded himself to the will of God with no regard for his own will or feelings. He sacrificed his opinions, his desires, his will, his preferences, and his very future to the glory of God.
Abraham’s worship was not about him; it was about the Lord. Abraham did not seek to worship in a way that would allow him to be exalted; he worshiped in a way that brought all glory to God. In other words, Abraham lost himself in the person of God. Abraham forgot about self and did only thing which glorified the Lord.
· The believer would worship must learn the truth of Philippians 3:3, which says, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. If we would worship the Lord, then we must not come to Him full of ourselves. We must come to Him full of the very thing that delights His heart. Nothing delights the heart of God more than His Son Jesus.
One more than one occasion, God said, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” God is infinitely delighted with His Son. If I will enter His presence with a mind and heart full of Christ; if I will speak of the glories of His Darling Son; if I will make must of Jesus, my worship will rise before the Lord like sweet incense.
· I am simply reminding us that worship is never about us. We can’t worship as long as we are focused on self. If we would worship the Lord, we must cease to exalt self and we must focus on exalting Him and Him alone! Real worship happens when we forget about self and get lost in His glory for His for His glory!
VI. v. 16-18 WORSHIP’S SERVICE
· Abraham climbed that mountain with Isaac. Abraham answered Isaac’s fears. Abraham took his son, bond him and placed him on the altar. Abraham raised the knife and fully intended to sacrifice his son to the Lord. He held nothing back! He yielded every ounce of self to the perfect will of God. God intervened and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in the place of Isaac.
In the end, Abraham’s worship served to glorify God alone. Abraham’s faith and act of selfless worship delighted the heart of God. It also brought a statement of appreciation from the Lord.
· When we devote ourselves to selfless worship we bring glory to Him. Psa. 50:23 quotes God as saying, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
True biblical worship gives God the place of absolute preeminence in our lives. He alone is glorified in genuine worship. That is how worship serves the Lord!
VII. v. 16-18 WORSHIP’S
· God will be no man’s debtor! After Abraham’s demonstration of absolute faith in God, God gave Isaac back to him. Abraham ascended that mountain with a heavy heart. He was going to honor God, but honoring God would cost him his son. He obeyed God, and in return, God rewarded Abraham.
He might have climbed the mountain sacred and defeated, but he came down rejoicing and thankful. He might have climbed that mountain questioning the ways of God, but he came back down understanding God better than he ever had. He might have climbed that mountain ready to give up his Isaac on the altar of sacrifice, but he came back down more thankful than ever for Isaac. When Abraham placed Isaac on the altar, God gave him back and Isaac was more precious than he had ever been before!
· One of the greatest blessings of genuine, biblical worship is that it brings the manifold blessings of God back to the believer. God will honor those who honor Him through worship. When we are willing to sacrifice all that we have, all that we are, and all that we care about on the altar of His glory, He will respond by blessing us and using us in greater ways than we could ever imagine.
· The greatest key to having God’s power and presence manifested in our lives is worship. If we could just learn to take all that we are and yield it to all that He is, we would enjoy greater spiritual blessings than we have ever dreamed up. If we could learn to offer up real worship to Almighty God, He would honor us with His blessings.
· As we respond in worship to all that Jesus is, as He is revealed in the Word of God, God responds by doing for us what he did for Abraham. He gives us the Son in greater measure. That is, he gives us a greater appreciate for the Person of Christ and the gifts of Christ.
When we worship Christ in light of His death on the cross, the cross becomes more precious. As we worship Him in His resurrection, His resurrection become more precious. As we worship Him for grace, love, salvation ,eternal life, heaven, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the church, and everything else He has given to us in Christ, those things become infinitely more precious to us.
When we give God pure worship for Who He is and what He has done for us, He responds by giving those things back to us in greater degree. It is not that we have more of those things, it is that those things become more real and precious to us. That is one of the great benefits of true worship.
Conc: Abraham’s worship honored the Lord. He placed all that he was and all that he had on the altar of submission and humble obedience to the God Who loved him and saved him. In response, God blessed Abraham in ways he could never have imagined.
Have you examined your worship in light of what we have learned from Abraham?
· Are you worshiping Him as he is revealed to you in the Word of God, the source of worship?
· Are you absolutely submissive to His will?
· Is you worship sacrificial?
· Are you practicing self-denial and separation?
· Does your worship serve the Lord by glorifying Him?
· Does your worship provide satisfaction as he becomes more precious to you?
· Or, is there room for improvement in your worship?
If the Lord has spoken to you about your worship, come to Him today and let Him work in your heart to bring you to a place of pleasing, biblical worship.